Craftsmanship, past and present…

We’re in the midst of what, we believe, are the last two so-called “must do” refinement projects associated with the Byrne residence. This post focuses on the replacement of the laminate countertops with maple butcher block countertops in the Pantry, followed by a brief recap of a rather serendipitous visit from Bill & Carol Byrne the very next day.

We’d been contemplating the countertop replacement for quite some time, but had consciously placed it toward the bottom of our prioritized list of “must do” projects, as we thought the Pantry could wait while the bathrooms and kitchen refinements could not. Todd Laurent, one of the artisans/craftspeople who work closely with Will Bruder’s office, was responsible for executing what Will had envisioned some month’s prior.

This first image, (below), is of the new cleats positioned after the old countertops and cleats had been removed. Notice the exposed OSB on the left-hand side of the image, and the contrast created by the original color of the Pantry and the current color, cleverly re-appropriated from elsewhere in the house by Martha in 2011 when we re-painted.


This next image, (below), captures several of the challenges Todd faced as he was gingerly extracting the old countertops and assembling the templates he would use to scribe the two handsome maple butcher block panels waiting in the garage. Will Bruder wanted the seam between the two panels anchored to the column in the corner of the Pantry, traverse the diagonal and terminate above the enclosure supporting the countertop. Todd had to install a 1/4 inch thick piece of plywood above the drawers to bring the surface level to the OSB visible beneath the two templates. …and yes, there was plenty of drywall repairing to be done as well!



Martha took several photographs of the second set of templates, including these two images, (below). Todd wasn’t satisfied with the precision of his first two templates, so he created two more using 5/8 inch plywood, and these two templates were used to scribe the maple butcher block panels on a rather pleasant October afternoon roughly two weeks ago…



This image, (below), illustrates the tolerances Todd was dealing with. He wanted to be sure the reveal he’d created with the 1/4 inch plywood panel was invisible, (it was), and the shadow cast along the top edge of the drawers was perfectly parallel, (it was). Heck, even the wall outlets had to be completely removed for installation – yes, we were working with clearances that close!


…and the grand reveal! Both panels joined, drywall repairs completed, and two coats of paint applied! We’re also going to take this opportunity to trim out the Pantry in cherry baseboard too!



This image, (below), emphasizes the linear pattern in the maple butcher block – fantastic! Believe it or not, every wall seam is so tight you cannot slide a single sheet of typing paper into the void between the wall and the countertop – now that’s craftsmanship!


Isn’t the longitudinal nature of the maple segments visually appealing? …we think so!


…and this last image, (below), captures the edge detail, including the wonderful maple grain – fantastic!


Some readers may be wondering about the title – why “…past and present…”? Well, this story dates back to the fall of 1998, almost 17 years ago to the day – who knew?!

I had reached out to Bill Byrne several weeks ago to gain some insight into how the front door had been installed, (hint: it’s our last “must do” project), only to learn he and Carol were en route to Arizona. They completed their journey from Pennsylvania several days later – an annual tradition for them these past six years – and it was Bill who suggested we get together shortly after their return to Arizona. We didn’t hesitate to accept their offer.

Martha and I were thrilled to be able to share almost two year’s worth of refinements and then, as we were preparing to depart for another nearby Will Bruder creation called Pond House, Bill and Carol presented us with the same Gold Trowel Award plaque originally given to them at an awards ceremony on October 23rd, 1998. Needless to say, we were rendered completely speechless by this most touching, (and genuinely heartfelt), gesture.

To quote Bill, “…we really thought this belonged with the house!” Wow, what can you say after that? …except that we would treasure having it, (and we most assuredly will). I’ve included what may very well be my favorite image captured during the construction of the house, (below).

The thought that runs through my head every time I look at this photograph is “How on earth did these extremely capable masons manage to erect every single CMU wall so precisely?” Bill said the solution was based on three absolute reference points established on the building site – all measurements were taken against these absolute reference points for the duration of the construction project. In fact, all three of these reference points can still be spotted out in the desert – they’re short lengths of rebar, embedded in concrete and sprayed yellow!


…and yes, the plaque proudly resting in the Entry where visitors will be able to appreciate the craftsmanship it’s intended to celebrate. We’ll delve deeper into what it took to raise these walls in future posts as we acknowledge the 20th anniversary of the home’s design, (1995-2015).

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