Restoration '96 goes for the old Home: Rehabbers of aging buildings will find products and information tailored to their needs at Convention Center event.

March 10, 1996|By Karol V. Menzie | Karol V. Menzie,SUN STAFF

Restoration: It's all about dreams. Dreams, possibilities, making an old building live again. Of course, it's also about dirt -- plaster dust, wood scraps, peeling paper and paint. And it's about work. Tearing out, building up, spackling, sanding, painting.

And, for avid rehabbers, it's about tracking down all the materials and the artisans needed to restore the fabric of the past.

Enter Restoration '96, taking place March 17-19 at the Baltimore Convention Center. The combination conference and exhibition offers a marketplace and a vast, interactive library for planners, project managers, contractors and ordinary homeowners who are working on, or dreaming of working on, a restoration project.

The traveling event, produced by RAI/EGI, North Reading, Mass., was in Boston last year, where it drew nearly 274 exhibitors and 10,400 visitors.

The show originated in the Netherlands in 1989. Then in 1991, RAI teamed up with Ellen Glew Inc., to produce events in the United States. Other shows have been in San Francisco and London.

"The show offers two things," said Steve Schuyler, Ms. Glew's husband and director of the show, which collects products and providers from all parts of the United States and from abroad. "One is the exhibitors' floor, where 250 companies display their wares. And the second is the conferences."

Conferences and workshops at the Baltimore event include historic paint analysis, stone floor restoration, masonry cleaning, conservation technology research and development, timber frame repairs, elevator restoration, post-Victorian house styles, early Victorian interiors, kitchen renovation, romantic row houses and wood and stone carving.

The three-hour workshop on wood and stone carving will be taught by Ian Agrell and Nick Fairplay, of Agrell & Thorpe Ltd., Sausalito, Calif. Among clients the firm has numbered: Kensington Palace, Westminster Abbey, the Sultan of Brunei and Pope John Paul II.

There's also a session Restoration '96 attendees on careers and training programs in preservation and restoration.

Exhibitors will be offering products in lighting, glass, plumbing, molding, stone, paint and fancy finishes, fabric, tile, wall-covering and floor coverings, roofs and flues, along with window repair and architectural services, framing and fine-art care.

Such bounty wouldn't have been possible even in the fairly recent past.

"The growth of products, materials and services is probably one of the biggest success stories in the restoration field," said Gordon Bock, editor of the Old House Journal, which for 23 years has been the bible for people rehabbing their homes. The magazine and its new sister publication, Old House Interiors, are show sponsors. "Twenty years ago you were pretty much on your own if you wanted to find appropriate materials if you were restoring a house. Now there's a wealth of quality reproductions, as well as some original manufacturers putting out products from 50, 75, even 150 years ago.

"That's the strength of this show," he said. "These folks have done a good job of getting folks from the field under one roof."

Among companies exhibiting at the Baltimore show is Old Village Paints, of Fort Washington, Pa., which produces authentic Colonial paint colors and is noted for its simulated whitewash and crackle-finish paint. The firm has been involved in restoration at Colonial Williamsburg and has worked on the Hermitage in Nashville and in the Fairmount Park section of Philadelphia.

"We'll be talking to and consulting with people about problems they have and things they need to do, and we'll be taking orders for special colors," said Ed Stulb, a consultant to the company. "Old houses often have a special colors that some painter 200 years ago mixed up." Mr. Stulb promised a "better than computer match" to old paint samples.

They will also be demonstrating the crackle finish, which provides the antique look of old, cracked paint.

The show will also provide products and services in some areas of restoration that didn't exist just a few years ago. Ten years ago, owners of Arts and Crafts movement bungalows had few resources when they wanted to restore them. Now there are companies like J. R. Burrows & Co., which specializes in Arts and Crafts designs, such as the carpet designs of English practitioner William Morris.

"We're doing carpets for William Morris' own house, Kelmscott Manor," said John Burrows, "and we will be displaying those carpets at the show." The house is in Oxfordshire, in England.

The firm also produces carpets whose patterns date back to the 1790s. The carpets are woven on looms at a factory in England that was founded in 1790, and which has 10,000 original patterns in its files. "We have several hundred in production," Mr. Burrows said. They will also be showing wallpapers and some fabrics.

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