New Website Shopping Cart is on its Way

December 16, 2016 @ 8:07 AM

Our existing shopping cart never collected the customer's CVV security number. We lived with it and paid an extra percentage in merchant fees and just worked around it. But in October - traditionally our BUSIEST month - our credit card processor stopped offering us the option of not providing this number. This means we've had to contact every single customer who has ordered online to ask for this security code in order to process their credit card. I can understand that people are careful about shopping online any way, and are suspicious of these calls from us if they don't know us.

This meant I immediately had to find the answer to this dilemma. So, when we are already busy to capacity I had to start rebuilding the pages for ...

Read More

Prefab Conversion to Electric

November 1, 2016 @ 1:06 PM

This prefabricated fireplace was no longer operable and Ronnie, the homeowner, had her heart set on installing the Windsor front with the Portrait electric fireplace. This would have been impossible without the help of her very knowledgeable local installation crew at FIREPLACE & CHIMNEY AUTHORITY in Elmhurst IL.*

Because the electric fireplace needs to sit on the floor of the fireplace behind the Windsor front, the prefab's raised floor presented a challenge.

The installation crew devised an innovative solution: cut out part of the prefab, leaving the rest intact. Since the old fireplace is no longer usable, altering it for installation of the electric was a viable option. **Under normal circumstances we wouldn't advise ...

Read More

How to Clean Soot Stains on Brick or Stone

October 17, 2016 @ 7:00 AM

sooty fireplace brickBefore I tell you how to clean soot stains from your brick, you need to know that you should never see soot if the fireplace is drafting properly. Soot outside of the fireplace indicates a dangerous situation that needs to be addressed!

Soot is CARBON; when you see carbon it means that associated fume - CARBON MONOXIDE - has been in your living space. A properly drafting chimney will take all soot and fumes up the chimney.

There are 2 basic reasons most fireplaces don't draft properly:

* A fireplace opening that's too large for the chimney
* Negative pressure in the house


The area of the chimney needs to be at least 10% of the fireplace opening size. If the fireplace opening (height x ...

Read More

Aldine Style Fireplaces

October 7, 2016 @ 9:33 PM

In many turn of the century homes it's common to see a coal fireplace with a door that's an open grate. Usually, this was never a proper fireplace but instead was a passive heating system that made use of the hot vented air from a downstairs fireplace.

Aldine was the best known manufacturer of these systems, but there were a number of manufacturers of similar products and site-designed methods.

This drawing below right from Aldine's 1906 catalog shows how the system worked. There was an operable coal fireplace downstairs that was vented through a pipe that ran inside the chimney. A metal vent pipe produces considerable heat and Aldine designed a couple of methods of reclaiming the heated vent air to share it with rooms above....

Read More

Vintage Decor - Get The Look

October 7, 2016 @ 1:20 PM

Luckily, there are many different directions you can take with home decor to personalize your own vintage style. Although you don't have to put a label on it, think about what creates a comfortable retreat for YOU, and you'll begin shopping wisely, even if it means shopping your own attic, garage or barn.

SWIVEL Tractor Stool - 24"Farmhouse Practicality is the rule; choose rustic wood furnishings, utilitarian storage and display items with a vintage patina. Farmhouse style keeps kitschy items to one or 2 pieces because farmhouse style doesn't bombard the senses and instead seeks to offer serenity and comfort. Look for barn board and any reclaimed wood, butcher block, ceramics, antique kitchen ware.


Industrial Common workplace items from days ...

Read More

Hacks for Storms & Hurricanes

October 6, 2016 @ 4:15 PM

As Hurricane Matthew bears down on so many of us, I thought I'd compile and share again some storm survival tricks.

I'll skip the common sense tips - like gathering batteries, flash lights, extra food, refilling prescriptions, filling your car with gas and charging your devices - and head straight for things that may not have occurred to you.

  • Fill the bath tub with water. We're on a well so helps us flush the toilet, etc. Even municipal water systems can go down in severe storms and a bathtub provides a lot of clean water.
  • Fill any empty space in your freezer with bottled water. The extra ice will keep food cold longer, plus you have additional potable water for cooking and drinking.
  • Keep some bleach on hand in case you...
  • ...
Read More

Fireplace Transformations - Lexington VA

October 5, 2016 @ 10:00 AM

This beautiful 1880's home has multiple fireplaces, but they've been redesigned for various uses over the years. The homeowners wanted to refurbish them and convert to gas. They tackled part of the projects themselves, removing some inappropriate tile but leaving exposed brick. Taking a design clue from the original slate hearths, we gave them inexpensive new metal faces, painted black to coordinate with the hearths.


The dining room fireplace was completely unusable and ready for a transformation. The fireplace opening was too large for the size of the chimney so it couldn't draw. The homeowners wanted an open burning gas fire in their dining room, which requires lining the chimney with materials that would support...

Read More

Victorian Post Mortem Photos

March 22, 2016 @ 9:09 AM


During the Victorian era photography was very expensive, and a tradition evolved to take photos of the deceased as the death photo may be the only time a person was thus memorialized.

Sometimes the subject was photographed as expected, laying in their coffins. However, they often were posed as if to appear alive. On occasion eyes were painted onto the lids to bring them briefly "back to life" for the picture. The subjects were easy to photograph because they didn't move just before the flash.

These death photos make us a bit uncomfortable today as our culture mostly prefers to enjoy photos taken of the living. Aren't you glad we've all got cell phones now to capture every moment?


Read More

Stella & Fanny - Victorian Era Cross Dressers

March 11, 2016 @ 12:43 PM

In doing some research on a very unrelated topic, I stumbled across the hilarious story of Stella and Fanny, two chaps arrested in Britain in 1870 for cross dressing and attending the theater. Visit The Telegraph to read Tim Stanley's account of this baudy affair.

Read More


February 12, 2016 @ 3:34 PM

Recently we had some customers in the store looking for a technician to remove the gas logs in the historic home they had recently purchased. The gas logs just didn't heat and they decided they would take the fireplace back to its woodburning origins.

After talking with them further, the house was too cold and since the gas logs didn't heat, they thought they'd get more heat from a wood fire. I explained that a wood fire would provide the same disappointing heating results, not to mention the extra mess associated with burning wood. Additionally, Natural Gas is cheaper than buying firewood and as they already had a gas line, it would really be a simple change out to a high efficiency gas insert that would give them the heat ......

Read More