July 22, 2014

Jenkins Mansion: A Gilded Age Beauty

I said on Monday that I would be touring an old mansion in Baltimore on Monday afternoon, but there was a mix-up with the date of the tour, and I can’t make the new date, but I thought you’d like to see the pictures anyway. Although it doesn’t look like anything spectacular on the outside, the inside is filled with rare and exotic hardwoods, numerous varieties of marble, gold leafing and leaded windows.IMG_1452

Let’s take a look…

The Entry Hallwayimageimage

The Front Parlourimageimage

The Dining Roomimageimageimage

Kitchen with the requisite granite and stainless steel.imageimage

Media Roomimage

Bedroom filled with light. image

Another bedroom, the detail is amazingimage

Dear real estate photographers: please put the lid to the loo down before you take a picture. K?image

More of the stairway… There’s also an elevator.image

Even though this house is in the heart of the city, it’s got some great outdoor space.image

The house is on the market for $2.4 million and has five bedrooms and five baths. Click here for more information.

July 20, 2014

HDR Photography

Have you ever heard of HDR or High Dynamic Range photography? It’s the latest buzzword in photographic circles and if you’ve not heard of it, surely you’ve seen examples of it.

Basically, the photographer takes a range (get it!) of identical photographs, with the settings moving from under- to over-exposed. The shots are then merged to brighten the darks and darken the brights, bringing out details in the image that would otherwise been lost. Many cameras, including phone cameras now include the software to do HDR automatically, and if your camera doesn’t have it already, you can find an app, such as Pro HDR to take care of it for you.

I took a series of photographs on an overcast day with no shadows and flat light, to show you how this can improve your photographs. My iPhone 5 series takes two shots of the same image, with one being the regular settings and one being HRD.
In this image, you can see that the sky is more detailed, the flowers on the Crepe Myrtle really pop, the house in the background is brighter and the colours are not as flat.
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In this image, the sky goes from white to cloudy, the stones on the house are not as mono-chromatic, the shades in the grass are more distinct and the tree on the left is a more realistic colour.

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I had actually gone out to search for this house, which was completely surrounded by overgrown shrubbery and is now being sold. In this, you can see how having a little more detail in the sky really adds to the creepiness factor. The house is a little brighter, the details on the doors and the windows are cleared and you get more detail on the patio area on the left.

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HDR is fun to play with and using the automatic settings, you will usually get a good result. However, there are loads of examples of bad HDR out there, where a photographer is tempted to tweak the image so that it looks unrealistic. imageA lot of times, you can’t exactly tell what’s wrong with the image, but your eye doesn’t think it looks right. It’s too detailed, too shimmery, too crisp, too unnatural, too too.image

Check and see if you have HDR on your camera and then play around with it and see if it improves your photography.

July 17, 2014

Adaptive Re-use

One of the things I love most about being on the boards of the AIA and the Baltimore Architecture Foundation is the opportunities I have to see buildings that I’d never otherwise have the chance to visit. One such opportunity presented itself with a tour of the former national headquarters for Monumental Life, later Aeon Insurance. IMG_1412

The building has just undergone a year-long conversion from an insurance cubicle farm to a health-care provider, Chase-Brexton Clinic. Chase wanted to remain in the same neighbourhood where they started, and Aeon wanted to move into new office space on the Harbour, so a deal was done and work began.

I had always assumed from the imposing façade of the building that it would have a grand entry, and I was a little disappointed that it didn’t. IMG_1399

The building, or actually three buildings take up almost one full city block. This part of the building was built in the 1920’s, while money was still abundant. It’s long and skinny, really only about 40-50 feet deep. The entrance, as I said, is rather plain. IMG_1429

There are some details, like the Maryland seal embedded in the floor (translation: manly deeds, womanly words).IMG_1427

There are actually two of these seals, this is from the 1926 building and the one at the top is from the 1939 section. Interestingly, Pittsburgh is spelled with an H on one, but not the other. IMG_1431

There is some beautiful detailing, but it gets a little lost, and I am a little horrified that some of the bulbs in this light fixture have already failed. IMG_1424

These huge bronze doors prevented people from getting to the cashiers. IMG_1432

What’s an insurance company without a fancy board room?IMG_1433IMG_1434IMG_1436IMG_1437IMG_1438This Tudor-style board room still retains the scent of many smoked cigars and cigarettes, but there’s no evidence that there was every a fire in the fireplace.

The 1939 building is slightly fancier, but after the Depression, I am sure they didn’t want to give the impression of being too opulent. There are some beautiful book-matched pieces of marble, which the renovation architects proposed to paint over (the horror!). IMG_1409IMG_1410The two bronze doors lead into the former cashiers’ office, where people would come to pay their bills. IMG_1415It’s hard to tell, but there’s inch-thick bullet-proof glass on the cashier stations, and when they tried to remove it, they found they would have to take the whole wall down.

Interestingly, perpendicular to the cashier stations is this odd window. It was the paymaster’s office, and the round hole was for a machine gun.IMG_1416If anyone tried to rob the cashiers, security would stick the gun through the hole and mow them down! EEK! Seems like there would be a lot of collateral damage to that!

The one opulent feature that the architects kept was the barrel-vaulted ceiling with the gold-leafing, which was restored.IMG_1408

Special lights were created for the main floor, and they’re much more effective here (because all of the bulbs are lit) and really glisten in the reflective surfaces of the polished marble walls and floors and the gold-leaf ceiling. IMG_1414

All of the medical spaces are ultra modern and every convenience is seen to, including this spinner with the bathroom on one side and the lab on the other, so you don’t have to carry your urine specimen down the hall. IMG_1442

The building is flooded with natural light and many of the doors have opaque glass to let the light in. IMG_1441

While the building is only six stories, the views are really remarkable and look towards the north of the city. IMG_1402IMG_1443

Thanks to the AIA, Chase Brexton and Marks-Thomas Architects for arranging the tour!

Next week, I will be taking a tour of this house, which doesn’t look like much from the exterior, but is amazing inside!IMG_1452

July 15, 2014

End Papers

One of the things I do in my day job is curate our collection of paintings and artifacts, including a stacks library of more than 50,000 books, ranging in age from the early 1600’s to the mid-1980’s. Sadly, there is no longer the need for a librarian, because so much of what we have has either been digitized, or it’s hopelessly out of date. However, I probably get a request every other week to hunt up some esoteric piece of information, like the application to our organization for the doctor who treated Edgar Allen Poe before he died, or some long-forgotten book, like an early 1800’s medical school anatomy text.

In looking through these books, I’ve found that they’re a treasure trove of gorgeous end papers! This is a Spanish moiré patterned end paper. I think it’s one of my favourites!IMG_1119

This week, while I was looking for an original patent that is somewhere in our files, I grabbed my camera to capture some of the different end papers I saw in my search. Who knew that each of the patterns had names?

French CurlBouquet or Peacock pattern

Turkish pattern

Schroëtel patternShell pattern

In addition to the marbleized patterns, there were also some lovely printed end papers.

And then there are the book covers!

It’s always such fun to see what I discover when I explore the stacks!  For more information and explanations of the marbling techniques, check out this collection from the University of Washington’s library. Here.