by Ann M. Colford

That official prognosticator of all things meteorological, Punxsutawney Phil the groundhog, predicted six more weeks of winter on Monday to the delight of snow-lovers and the dismay of everyone else. Of course, how a coddled rodent from Pennsylvania can foresee the weather conditions here in the Inland Northwest is a topic for rigorous debate - but not here. Instead, I suggest we come up with interesting activities to occupy our time while waiting for the sun to return and planning for the warmer days ahead.

Accomplishing both goals, the MAC's Old House Workshop is set for the next three Wednesday evenings at the museum's Johnson Auditorium. Drawing in both do-it-yourselfers and admirers of historic architecture, the workshop series combines expert presentations with case studies of preservation success stories around the area. The series is presented by the museum's Historic Preservation Committee, which also sponsors the annual Mother's Day Tour of historic homes.

Most homeowners make some compromises in the restoration of an older home, both for livability and to save time and expense. Unless you're restoring a house museum to a particular period, you probably won't limit yourself to the materials and techniques of an earlier age; instead, you'll aim to maintain the period flavor of the home while adapting it to function comfortably in the current century.

"What I think we need to recognize about older homes is that people are actually living in them, and that most of us don't have unlimited budgets," says Patti Larkin, curator of the Campbell House. "We have to make restorations that are feasible yet respectful to the historic neighborhood or the historic structure."

Each guest speaker this year brings expertise to the theme of using modern technology, products and reproductions to restore an old home - or to create a new home or addition with the charming details of an earlier era. On Wednesday, Feb. 11, Christian Gladu will discuss the use of traditional styles and plans in constructing a new house -- the basis for his books Bungalow Plans and The New Bungalow.

Drawing upon the philosophies of the Arts & amp; Crafts period - fine artisanship, simplicity, warmth and high functionality - Gladu designs new homes that combine the best of bungalow living with the conveniences expected in today's homes. Larkin says these new/old houses can still reflect our era while preserving the best of the Arts & amp; Crafts period.

"We often look back at historic styles to gain inspiration," she says. "That's something that's always occurred. We always have revival styles." The key, she says, is to draw upon the wisdom inherent in those styles while tailoring a home to fit present-day needs.

"It's particularly exciting when you have an older neighborhood with in-fill development," she says. "Part of the charm and beauty of older neighborhoods is that you see a coherent view, and it's wonderful to see a new home that blends nicely with the older homes."

A week later, on Feb. 18, author Leon Frechette joins Spokane urban planner Jim Kolva to discuss how to incorporate salvaged materials into a restoration and how to adapt existing spaces to new uses. Kolva and his wife, Pat Sullivan, restored an aging warehouse on South Adams to attractive loft space, combining apartment residences, live-work units and first-floor gallery and retail space. Frechette -- former contractor, author of several books including Build Smarter With Alternative Materials and host of the Web-based -- now lives in Spokane, and he'll be sharing his knowledge of salvage and products made from recycled materials. Between them, they'll illustrate the growing synergy between historic preservation and green building.

"There are some wonderful new products out there that can be used to recreate a building," says Larkin. "Often, the newer materials are less expensive than traditional materials, and it's the only way most people can afford to do it."

Kolva's project is a prime example of adaptive re-use, she says. "That's a case where the building now has a completely different function than before, but it's a great way to retain and use the structure. It's also part of a really exciting neighborhood developing downtown."

The series concludes on Feb. 25 with Seattle architect Larry Johnson and Teresa Brum, Spokane's Historic Preservation Officer, making a presentation about sensitive additions to historic homes.

"If you need to expand your home, Larry's specialty is looking at how to do that in a way that retains the historic structure," Larkin explains. "Teresa will follow with a presentation about a sympathetic addition to a house in the Corbin neighborhood, within the historic district."

Each session includes local case studies and success stories drawn from the speakers' experiences. To register, call the MAC at 456-3931. The series price is $30 for MAC members and $35 for non-members.

Publication date: 02/05/04

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