Burn It - The Brandegee Blog

Ramblings on Crafting Useable Art (and other things that I find interesting)

Burn It

Posted on October 29, 2012

With great excitement, we arranged for our old friend Bob Worsing to look over our newly purchased log cabin two hours east of our home in Pittsburgh.  We were in that first blush of passion about the place and its quiet seclusion.

The cabin was built circa 1840 and is now at the center of our more than 100 acres, a half mile from the nearest neighbor and eight miles to the nearest store, in a mountainous area in the middle of nowhere roughly halfway between Bedford, Pennsylvania and Cumberland, Maryland.  Ada and I were considerably stressed by work demands and it was just what we needed for R & R.

I acknowledge that the cabin was dilapidated; after decades of abuse as a hunting cabin, the front porch rafters were hung with rusty outdoor chairs, the interior full of smelly, battered furniture, and a full fledged porcelain toilet above a hole in the living room floor that provided relief on nights too cold for venturing to the outhouse 20 yards from the cabin.  But I knew the place had enormous potential.

Bob was an architect, a very talented one at that.  One of his colleagues once told me that the famed West Coast architect, Richard Neutra, had sought out Bob on a trip to Pittsburgh.  We eagerly sought Bob’s advice on restoration and organizing the interiors.

After I had waved my arms around and waxed eloquent about the cabin’s possibilities, I finally asked him what he thought.

He was succinct: “Burn it!” he said.

Happily, the place eventually worked its spell on him, too.  He had ideas and then drawings that led to a transformation, and until his death a decade later he and his wife, Sally, loved driving out from Pittsburgh to join us for grilled feasts on the screened-in back porch.  He also loved my furniture designs that used the kinds of materials he saw in the cabin restoration.  He and Sally later acquired this dining table and a console.

The lengthwise “rails” supporting the top were cut from the thick floorboards of an early barn we took down.  They had to be substantial, remembering that laden iron wheeled wagons rolled and heavy hoofed cattle stomped across them.  The leg sections are log cabin logs.  For more information on the Rails table, click here.

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