Decades of Doors at Versatile Wood Products

Hollywood Theatre. Timberline Lodge. The Old Church. The Ladd Carriage House. The Hallock-McMillan Building. Harlow Hotel. Heceta Head Lighthouse. The Woodlark. The Fried-Durkheimer House. These are among some of Oregon’s most loved and recognizable places for their historic, aesthetic, and cultural value, and conservationists throughout our region have worked diligently to save them for the enjoyment of future generations. Whether these buildings are historic or new, commercial or residential, Versatile Wood Products has had a hand in keeping many of these doors opening and closing now and into the distant future.

Newer, more modern buildings are important too and deserve the same attention to quality, style, and aesthetics. Many Portlanders will be familiar with fine restaurants and breweries like Ava Gene’s, Full Sail Brewery, Woodsman Tavern, and Pine Street Market. Students study in the newly constructed Dundon-Berchtold Hall on the University of Portland campus. And people enjoy living, working, shopping, and relaxing in places like the Cook Street Apartments, Design Within Reach, Albina Yard, Penner Ash Wine Cellars, and the Spa at Salishan Lodge.

A custom Dutch door for a home designed around porthole glass that inspired the homeowner. Photo courtesy Versatile Wood Products.

There are also many gorgeous homes in Portland and the surrounding Metro area that are important in a more intimate, personal way to those who inhabit them. Some are historic homes over a hundred years old with intricate woodwork and ornate details, and some are new, modern, and sleek.

Erica Witbeck, Operations Manager for Versatile Wood Products, explains that Versatile’s craftspeople make custom doors “by hand using solid wood and traditional joinery methods, while using modern technology and materials, such as CNC for precise arches or cutout details and high-quality composite cores for flush doors. We have the talent and experience to come up with a design that meets your needs, and our process allows for the flexibility to create truly custom designs, while being fluent in traditional door construction methods.”

“The door we did for the restoration of the Fried-Durkheimer House has my favorite juxtaposition of salvaged original architectural details integrated into a solid new door that will operate smoothly and last another hundred years.”

-ERICA WITBECK, OPERATIONS MANAGER
The Fried-Durkheimer House, also known locally as the first Morris Marks house. Photo courtesy of Versatile Wood Products.

The Harlow Hotel (1882) in Portland’s historic Pearl District. Photo courtesy Versatile Wood Products.

HISTORIC

Versatile Wood Products has worked on multiple historic projects throughout Portland and the Pacific Northwest. They replaced the doors for the Ladd Carriage House (1883), the Harlow Hotel (1882), the Woodlark hotel (1908/1912), and the Hallock-McMillan Building, Portland’s oldest commercial building, which was built in 1857.

“When the boundaries of traditional design are tested, Versatile’s team comes together to determine what is feasible and find the best way to honor the design intentions while making sure the door will look great, operate properly, and remain solid and functional for years to come. Custom doors all come with their own set of challenges.

When we are working with very tall doors, wide and heavy doors, existing openings in old buildings that aren’t square and true, coordinating details seen in surrounding architectural elements, and addressing highly technical hardware requirements, this can be complex, but we love the work of identifying solutions and making them come to life.”

-ERICA WITBECK, OPERATIONS MANAGER
The Woodlark Hotel. Photo courtesy of Versatile Wood Products.

The craftspeople of Versatile have the necessary expertise to repair and restore original historic doors, both residential and commercial, including the ornately detailed door of the Fried-Durkheimer House, an 1880 Italianate; the beautiful landmark Heceta Head Lighthouse (1894); and the doors of several historic churches, including The Old Church (1882) and Westminster Presbyterian Church (1914).

Westminster Presbyterian Church. Photo by Jason Houser.

At the Westminster Presbyterian Church in Irvington, Versatile was hired to create a new door pair for the church’s grand entrance as part of a larger restoration effort. Erica Witbeck describes the process:

“The doors were pulled to be stripped of paint and restored, but once the paint came off we were able to see that the doors needed replacing; there was old chipboard in between the wood layers, which was part of the reason the doors were failing.

In the Gothic-arched entryway, there was a decorative wooden transom that is in very good shape, so it remained installed. Our challenge was to replicate the design of the failed doors, but re-design them to better align with the details in the original transom. Some of the panels did not line up well with each other, and this was a chance to improve on the previous door pair. The new doors continue the panel design as though they were made at the same time.

The transom is stained oak on the inside and painted red on the exterior. We made the new doors with triple-laminated stiles for strength and stability, and this permitted us to use quartersawn oak on the interior of the door while using a more paintable Douglas Fir on the exterior.

We created new jamb legs to receive new heavy-duty hinges that were up to the task of supporting these massive, heavy doors. The surface-applied strap hardware was salvaged from the previous doors and stripped of their years of paint, and were given a fresh coat of flat black to complete the look.”

-ERICA WITBECK, OPERATIONS MANAGER
The new doors at Westminster Church (left). Versatile’s carpenters create the new door for Westminster Church (right). Photos courtesy Versatile Wood Products.

CLASSIC

Classic designs reside between the more ornate historic styles and the streamlined simplicity of modern doors. Durable, elegant, and beautiful, classic doors lend a graceful and timeless air to an entry. Versatile has created classic door styles for Pine Street Market, Ava Gene’s, Fire Station #7, Hollywood Theatre, Full Sail Brewery, and many others.

Pine Street Market. Photo courtesy Versatile Wood Products.

MODERN

The artisans at Versatile can produce a wide range of styles for every application, both old and new. The hallmarks of Versatile’s modern doors are any combination of unusual operation, clever operating hardware, unexpected sizes, and designs that emphasize materials rather than elaborate details. Modern style doors are usually clear coat or stained, because the beauty of the wood is one of the major design elements.


In October 2015, Versatile built 106″ tall flush exterior doors and full lite doors for Portland’s Albina Yard. The doors feature Port Orford Cedar on the exterior and Fir on the interior, and a continuous Port Orford Cedar veneer and matching 34” transom panel above. In addition to their impressive height, both door types are approximately 40” wide and utilize offset pivot hinges to give these massive doors smooth operation and lend a seamless modern look.

Albina Yard, with its tall modern cedar doors.

In addition to manufacturing beautiful modern custom doors, they have also been entrusted with the restoration of artistic masterpieces, like this door created by artist and sculptor Leroy Setziol.

A Leroy Setziol door and the plans for its repair. Photo courtesy Versatile Wood Products.

In closing, Erica says, “There is a certain kind of joy that comes from being a part of historic preservation projects and knowing that we are helping keep our architectural traditions alive. There is also a sense of continued mission when we help bring wood back to the forefront of modern architectural design. Being a go-to supplier for classic designs permits us to keep traditions alive across all types of building and remodeling projects.”

There’s a reason Versatile Wood Products was chosen to repair, restore, and replace the doors of so many important buildings, both old and new: they produce a diverse range of beautiful, high-quality custom wood doors to suit any application. Whether you’re looking for a door to match a historic, classic, or modern structure, Versatile’s craftspeople can create a beautiful custom wood door that you will love for decades to come.

Playing a Part in the Performing Arts

If you love the performing arts, Portland is a wonderful place to be. Our city is full of theaters and performance halls offering access to films, plays, and music of all varieties. Recognizing the value of the arts in making Portland the vibrant city we love, the talented craftspeople at Versatile Wood Products have been proud to lend their skilled hands to preserve and restore of some of our city’s most historically and culturally significant venues.

The exterior of the Hollywood Theatre during light snowfall on March 14, 2020.

In the early 1900s, during the era of silent film, Portland was home to many movie theaters, and our theater-building peak came around the mid-1920s. In the dawn of the silver screen, silent films were accompanied by organists, and more elaborate movie palaces, like the Bagdad and Hollywood theaters, even featured live orchestras. Theaters also were frequently used for vaudeville shows featuring singers, actors, dancers, magicians, contortionists, psychics, ventriloquists, comedians, and strong men, though vaudeville began to dwindle once the “talkies” were introduced and films became more widespread and sophisticated.

Posters and promotional images for vaudeville acts of the early 20th century.

While some stunning examples sadly went the way of the wrecking ball, like the ostentatious, ornate Oriental Theater (1927) that was demolished in 1970, preservationists have saved quite a few of our city’s most treasured architectural relics. Cinemagic (1914), Clinton Street Theater (1915), Laurelhurst Theater (1923), St Johns Twin Cinemas (1925), Hollywood Theatre (1926), Cinema 21 (1926), Moreland Theater (1926), Bagdad Theater (1927), and the Academy Theater (1948) are a few of Portland’s beloved historic theaters that remain standing today.

The interior smoking room and stage at the elaborately designed Oriental Theater, built in 1927 and demolished in 1970.

Today, Portland is listed by several sources as one of the top cities for film lovers in the US due to the number of movie theaters, film festivals, indie theaters, and film societies we have per capita. Our annual film festivals include the Portland International Film Festival, Northwest Filmmakers’ Festival, Portland Women’s Film Fest, Portland Jewish Film Festival, QDoc, Filmed by Bike, and the Cascade Festival of African Films, among many others.

For local cinephiles, one favorite place to catch a film is certainly the Hollywood Theatre. Built in 1926, the Hollywood Theatre was originally a “1,500-seat silent movie palace complete with an 8-piece orchestra and organist.” Now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the theater is one of the few in the US that shows films in 70mm format. Film buffs love old-school 70mm for providing a clearer, crisper image and better sound quality than the newer 35mm format that is most commonly used today. In fact, in 2015, world-renowned director Quentin Tarantino himself stopped by the Hollywood Theatre for a showing of his film “The Hateful Eight.” (To learn more about why people love 70mm, watch this video featuring Tarantino, Samuel L. Jackson, and the crew of “The Hateful Eight.”)

The beautiful custom doors Versatile created for the Hollywood Theatre restored the entry’s original 1926 beauty.

So, if you think the Hollywood Theatre seems like a special place, you’re right, and Versatile Wood Products was thrilled to have a part in preserving the theater’s unique charm. Versatile replaced the previous aluminum entry system with gorgeous sapele mahogany doors that feature a continuous 16’ header and concealed motorized opening hardware. These custom-built doors were modeled after the 1926 originals, but provide ADA accessibility, energy efficiency, and increased safety. (Check out Versatile’s video about the doors’ creation here.)

The new Hollywood Theatre doors awaiting installation (left) and the door installation at the theater (right).

In the neighboring cities of the larger Portland metro area, there are some wonderful historic theaters as well. Some have been repurposed and are now serving different functions, like the Hill Theater in Hillsboro, an Art Deco theater built in 1937 that now houses an antique mall. On this project, Versatile helped give the Hill Theater a much-needed facelift. The exterior façade was painted, the neon-lit marquee was repaired, and Versatile added a beautiful sunburst detail with new lighting to the underside of the marquee.

The historic Hill Theater in Hillsboro, Oregon.

Southwest of Portland in Corvallis, Oregon, the Whiteside Theatre is another wonderful historic landmark worth saving. An Italian Renaissance structure built in 1922, the theater was first built as a venue for the vaudeville circuit and silent films. After preservationists successfully fought to protect the theater from demolition in the early 2000s, the theater was saved and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2009. Contributing their significant expertise to the project, Versatile created poster cases for the exterior of the building to replicate the originals. This feature needed to be historically accurate, yet durable, so Versatile used Forbo Bulletin Board and solid brass hardware.

Poster cases installed by Versatile on the exterior of the Whiteside Theatre in Corvallis.

Beyond our city’s beautiful old movie palaces, other equally interesting venues await, delighting audiences with diverse offerings ranging from opera to punk shows, design workshops, stand-up comedy, and more

The intricate windows of the Hawthorne Theatre before restoration.

The Hawthorne Theater started its life nearly 100 years ago as a Masonic lodge. Today, it’s an all-ages performance venue hosting rock, metal, punk, hip-hop, indie, and hardcore bands. Versatile restored the structure’s intricate original windows in 2018, helping preserve this historic building on one of our city’s best-known boulevards. Erica Witbeck, Versatile’s operations manager, told the Business Tribune,”It’s a job we [were] uniquely qualified to do. We brought back one of the badly deteriorated original units to use for reference. Since our reproductions [were] installed adjacent to restored originals, an exact match [was] critical. We replicated the profiles on the glass stops, the overall size, the sash thickness, and the configurations with precision.” Because Versatile specializes in historically accurate custom wood sash, cabinetry, doors, and millwork using traditional techniques, they are an obvious choice for architectural preservation projects.

Details from the restoration of the Hawthorne Theatre windows.

Versatile Wood Products also brought these skills to the restoration of The Old Church Concert Hall, a beloved Portland landmark. Designed by architect Warren Heywood Williams and completed in 1882, this architectural stunner is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is now the site of hundreds of concerts, performances, and cultural events each year. Versatile created the custom redwood doors for The Old Church twenty years ago, and recently updated the look of the box office with a custom-designed cutout.

An ornate door Versatile created for The Old Church (left) and architectural drawings for the restoration of decorative woodwork on the church’s façade (right).

When it comes to replacing period doors and windows, Versatile provides expertise, skill, and quality that is unmatched in the Portland area, and they are proud to play a part in preserving these local cultural landmarks for decades to come.

Why Historic Preservation Matters

Versatile Wood Products was proud to play a role in the restoration of the Heceta Head Lighthouse, including custom doors.

1. Historic buildings are important to the cultural fabric of any city

Take a stroll down the streets of any major city, and you’re bound to come across historic buildings. Some become tourist attractions in their own right, such as the Painted Ladies, the iconic Victorian and Edwardian homes that line the street across from Alamo Square in San Francisco, or the 19th-century tenement buildings on New York’s Lower East Side, which are now part of a museum that millions visit each year. Historic buildings are important to the cultural fabric of any city, and it’s not simply because they are aesthetically appealing, even though this is an important reason these buildings are worth preserving.

Architectural preservation holds value for cultural, historical, economic, and even environmental reasons

Architectural preservation holds value for cultural, historical, economic, and even environmental reasons, providing clear benefits to the city and the people who live and work there.

Amsterdam, Egypt, Athens, London, Rome, Paris, Tokyo – these are some of the most visited cities in the world, and it’s easy to see why.  These cities have deep historical roots that guide their cultural identity. The wonderment of the historic buildings and structures is noticeable and attracts millions of visitors per year.  The same feeling of awe that these cities have can be found in many major American cities as well.

The First Congregational Church is a downtown Portland landmark. Building of this Venetian Gothic church started in 1889 and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. The tracery in the bell tower was badly decayed in places and badly needed help. Versatile painstakingly salvaged what could be saved and seamlessly repaired what needed replacing.

Portland and much of the West coast has a uniquely storied history… if we insist on tearing down historic buildings because they don’t provide enough income we will lose our sense of cultural identity.  

Portland and much of the West coast has a uniquely storied history that can still be reflected today, but if we insist on tearing down historic buildings because they don’t provide enough income we will lose our sense of cultural identity.  The Northwest’s urban architectural beginnings date from the mid-1800s, and precious few of the structures built during that time are still left standing today. The oldest surviving structure in Portland, the Hallock-McMillan building, was built in 1857 and is now in the process of historic restoration.  Some notable Portland homes that were built in the 1800s have been successfully preserved, such as the Pittock Mansion, or the in-progress Morris Marks house.  Yet for each place saved, there have been even more places demolished, and there is much work to do.

2. Old buildings hold more economic value

In her 1961 book The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jane Jacobs argues that businesses such as offices, coffee shops, restaurants, and others are attracted to older buildings, young people want to live in areas with old buildings, and that maintaining old buildings creates more jobs than building new ones. It is generally more expensive to revitalize an old brick façade, and it takes many more specialized construction positions to bring an old building back to life than to put up a cheaper new building. The need for specialized personnel, the influx of new businesses, and the increase of homes purchased in areas with older buildings means that for the owner it might not directly make them as much money to own and operate an old building, but it helps the local economy as a whole.

The PPAA building, built in 1908 as an unauthorized copy of the Voysey building in London, was occupied by the Portland Police Athletic Association for about 50 years. The space is now occupied by the Loyal Legion, with historically accurate windows and entry systems. This picture features a custom folding window assembly that allows for a full opening to create a maximum sense of space, while still retaining historic character.

3. It’s better for the environment to maintain and update an old building

It is considerably more environmentally friendly to maintain and update an old building than to tear it down and build a new one.  Adding insulation, wooden insulated windows, wooden doors, and a newer roof means that modern energy performance can be achieved while retaining the historic fabric of the building.  Wooden windows and doors insulate better and last much longer than the metal and vinyl windows commonly found in new buildings. Not only is repurposing old buildings intrinsically motivating, but it makes good environmental sense.

There are very clear environmental, economic, cultural, and historical reasons why we should preserve old buildings instead of demolishing them, and yet it feels like more historic buildings are under threat than ever before.  The boom of people to Portland is giving landowners reason to sell their property to make way for new apartment complexes. We need everyone’s help in spreading awareness if we’re going to help preserve our historic urban landscape. Supporting companies and organizations that advocate for historic preservation is a significant way to fight the demolition problem that we’re facing.  We at Versatile are proud to be a resource for historic preservation and supporters of Restore Oregon and the Architectural Heritage Center.

Do you have a project that could use the help of a team of experienced and dedicated experts? Commercial or residential, large or small, Versatile Wood Products is here to help. Contact us at info@versatilewp.com or call 503-238-6403 to make an appointment to discuss your project, or just learn more.

Cornelius Woodlark Project

After a 28 year hiatus, the historic Cornelius Hotel has finally opened once again with new owners, the newly conjoined Woodlark Building, and a new name – the Woodlark House of Welcome.
Merely five years ago the Cornelius Hotel was scheduled for demolition. The hotel, located in the heart of downtown Portland, was built in 1908, and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986. Due in part to the economic crash of 2008 it was set to be destroyed but was saved when the building was sold for $2.1 million. That started the almost $70 million journey to restore the hotel to its former glory – with a uniquely interesting problem.

Next door to the Cornelius Hotel, opened in 1912, sits the Woodlark Building. Another historic structure, the Woodlark was set to be destroyed along with the Cornelius Hotel in 2013. The Woodlark Building was purchased for $6.9 million along with the Cornelius Hotel, and what followed is the painstaking difficulty of combining the two building into a brand-new hotel. The two conjoined buildings look completely different, and the floors don’t line up. These challenges along with a laundry list of others are responsible for the massive restoration bill.

Today, the recently opened Woodlark House of Welcome, not only has overcome these problems, but highlights them with tastefully and thoughtfully designed interiors. There are separate key cards and separate design themes matching the building’s separate exterior facades to help guests navigate the two buildings.

We had the pleasure to get to work on this project with the help of LCG Pence and local firm R&A Architecture + Design. We built a total of six entryway systems, 29 windows at the mezzanine level, and 25 windows at the basement clerestory level. The project took an estimated 2600 hours of total shop time and is one of the largest projects we’ve ever worked on.

Although this project started years ago, the re-opening of the historic hotel was one of our highlights from this past year, and we are well into our next historic hotel restoration – stay tuned!




Like Father, Like Son – Skilled Craftsmanship Runs in the Brindusesc Family

Brindusesc

Danil Brindusesc is the Sash and Door Foreman for Versatile Wood Products.

With a ready smile and friendly demeanor, Danil tells his story. A charming accent gives away his Eastern European origins. Born in Romania, Danil arrived in the United States in April of 1989 after a brief seven-month stay in Yugoslavia. A husband and father of seven children from the ages of 15 to 32, Danil is certainly a busy man. When asked what he enjoys doing for fun, Danil says, “My hobbies are working all the time, doing work at home,” as he pages through the large stacks of architectural drawings.

Brindusesc

“I don’t like vacation. My wife doesn’t like it,” Danil says with a laugh. The concept of leisure time seems a foreign concept to Danil; in addition to working full-time at Versatile Wood Products, Danil is constantly busy with work and education, helping with projects around home, and pursuing the training needed to become a licensed electrician here in the US,  which was his previous vocation in Romania.

As he talks about working for Versatile, Danil explains, “Well, you know, this job is my life. I like working with wood. I have much experience because I have worked many years here. The shop is nice, the owner is nice, the people are nice.” Having worked at Versatile Wood Products for 28 years, Danil has the longest tenure of any employee. “My favorite thing is work. I like making windows, making doors. I like working with wood,” Danil says with enthusiasm.  As foreman, Danil spends many hours training new employees the techniques and methods used in the fabrication of Versatile Wood Products’ windows and doors, something he says he enjoys.

Brindusesc
As foreman and father, Danil is quite skilled at giving instructions.

One employee Danil has trained and knows quite well also happens to be his third eldest child, Eusebiu.

He is following his father’s footprints both literally and metaphorically as he walks carefully across the sawdust-covered floor of the workshop. Eusebiu Brindusesc, Lead Glazier and Carpenter II, has worked at Versatile since 2011 and is engaging and personable, much like his father.

Brindusesc
Eusebiu in front of the hundred-year-old stained glass window from First Baptist Church, which he has been restoring.

Eusebiu says working with his dad has had its ups and downs, as it would for any parent and child. He explains, “When I started it was more difficult. He calls me ‘son’ instead of by my name, so now everyone in the shop calls me ‘son’!” Eusebiu laughs with affection and just a hint of annoyance.

Asked about the project that he’s most proud of, Eusebiu immediately mentions the dovetailed wine bar Versatile Wood Products created for Revelry Vintners in Walla Walla, Washington. Operations Manager Erica Witbeck explained the complexity of this piece: “That project took an enormous amount of courage. [Versatile] had done the oversized glue-up for the sixteen-foot-long countertop and had taken it to a mostly finished state. Then the complicated dovetails had to be cut in by hand. There were no second chances with that enormous oak slab; one wrong cut and the whole thing may have been in ruins. Eusebiu did it without breaking a sweat. He’s amazing!”

Brindusesc
Detail of the dovetailing for Revelry Vintners’ wine bar.

Discussing what he loves to work on the most, Eusebiu says, “I love doing custom, unique pieces, like this stained glass.

These old historical windows — I love restoring those. That’s a huge part . . . it’s just working with old stuff. Those [windows] are over 100 years old. That glass is so fragile; it has its own personality.”

When restoring historic windows, including stained and leaded glass windows, Versatile uses both older and modern techniques, depending on what’s best for each project, and Versatile’s craftspeople, like Eusebiu, have the expertise needed to handle these delicate artifacts. In the article “The Preservation and Repair of Historic Stained and Leaded Glass” by Neal A. Vogel and Rolf Achilles, the authors discuss the importance of careful restoration work:

Extreme care must therefore be exercised, even in the most minor work. For this reason, virtually all repair or restoration work undertaken on stained and leaded glass must be done by professionals, whether the feature is a magnificent stained glass window or a clear, leaded glass storefront transom. Before undertaking any repair work, building owners or project managers should screen studios carefully, check references, inspect other projects, and require duplicate documentation of any work so that full records can be maintained . . . . The greatest and the most common threat to leaded glass is deterioration of the skeletal structure that holds the glass . . . . When frames fail, leaded glass sags and cracks due to insufficient bracing; it may even fall out from wind pressure or vibration. Wood sash are nearly always used for residential windows and are common in many institutional windows as well . . . Wood and glazing compounds decay over time from moisture and exposure to sunlight—with or without protective storm glazing—allowing glass to fall out.

Brindusesc
Eusebiu holds glazing compound used in the restoration of old windows.

Versatile’s work on various historic projects illustrates the ability of their craftspeople to handle such careful restoration work.

In the case of the stained glass window repair for the First Baptist Church in downtown Portland, Versatile recreated a red oak sash to match the original decayed version and glazed the original glass into the frame, carefully preserving this fragile stained glass window that is around 100 years old. Versatile can be entrusted to work with delicate originals, from antique stained glass to museum-worthy Setziol door slabs.

Brindusesc
Eusebiu demonstrates the glazing process.

The Brindusescs are certainly a valuable part of Verstatile’s crew of fine craftspeople. In their highly skilled hands, every project is treated with the utmost care and expertise.

Brindusesc
Danil doing what he loves most – working!

Historical Window Line Roll-out

INGENUITY Historical Window Line Roll-out

Versatile Wood Products is proud to present our new line INGENUITY™, semi-custom solid wood windows designed to match period and antique home styles. When it comes to renovating historical architecture, it can be costly when modern commercial off the shelf products do not fit the original design. We created this line with historic properties in mind, featuring period-appropriate details and traditional construction. From Victorian to Mid-Century, INGENUITY™ offers top quality and value.

The  Koehler Family Craftsman Home

This classic Craftsman home is brought back to its original character with all-wood windows, made by hand in Portland, Oregon. The dramatic quadruple mulled double hung assembly adds light, air, and traditional sensibility to the elevation.

Versatile Wood Products’ first customer for the INGENUITY™ historical window line is the Koehler Family in Portland, Oregon. Every home has a story. This 1911 Craftsman has a newer addition in the rear of the house, which means construction that varies from the original methods. Modern  framing uses wider lumber. With INGENUITY™, we offer jamb depths (including extensions in any size) that will work with any wall thickness, from any era.

Historical Window Line
Thor is working on a quadruple mulled double hung unit. For traditional weight-and-pulley assemblies, adequate space must be allowed for the weights to travel between the frames.

The INGENUITY™ window line was created to offer a competitively priced solid wood, handmade window with the versatility needed to address most any building scenario. Streamlining the design choices reduced manufacturing costs and makes specifying simple.  Most importantly, INGENUITY™ windows were designed to maintain that period look and feel of the original home that commercial-off-the-shelf windows cannot provide.  Preserving Portland’s architectural beauty is all in the details.

INGENUITY Historical Window Assembly

Historical Window Line
Natural wood varies in density, so even when sash are the same dimensions, the weights are different. For perfect balance, each weight system must be calibrated for the specific sash it needs to carry. Careful measuring and labeling must take place for this part of the build. These sash will glide easily and stay put.

Seen here, Craftsman Henry assembles the sash weights to the INGENUITY™ windows.  The Koehler family upgraded to traditional weight-and-pulley balances for the double-hung windows. INGENUITY™ windows can come as individual units, or mulled together with a continuous subsill. This effort required double and quad units in addition to singletons.

INGENUITY Hardware Systems

INGENUITY™ hardware systems come in oil rubbed bronze, chrome, nickel and brass (polished or satin available for nickel and brass). These pulleys are as elegant as they are robust, with sash lifts and locks to coordinate.

Come See US!

Historical Window Line
Ready with bows on! With the sash cord prepped and ready, the units are prepared for a safe delivery. The top sash are sent out loose to make the large units easier to handle. Next step, installation!

Versatile is not your average commercial off-the-shelf window manufacturer. We provide historically accurate windows made by hand, in Portland Oregon, that are built to fit any original window opening.  Want to keep your original jamb? We offer inserts with spring balance operation as well, which install in a snap without having to demo your original woodwork. Looking for casements or picture windows? Divided lights, or obscured glass? INGENUITY™ has a design solution for you. Our experienced team specializes in balancing original period designs with modern technology and has created a repeatable process to create economical alternatives, whatever your design needs.

Come see our showroom at 2303 N. Randolph Ave., Portland, OR 97227
Mon – Fri 7:30 am – 4:00 pm

Sovereign Hotel Restoration Award

Beautiful Sovereign Hotel Restoration

Sovereign Hotel Renovation Team Celebrates Project of the Year Award
Members of the project team behind the Sovereign Hotel renovation, submitted by R&H Construction and Emerick Architects, celebrate the Project of the Year award. (Sam Tenney/DJC)

Versatile Wood Products is proud to stand alongside Emerick Architects and R&H Construction to win DJC Top Project of the Year Award for the restoration of the Sovereign Hotel! The DJC awards are:

“… the premier awards program for the region’s built environment. Honoring the best building and construction projects in Oregon
and SW Washington, DJC TopProjects is the must-attend annual event to meet the people and firms who are doing outstanding work in the regional built environment.”

DJCOregon

Watch a beautiful video on the restoration of this 95-year-old luxury apartment hotel here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DcgLp3Ig85M

A Brief History of the Sovereign Hotel

Since its construction the Sovereign Hotel has been an apartment building, radio station, and home to the Oregon Historical Society.

Sovereign Hotel

The landmark Sovereign Hotel was built in 1923. The nine-story building is a Georgian-style designed by Carl L. Linde. Its first occupants were KFWV radio in 1926 until 1927. In 1938, Harry Mittleman bought the Hotel; until 1972 it was known as the Sovereign Apartments. The Sovereign Hotel was added to the United States National Register of Historic Places on December 2, 1981. In 1982 the Oregon Historical Society (OHS) purchased the building to expand the Oregon History Center.

Sovereign Hotel

One of the most beloved aspects of the Hotel is the murals. The Hotel is an L-shaped building with six sides. On four of the sides, murals commissioned by OHS were painted in 1989 by Richard Hass. Two of these murals rise eight stories.  One side depicts the Lewis and Clark expedition, while the mural on the south side shows the pioneer period in Oregon’s history. In 2014 OHS sold the Hotel under the agreement that the new owner would preserve the murals.

Versatile and the Sovereign Hotel

For Versatile, the story started in August of 2015. Our team started exploring scope options with the team from Emerick to see what the possibilities were. Versatile’s historic building experts participated in detailed site assessments to help decide how to best approach the building restoration. We were able to propose an array of strategies to choose from.

Flash Forward to Spring of 2016:

While the window scope was being sorted out and set in motion, we next concentrated on the custom storefront and entryway system. The storefront was particularly challenging. This was because the oversized tempered glass required was larger than any domestic tempering oven that we could locate. The glass ultimately had to be sourced from Canada.

The storefront was constructed out of Sapele. This beautiful material is often selected for stain-grade products because of its rich, dark appearance. Versatile will also utilize it for paint-grade applications when high exposure calls for greater resistance to weathering and decay. The entry system, consisting of quartersawn white oak door, side panels, and arched transom, were designed to coordinate with original materials and details.

We Rose to a New Technical Challenge with the Arched Transom Unit:

For maximum accuracy, we looked to our state-of-the-art CNC machine to produce the radiused pieces. The geometric precision on some of the slender pieces was so accurate and consistent, we have since adapted our production to incorporate this strategy. This is a perfect example of how Versatile strives to bring new technologies together with traditional building methods to create the best products possible.

Additional interior and exterior oak doors were added in succession, as well as some cabinet drawers and faces (yes, we do that too!). All in all, we had 13 phases to this project, finally concluding in August of 2017.

Check Out our Photos

Sovereign Hotel
Sovereign plans and arched pieces

Sovereign Hotel
Sovereign arched transom in progress

Sovereign Hotel
Sovereign Arched Transom Gluing

Sovereign Hotel
Chuck from R&H Construction stands in front of the Sovereign door and arched transom

Hawthorne Theatre Custom Window Restoration

Hawthorne Theater
Hawthorne Theatre

Window Restoration Commences at the Hawthorne Theatre

In a rapidly growing city like Portland, preserving “Old Portland” is important to its residents. To companies like Versatile, restoring Portland is job #1.  Our current project is a complete rebuild of the original weather damaged windows of the grand Hawthorne Theatre.  This building was originally designed and built by the Eastside Masons in 1917. It remains a centerpiece of SE Portland. The Masons abandoned the property in the 1970s due to dwindling members. The building was resurrected in 2005 as The Hawthorne Theatre and the Hawthorne Theatre Lounge.

Hawthorne Theater

The skilled artisans at Versatile Wood Products are uniquely qualified to perform this complete rebuilding of these intricate windows. Versatile specializes in traditional and historic reproductions. Six of the grand window sashes were so badly deteriorated they required a complete remove, repair and/or replace. With the help of  Viridian, a restoration and installation partner, a single window was brought back to the Versatile design team.  The original window, shown above, was dismantled and used as a template for replication. 

Hawthorne Theater

Each detail is recreated from the original. Versatile creates the glass stops, size and sash thickness to replicate the authenticity of the original “master builders.” Because the refurbished sections will be installed adjacent to originals, every detail must be preserved and replicated. 

Hawthorne Theater

True to the mission of “ingenuity,” Versatile, with our master highly skilled carpenters, recreate accurate historic century reproductions of the finest quality to preserve Portland as seen with our newest Hawthorne Theatre renovation.

What Does Custom Wood Building Mean?

Custom Wood Building

Custom wood building is an art that has been around for about as long as humans. Many of the same terms we see today were used thousands of years ago. On Raymond McInnis’s site, A History of Woodworking, he shares a piece from an article written on Stonehenge:

“…The largest weighs as much as 50 tons. Unique today, Stonehenge was probably also unique in its own time, some 4,500 years ago – a stone monument modeled on timber precedents. Indeed, its massive lintels are bound to their uprights by mortise-and-tenon joints taken straight from carpentry.”

Modern Wood-Building

With the progress in modern technology and industrial demands, Woodworking as a field has changed. For example, the development of (CNC) or Computer Numeric Controlled Machines in 1949 made it possible to mass-produce and reproduce products faster—not only faster but with less waste and the ability to produce more complex designs. Along with CNCs, the emergence of rechargeable power tools sped up the creation of many projects. They also required much less body strength and endurance than in the past. Despite the increase with technological advances, the quality and craftsmanship of custom wood-building remains unmatched.

What Does Custom-Built Mean?

According to the Merriam Webster, custom built simply means, “Built to individual specifications.” Sounds pretty straightforward, however there are many intricate details involved. Custom wood building is more than making a window or door. It requires more than just the right tools and space. These are essential, yes, but custom building also requires a lot of skill. At Versatile Wood Products every project, both big and small, modern or historical, is performed with the utmost quality and dedication.

“Versatile provides historically accurate custom wood sash, cabinetry, doors and millwork using techniques originated by 18th and 19th century craftsmen. We are committed to creating spaces that honor and make history. By preserving traditional ways of building and blending them with modern technologies and performance standards, we design and build solutions that harmonize aesthetics and temperament with function and utility.”

Versatile’s experienced team specializes in balancing period appropriate architectural design specifications with modern performance standards, combining historic techniques and modern technologies.

What does manufactured mean?

Custom Wood Building

 

 

 

Wood is manufactured in a few types, Plywood, particleboard, fiberboard, medium density fiberboard (MDF), and veneer. In addition to the CNC machine, another reason for the increased popularity of mass-produced wood products was the invention of manufactured wood. Manufactured wood products have become a popular choice because they are less expensive to produce. Manufactured wood products are also more readily available at Big Box stores.

Understanding what custom wood building and manufactured wood are is important when starting a project. For example, determining the exact specifications for choosing the right window or door is important. Having the exact build for a particular project is crucial. Not just for the aesthetics, but for long-term quality.

“By hand-selecting tight grain wood patterns and using time-honored techniques our products will last for many years to come.”

How Versatile produces lasting quality

To better understand the separation between custom wood building and manufactured wood, the following Versatile projects will highlight the distinction. In this first custom case study, the restoration of a historical landmark highlights the stunning craftsmanship Versatile (and Arciform) demonstrate. The agility and flexibility accompanied by the great care required shows why custom wood building is essential.

Restoring First Congregational Church

The First Congregational Church turned to Versatile and Arciform to stabilize and restore the wood elements of this feature. Constructed in 1895, the First Congregational Church of Portland is a dominant Venetian Gothic icon. The church is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and designated a Portland Landmark. This historic structure towers with its 175’ bell tower at the Southwest corner.

Restoring the Gothic tracery was more than just “replacing parts.” The goal was to retain as much of the original fabric as possible. However, what appeared to be repetitive details in the columns and tracery were in fact unique. This prohibited the efficiency of replicating one element to be reused as a template throughout the entire tracery at similar locations. After meticulous documentation, all parts were mapped and translated into CAD files. Having these otherwise inaccessible components in-house provided the unique opportunity to prepare a custom library of details for First Congregational Church.

All new pieces were made of Western Red Cedar, the same wood species as the original elements. This was to ensure historic accuracy and material performance. Replacement parts were then fit in place for sizing and routed with the cove detailing ensuring the tracery appeared seamless. The final product was delivered in sections for ease of hoisting and installation by Arciform.

Modern Buildings

In these three short project highlights, the breadth and skill level of Versatile is apparent. These again demonstrate custom wood building as an art that surpasses manufactured wood products both in ingenuity and workmanship.

 

For The Zipper, Versatile and designer Guerrilla Development used simple solid wood frames and sills. They also used direct glazed windows in solid clear vertical grain fir. This helped to create a truly innovative modern design.

The Evo Building challenges were to create custom casements in Douglas fir to match historic photos of the building. It was nearly impossible to replicate a two-toned color scheme in aluminum but was easily accomplished in wood. The hinged casements on the upper floors were a fall-hazard. Versatile used a sash limiter that would open by 3″ to prevent the potential for someone to fall out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Albina Yard (which can also be seen on Think Wood) had extraordinarily high flush exterior doors: 142” tall and 108” tall full lite doors. In this project Versatile utilized offset pivot hinges to give massive doors smooth operation and an uninterrupted modern look. The project called for building flush doors in a continuous fir veneer with a matching 34” fir transom panel above. The design challenge was that both the flush exterior doors and full lite doors were extraordinarily high in addition to being about 40” wide.

Architecture: Lever Architecture
Contractor: Reworks Design Build

Custom Wood Building Is Good For The Environment

A report by Green Building Elements provides a wealth of researched information that supports the value of custom wood building. A study conducted by Architecture and Design reports that 16% of all the fossil fuel consumed annually is converted into concrete, steel, aluminum and brick building materials. On the opposite end, wood reduces its carbon footprint.

“When trees are made into building materials, that carbon dioxide remains sequestered in the finished products. When wooden building materials reach the end of their useful life, they are often repurposed or recycled into new products. All that stored carbon dioxide is kept out of the atmosphere virtually forever.”

Green Building Elements also reports a cooperative program between a company called Whole Trees in Madison, Wisconsin and the USDA Forest Service. Entire trees that the Forest Service harvests during routine thinning efforts and discards are used. They are turned into beams, trusses and joists to use in building construction.

Custom Wood Building is good for your Health

Custom Wood Building

Custom wood building is not just beautiful and unique in each design but is also good for your health. Another study by Architecture and Design finds that, “the feelings of natural warmth and comfort that wood elicits in people has the effect of lowering blood pressure and heart rates, reducing stress and anxiety and increasing positive social interactions.” Wood products within a room have been shown to improve indoor air quality by moderating humidity. The study also finds that being surrounded by wood at home, work or school has positive effects. Not just on the body and brain, but also on the environment. It can even shorten hospital stays through reduced recovery times.

Truly, Custom Wood-Building Is an Art Of Craftsmanship

From the use of mortise and tenon joinery dating back thousands of years to our state-of-the-art CNC router, Versatile Wood Products’ custom wood projects are built to last.

Natural Wood Delivers Timeless Beauty

More than 100,000 species of natural wood grace this planet. Like Michelangelo, a gifted woodworker sculpts color, grain, strength, weight and purpose to bring out the best in a building. Where flexibility is called for, bendable oak or elm is a better choice than highly dense mahogany. Exceptionally strong Douglas fir can weather abrasive elements. Cedar makes much better outdoor deck material than beautiful maple, which tends toward natural decay.

Popular Natural Wood Species

Following are samples that show color and texture variations in just some of the natural wood species. In addition, the Minwax website shows a chart of popular wood species, their characteristics and uses. We also like the Wood Database, where you can find additional technical details on wood species.

Natural Wood Species Samples

It was hard to choose among so many lovely options, but here are some of our favorite natural woods. Half of them have photos illustrating real Versatile Wood Products projects. Click a photo to learn more about each project.

Douglas Fir

Natural Wood Species Historic Douglas Fir

This natural wood is from one of the largest evergreen trees in the world. The timbers are very large in dimension and are also of good quality. Most commonly, Douglas fir is used for structural purposes where wear and abrasion are a factor. The wood is exceptionally strong for its weight, and is one of the heaviest softwoods available in North America.

Birch

Birch is fine-grained, medium hard and heavy. Pale in color, it often has a satin-like sheen and sometimes a rippled texture. Birch is also naturally waxy, which makes it resistant to water. It makes high-quality plywood and is valuable for furniture-making.

White Oak

Natural Wood Species Historic Oak

Oak has an especially beautiful grain pattern and is strong, heavy and of medium hardness. Colors range from creamy white and light brown to reddish hues. Oak is equally at home in historic and contemporary settings.

Cherry

The cherry wood specie ranges in color from a tan blond to reddish brown. Despite small mineral flecks and pitch and sapwood pockets its close and uniform-grained surface is satiny smooth. Over time, cherry forms a patina and the color becomes deeper and richer. Cherry can also become lighter in color when exposed to natural sunlight.

Sapele

Natural Wood Species Modern Mahogany Doors

Sapele is a common stand-in for true Mahogany that is highly dense and moderately hard and heavy. When first cut, it ranges from yellow to salmon. As the wood ages, the color deepens to a rich red or brown.

 

Maple

Natural Wood Species Modern Honey Maple Doors

Maple is strong, hard and has a very smooth texture and fine grain. It is naturally resistant to scratches and cracks.  Colors range from creamy white to light reddish brown. Maple is commonly used for flooring, fine woodworking and furniture.

Poplar

Poplar is a favorite choice for paint grade interior projects such as cabinetry face frame. Its combination of economy and workability make it a popular utility wood. It is also used in veneers, where it can be stained or dyed to mimic other species.

Eastern Black Walnut

Natural Wood Species Modern Walnut Cabinetry

Walnut is known for its especially beautiful grain patterns, which range from straight to varied. A stable wood, walnut’s natural color varies from dark brown to purplish black. Sometimes walnut also contains light brown streaks, known as sapwood.

Alder

Alder has a very even wood grain and is very straight. Coloring ranges from light brown to a reddish caramel. Over time, alder turns a shade lighter through sun exposure. It has numerous wormholes and tight, open, and split knots. This makes it ideal for a rustic style home decor.