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About Craftsman Perspective

Here's a little background on me - the face behind Craftsman Perspective.

I was born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA, a city blessed with a rich architectural heritage. Growing up in a 1913 Arts and Crafts brick and cedar shingle foursquare, I loved the warmth and beauty of the dark stained wood, tiled fireplaces and art glass. Although there was something formal in the style that was lacking in my friends' post-war split-levels, I always felt that my home was inviting and special. And that "special something" turned out to be a whole design philosophy and lifestyle associated with the warm and welcoming house that I grew up in: The Arts and Crafts style.

After college I moved to NYC where I worked as a journalist and later as a graphic designer. I loved every minute of my time in NYC, but after seven years of apartment living I was ready to stake my claim to the great American dream. Which led me back to my hometown.

Compared to today, I was at a disadvantage when I was looking for my first house back in 1996. There wasn't much of anything on the web yet, and so I spent my weekends at the Carnegie Library, researching the Arts and Crafts Movement and learning everything I could about period houses. And the more I learned, the more I realized that I had been drawn to the philosophy and the style nearly all my life. After months of searching, I bought an affordable 1918 Craftsman-style house not far from where I grew up.

In the summer of 1996 I began what is turning out to be a multi-decade home restoration/renovation, and I decided to create my own little web site so that others might benefit from what I learned along the way. I had little idea how useful the site would be, or that the internet would replace libraries as the place to find information. Or that a dozen years later I would still be maintaining this site. But for the nearly one million visitors who have browsed this site, or the thousands who have sent me mail over the years, it's been your overwhelmingly positive response that has kept me from abandoning it.

As the years have passed, my ambitions, both in updating this site and in working on my house, have waxed and waned. For me, the highlight was being on the 2004 Dormont (PA) House Tour, where my house was featured on the advertising poster. 2005 was definitely a lazy year, but I regrouped in 2006 and pressed on with another round of house renovations that included floor sanding and refinishing, new carpeting and paint upstairs, stripping paint from the upstairs doors and door frames and even some changes in the gardens.

Eventually, renovations take a back seat to house maintenance and by 2007 I could see that some of the early work was already beginning to need some TLC so the last few years have been less about renovating and more about maintenance. Such is the life of a house, and our role as caretakers.

If you want to know even more about me, you can read a feature article on my house restorations that appeared in the April 2002 Home section of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

The following is an interview I gave that appeared in the December 1997 edition of The Arts and Crafts Movement Review.

How did you get involved in the Arts and Crafts Movement?

My involvement was really a cumulative kind of thing. In retrospect, the art and architecture of the early 20th century has always interested me. It began with the house I was raised in - a 1913 foursquare filled with art glass, oak and pine built-ins and mantelpieces and tiled fireplaces - as wells as the multitude of Craftsman houses in my Pittsburgh neighborhood. During college, and afterwards working and living in New York City, I was exposed to artists of the early 20th century, such as Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, Louis Tiffany, and Singer-Sargent.

When I returned to Pittsburgh in 1995, I experienced one of those rare "Eureka!" moments as I was strolling through my childhood neighborhood looking at houses. All of the things that meant something to me in art, architecture, history, and the aesthetics of handcrafted decorative arts were all connected. I didn't know what to call it at the time, but once I discovered that there was a movement related to it, I knew I had found my lifelong passion.

Why did you decide to set up a website?

When my wife and I began looking to buy our first house in 1996 (in my childhood neighborhood, no less), we discovered just how little people knew about architecture. It seemed incredible that people could invest their life savings into houses they knew nothing about. Even the real estate agents were clueless. They referred to bungalows as cape cods, foursquares as colonials, and Craftsman-style as "traditional American" (as if that meant anything). I wanted to provide people with an overview and visual guide to Arts and Crafts architecture that would help them to recognize and appreciate these wonderful homes.

At the same time, creating a website allowed me to share a piece of my own A&C education, since I am always learning and discovering new things to love about the Arts and Crafts Movement.

What are you looking for in your website?

My main goal with Craftsman Perspective is to educate people, so they stop walking past old houses without really seeing them. I want to get them excited about their own houses and the houses in their neighborhoods, appreciate their history, their beauty and the spirit they embody. That way, they can use that knowledge to make informed choices when they remodel or have a better appreciation when they purchase an old house.

What about your goal to provide a nationwide survey of A&C homes?

I'd like to see my site become a good representation of period houses from across America. I want people to understand that Arts & Crafts was the first truly American architectural movement, and because of its national scope and integrity to place, there are several styles to appreciate. I take pictures wherever I travel, but I can't cover the entire country any time soon. That's why I'm counting on interested visitors to send me pictures as well.

Where do you get your information?

I am an avid reader, especially when it comes to the Movement. Most of my information is gleaned from Dover Publication's compilations of Stickley's Craftsman magazines, as wells as his architectural designs. I get all the major Arts and Crafts and house magazines. I also visit period houses and neighborhoods, and other websites devoted to the Arts and Crafts movement and architecture.

Do you have a particular architectural focus or interest?

My immediate experience has been with East Coast Craftsman styles, but I'm also excited by Prairie Style and the work of Greene & Greene. However, that doesn't mean I discriminate. I would, ideally, like to cover all A&C styles.

What do you plan for the future?

I see this is more than just a hobby. For me, the Arts and Crafts Movement is a way of life, and I will continue to share what I learn along the way with others through my website. For now, I still have a lot of architecture to cover, but I am also very interested in what visitors want to see.

Special thanks to Alexandria at The Arts and Crafts Movement Review who conducted the interview and deemed this site worthy of being selected December, 1997 "website of the month."