Tenet 4 - Nature and simple lines.

Mixing styles in trim over door. Strength of a Roman keystone, using wood from American Craftsman, in an Art Deco shape.

Nature and simple lines have been used in many different styles. I single out American Craftsman as the most central inspiration for Feydeau. But I pull the same thread in: Art Nouveau, Prairie School, Colonial Revival, Shaker, Art Deco and Modern. My goal is to mix these styles into a new style, not stick different styles together.

My main inspiration for the keystone trim on the left...necessity, like most of Feydeau. The wood I used for the top casing was warped to the point of not being usable. I'd saved these worst cases for these short trim pieces. The solution was to cut these in half, reducing the warp effect. Then I needed a piece in the middle to join the two.

William Morris

Irene Sargent

Gustav Stickley

American Craftsman

American Craftsman...ennobling modest homes...with originality, simplicity of form, local natural materials, and the visibility of handicraft...

To avoid these results he has first to learn the wholesome lesson of simplicity. The home, assuming, of course, that it represents the station of its occupants, should never be encumbered with things of doubtful use, or questionable aesthetic value.

Irene Sargent

The Craftsman 1901

At the core of Feydeau's interior design is American Craftsman. I pick it over Arts & Crafts because Craftsman is more focused on modest homes. And also because it is the American take on Arts & Crafts and I'm American and the property is in America. So I assume the people who molded American Craftsman have already done some leg work on the subject.

American Craftsman has flexibility. It's more a concept of building than a defined style which would allow me to go a bit in my own direction and fit the diverse palette of materials I had acquired from Craigslist. There are defined styles within it like Greene and Greene, California Bungalow, Prairie School, etc, but I wouldn't be adhering to any one of these.

I went back to The Craftsman magazine and started there rather than with the modern Craftsman. I don't want to duplicate a Stickley or Greene and Greene home. I just want to get into the same mind set they had and go my own way.

For example, the 1901 Craftsman used local natural materials when possible. The best sources for natural materials I've found are craigslist and thrift stores. Generally I can find older materials there, more likely to be closer to natural.

However, raw nature does exist even in urban Phoenix and I use that when available. I gathered river rock from the backyard and used them in the shower border. Many areas of Phoenix sit on dozens of feet of coarse river gravel including river rock.

Forgiving Style

Implementing American Craftsman is friendly to less skilled work. A large woodshop isn't required. An artistic skill is as useful as woodworking experience. Opposed to something like say Chippendale which requires great skill or the piece is a hideous failure.

Modern and American Craftsman

I've long held a dislike of Modern architecture. I thought it stood by iteself. My thinking has changed since moving to Phoenix which has a great deal of Frank Lloyd Wright and Modern. It is hard to miss the connnection between American Craftsman and Modern.

Now that I can see where American Craftsman was going with Modern I feel I can go in maybe a different but parallel line. I'm going to stay on the American Craftsman side of the hill, but Modern has a place in my design goals.

Coffered ceiling.

Round head brass screws.

Blackened flat head steel screws.

Visibility of Handicraft

I'm pushing the concept of visibility almost to industrial.

Most poeple want all systems in a home to be hidden. Water appears and then disappears if by magic. I think it disconnects us from the world. I prefer to see the structure of the house. However, not everyone likes this concept and I think rightly so. Therefore I've had to give a lot of thought to what can be exposed and how. I have to make the exposure as pleasing and "normal" as I can.

Coffered Ceiling

I made a coffered ceiling in the living room using the existing ceiling joists. Not fake beams which is most common. Most people see a tranditional coffered ceiling, I see the home's structure exposed.


Almost all trim is attached with screws rather than nails or glue. The screw heads are exposed. At first I used #8 round head brass screws. The round heads protruded not only from the wood but also into the living space. I switched to flat head brass screws which solved the protrusion issue, but some trim required many screws and was too much bright brass. I then switched to steel flat head screws that had been blackened to prevent rusting. The result looked like a peg which I found pleasing and in the American Craftsman style.

Using screws to attach trim is a bit trickier than it might appear as most people just see a solid wall. Screws won't hold in just drywall, they must hit a stud or still plate. Studs are rarely spaced evenly so you can't just put a screw every 16 inches. Randomly spaced screws do not look good. So wood backing must be in place before the drywall is added.

All the screws are slot type, not Phillips. Slot screws look older, more of a craftsman look. And rightly so. Phillips head were developed in the 1930's for use by less skilled builders.

The exposed screws make it clear the home is constructed. Which in turn makes it clear how the home can be deconstructed. Removing the trim to paint or run coax cable behind it is obvious and easy.

Tom Sepe

The beauty of shape.

Back of Tom Sepe's motorbike. The bike is a rare example of an utilitarian steampunk object. In many ways superior to manufactured motor bikes judging from the videos.

It's obvious, all objects have some shape. But I often forget about shape. I think about materials, scale, color, lines, but rarely shape. When I saw the wood slat tank on the back Tom Sepe's motorbike it reminded me of shape. The tank isn't machined round. Each slat has a pleasing roundness like the tambour slats in a roll top desk. Each slat is clearly an individual working together to form a tank.

A shape made to please a human, not a machine. Almost all objects we have today are shaped to fit what a factory machine can make. Designers of course push where they can, but they have a very limited palette. Injected plastic and stamped metal are their stock and trade.

Years ago I swore to never use paneling...and here it is in my bath.

Fake is Fake

Faking material goes back at least ancient Egyptians who used gold leaf to make objects appear as solid gold. I assume it goes back further. In virtually all cases fake requires a higher level of skill to create something near the quality of real material. For example, it's very easy to make fake wood grain, or what people would call wood grain. But few people can make fake wood grain that would fool anyone in person.

On a tour of the Molly Brown House in Denver I noticed the door casings on the second floor had fake wood grain. I asked the docent if the fake grain was original to which she looked puzzled. She thought it was real. The casing was chipped in many places and white primer was showing through so it stood out to me. It made me think that perhaps people who have never worked with wood ever in their lives may see wood differently. Perhaps this is explained by Bruner and Postman's experiments and further demonstrated by Quirkology.


Using natural materials absolutely saved me from my lack of experience. Hardwoods like Brazilian Cherry are really difficult to screw up. It's gorgeous if you let it be what it is. Same with copper and stone.

The difference between cultured stone and real stone can be hard to see. But you can. Over time those differences became more glaring. Over time fake materials only degrade. Natural materials only get better. Time, abuse, only better.

Real materials can include man made materials like concrete as long as it is presented as concrete. Once you color and stamp it to appear as say flag stone it's fake. White subway tile appears as just that. Tile made to look like marble, fake.

Yes, some basic skills are needed and attention to detail. But these materials are forgiving, you can keep working them until right.

Who am I fooling?

Also, in creating Feydeau I can't really fool myself. The best I can do is fool others. Since Feydeau is being built for myself, what would be the point? I don't think fake is bad, but real is better. For example I used 1/4" oak veneer beadboard wainscoting in the bath. It looks good to me, but I think solid wood would appear much different to me, much better. I hope to mill my own beadboard in the future and replacing the paneling in the bath.

I do like making fake rock and I do like fooling people. This is for my own twisted reasons, not vanity. So I have used fake rock in the front yard.