Alphabetical Index to Articles

Arts & Crafts Architecture: Craftsman, Prairie and Four-Squaree

The rebellion against the Victorian excess began in England as the Arts and Crafts movement; not just an architectural rebellion, but a deep moral rejection of the dehumanizing effects of the early Industrial Age and its mass production processes. Largely inspired by the writings of John Ruskin, an influential moralist and social critic of the time, the movement failed in its main aim — the Industrial Revolution did not go away, or even slow down.

The Arts & Crafts Bath: The First Truly Modern Bathroom

The modern bathroom was created during the Arts & Crafts period, including every fixture of a modern American bath.

Arts & Crafts Interiors: The First "Comfortable" House

The Arts & Crafts period produced the first truly comfortable houses that regular people could afford1. They we well lighted, ventilated, heated, and pleasantly decorated, with the ultimate convenience of indoor plumbing. The paradox of the period is that this level of modern comfort was provided by the very thing that Arts & Crafts idealists despised — urban industrial mass production.
Arts & Crafts Kitchens: The Birth of the Modern Kitchen Prior to the First World War, Arts & Crafts kitchens barely differed from their spartan Victorian antecedents. A wall sink, a few drawer chests and a table or two for food preparation, along with a wood- or coal-burning stove was the standard. In contemporary illustrations, kitchens of the period seldom featured built-in cabinetry. There was very little need for extensive storage. Most food was grown or produced locally and purchased fresh daily&hellip But things were beginning to change. A number of distinct trends converged during the period between the world wars that radically altered the American diet and the American kitchen.

Arts & Crafts Resources: An Illustrated Guide to All Things Arts & Crafts

The nation is in midst of an Arts & Crafts revival. So, there are lots of Arts & Crafts resources available. Anything you need to restore, refurbish or refresh your Arts & Crafts home can be acquired somewhere, and it is entirely possible today to recreate an Arts & Crafts homestyle virtually indistinguishable from that which our grandparents and great-grandparents enjoyed — with the advantage of modern conveniences and improvements in both technology and design.

The Bathroom Revolution

The role of the bathroom is changing rapidly. The importance of the bath in our homes has grown dramatically. Spacious rooms, closeted toilets, double bowl lavatories, whirlpool tubs, and recently large walk-in showers have found their way into our homes. No longer just a functional room, the bath is becoming a retreat. How can you modernize your bath into one of these gracious rooms? Find out here.

The Bathroom Shower as Spa and Therapy Center (Sidebar)

If you would like to go a bit beyond an ordinary shower, today's showering choices give you a lot of options.

Behind the Scenes — The Hidden Kitchen

Behind the beautiful new cabinets, under the sparking countertops, beneath the gleaming tile floor are the invisible bones and sinew that make the kitchen work - electricity, venting, heating and plumbing. Find out all that's needed behind the scenes.

Beyond the Closet — 21st Century Storage Solutions

The clothes closet, a 19th century storage innovation, is completely inadequate for clothing organization in the 21st century. Learn how to double clothing storage, organize it better, and have complete access to each and every clothing item — all in the space of small reach-in closet.

Body Friendly Design: The Principles of Ergonomic Kitchen Planning

Planning for efficiency and ease of use are more important than ever in kitchen and bath design, and in the context of universal design has become the hot new topic among kitchen and bath designers. Every aspect of kitchen and bath design is being given a new, hard look, from countertop and toilet heights to the optimum placement of the microwave and dishwasher and the best depth of the kitchen sink.

Building by Design: The Design-Builder Concept

A design-builder is a modern form of an ancient approach to building structures — that of the master builder. A master builder of old was a combination architect, engineer and builder, responsible for every phase of building a structure from initial concept to completion. Design-building firms such as StarCraft Custom Builders continue this oldest of building traditions.

Cabinet Basics

Oak, maple, hickory, ash, cherry, painted. Faced and unfaced. Framed and frameless. Custom, semi-custom and manufactured. MDF, Melamine, Thermofoil, even steel. So many choices. How do you pick the cabinets that are just right for you? Click here to find out.

Cabinet Door Styles

There are an almost infinite number of cabinet door styles available. Here is a chart of just a few dozen of the styles we build. We could not possibly show them all. There are too many. Since we are an entirely custom cabinet builder, we can make any door you can describe.

Can I Do It Myself?

You can always do at least some of your remodeling yourself. How much you can do depends on the extent of the work to be done, how much knowledge you have of building techniques and such things as building code requirements; and the three "T"s: Time, Talent and Tools. Find out what you can tackle yourself and what you should absolutely leave for the pros.

Can You Deduct Your Home Office? (Sidebar)

If you are planning to finance your new home office in part by tax deductions, you had better know the rules.

Comparative Kitchen & Bath Cabinet Construction

Some cabinets are made better than others. Learn the difference between a cabinet that is solid, well-built and will last a long time, and all the others.

Coordinating Heritage Architecture and Interior Styling

How to update your heritage home and still keep its unique architectural character is one of the questions we are asked frequently. People are keenly aware that a contemporary chrome and glass kitchen does not go well with a 19th century Victorian home, but what does? Victorians did not actually have kitchens like we have today, so how do you make a fully functional modern kitchen look like it could have been a part of a Victorian home? Learn how to coordinate your interior with your house's architecture.

The Colonial Styles: Georgian and Federal Architecture

Among the most long-lived styles of American building, the Georgian style, named for Georgian Kings of England, was typically rectangular and symmetrical, two rooms deep and two stories high (Four over Four) with one or more chimneys extending through the roof or at either end. Brick or clapboard with the rarer shingle siding are the usual exterior finishes.

The Construction Process

Once your blueprints are completed, the real work begins. Your project manager works with you to develop a construction process that minimizes disruption to your household while work is in progress.

The Deck Handbook: Introduction to Decks

Learn the basics of deck design and construction using the latest materials and techniques.

The Deck Handbook: Domestic Wood for Decks

By far he most wood most commonly used for decks is pressure-treated pine. But it is not the only species widely used. Tamarack, cypress and the cedars have found their place in American decks.

The Deck Handbook: Exotic and Imported Deck Woods.

In the ever-widening quest for wood that looks good, is structurally adaptable and resists rot and decay, imported hardwoods have become significant niche players. The most common are Ipe (pronounced "ee-PAY") and the old standby mahogany. Others include Teak, Cumaru and Jarrah.

The Deck Handbook: Composite and Plastic Decks.

decking first hit the market around 25 years ago, it was trumpeted as the best thing to happen to deck building since decking screws replaced nails. hat enthusiasm was short-lived. Within a very few years significant flaws in the material began to surface...

The Deck Handbook: Railings, Lighting, Pergolas and Seating

The feature that brings the most character to a deck is its railing. Deck railings are required in most localities on any deck higher than 36" (24" in some places) from the ground...

The Deck Handbook: Staining, Sealing and Maintaining Your Deck

Wood rots. Some woods rot quickly, some very slowly, but all are going to deteriorate to uselessness eventually. Learn how staining and sealing protect you deck and the products to use to reduce wood deck maintenance to a minimum.
The Deck Handbook: The (Almost) Maintenance Free Deck It is entirely possible to build a deck that is almost maintenance-free. It requires understanding why decks fails, a little common-sense, some unlikely deck materials, and a fresh approach, but it is possible. In fact, it costs very little more to build an almost maintenance-free deck than it does to build a standard pine deck. Here's how we do it.

Designing Efficient and Effective Kitchen Lighting

The kitchen is more than just a place to cook and eat. It usually serves as the administrative and the social hub of the home. The kitchen uses a lot of energy for lighting. That makes this room an important place to use efficient lighting. While remodeling your kitchen, you have the perfect opportunity to create a highly efficient lighting system. Find out how.

Distributed Cabinet Manufacturing: Today's Cabinet Making Revolution

Local and regional cabinetmakers are catching up the the factory manufacturers in creative technologies to make custom cabinetry that rivals factory cabinets in price, but exceeds factory cabinets in creativity, construction and finish.

Egress Windows

There is a lot of confusion and misinformation about egress windows, even in the remodeling community. But there should not be. The standards are clear and easy to follow, once you understand them.

Finding Some More Kitchen Space

In many cases, existing kitchens are just too small for any real improvement in space management. Learn where to get more space, or at least the illusion of more space for your new kitchen.

Fine Furniture and Built-Ins

We craft fine furniture and built-ins to match any decor or preference. From traditional to avant-garde, from Chinese to French Provincial, there is no look we cannot reproduce. View our work here.

Flooring Options for Kitchens & Baths, With Ratings

Wood, stone, vinyl, ceramic tile, laminated flooring. What are the pros and cons of each? Learn the fundamentals of kitchen and bath flooring, weight the pros and cons of each, and decide which best suits your style.

Getting More Bathroom Space

Our fondness of open spaces within the home doesn't end at the bathroom door. Unfortunately the acreage needed to create that spacious feeling just is not available in many older bathrooms. Often the key to updating a heritage bath is creating more space — or at least the illusion of more space. This article examines where additional space can be found both outside and inside your existing bathroom.

Guide to Nebraska Hardwoods for Cabinetmakers and Woodworkers

Most of the fine native American hardwoods commonly, and uncommonly, used in cabinetry grow and are milled into lumber in Nebraska. If you were not aware that hardwood is a Nebraska crop, read this detailed guide to Nebraska hardwoods.

How to Fix Loose Plaster

Step-by-step instructions for restoring loose plaster on lath and plaster walls. Avoid the mess of tearing down and replacing loose plaster. Just fix it for a lot less money, and in a lot less time.

How to Measure Your Bathroom

All the steps required to accurately measure your bathroom explained and illustrated. Learn to measure like a pro.

How to Measure Your Closet

Closet design and planning requires careful measurement throughout the process, beginning with the exact dimensions of your closet space. Learn to measure a closet like a pro.

How to Measure Your Kitchen (And Other Rooms)

All the steps required to measure any room explained and illustrated. Learn to measure like a pro.

How to Win The Warranty Game

Your faucet leaks. You make a warranty claim with the faucet manufacturer, but is was denied. What do you do now? Find out how to win your warranty claim almost every time.

Insulating Your Old House

Is your old house drafty in winter, swampy in summer? Almost impossible to heat and cool? That's because when your house was built a half-century or more ago, no one thought insulation was necessary — or, better said, experts believed that the 4" of dead air space inside the stud cavities of your walls was adequate insulation. Now we know better, and in an age of declining energy resources, adequate insulation in your old house has become a critical requirement. Learn how insulation works, and when and where you should insulate your old house.

James Hoban: Design-Builder (Sidebar)

James Hoban designed and then built the most famous house in American: The White House. Learn about this little known design-builder.

The Japanese Toilet (Sidebar)

If you are wondering who has the most advanced toilets in the world, well, it's not us. The Japanese beat us by a country mile.

A Jungle in the Dining Room, The Solarium Addition

These owners wanted to view a tropical forest through the French doors of their dining room. See how we built an indoor garden of tropical plants that doubled as a source of solar heating.

Kitchen Remodeling on the Cheap: Simple, Practical Ideas for Creating Your Dream Kitchen on a Budget

If you feel you cannot afford a great kitchen, think again. A terrific kitchen does not have to break the bank. You may have to get creative and even make a few compromises in your original grand design, but you will end up with a wonderful kitchen that will look good and serve your needs for years to come. Here are a few practical ways of reducing the cost of your new kitchen.

Living Through Remodeling: A Homeowner Survival Guide

Remodeling will disrupt just about every routine you have; including some you are not aware of having. But this noisy, gritty process doesn't necessarily mean you will be tearing out your hair. With a little advance planning, it is possible to live through even major renovations with your sanity and good nature largely intact. Check out our remodeling survivors guide.

Major Andre's Bane (Sidebar)

When asked to reproduce an earlier American mahogany secretary, we had no idea that the original was the desk at which George Washington was seated when he signed convited spy Maj. John Andre's order of execution by hanging.

Mise en Place: What We Can Learn About Kitchen Design from Commercial Kitchens

Organized to prepare a large variety of appetizing meals at a moment's notice, we can learn a lot about kitchen efficiency from studying commercial kitchens.

New and Traditional Countertop Choices

Exciting changes are happening in the world of countertop materials. Options that simply did not exist 10 years ago are in every home store today. Is solid surfacing, laminate, stone or tile your best choice? Or maybe something more exotic. Take a look at the vast selection of modern counter top materials.

Off the Wall Kitchens: Living Without Wall Cabinets

Wall cabinets are unquestionably useful storage, but with drawbacks. A major disadvantage is that wall cabinets make a kitchen seem smaller by closing in the space at eye level — which is where we subconsciously judge how large the space around us is - and limit the number and size of windows in the kitchen. Can your new kitchen do away with wall cabinets? Probably. Find out how.

An Office in Your Home

If you have a computer in your home, you probably have a home office. It may be very basic: a computer and printer on a folding table, some old grocery cartons for filing. But if your needs are a little more demanding, then you might consider upgrading your existing arrangement. Find out how to design and build a home office.

Our Basic Garage Package: What's Included?

Our basic garage is a solid, substantial structure that can be exactly adapted to complement your old house. Learn what is included in the basic garage.

An Overview of Faucets, Part 1: The Faucet Fundamentals

For the money, a basic American faucet may be one of the best consumer values around. Designed to last a lifetime, all but the cheapest certainly will, and if they don't, the manufacturer will at least replace the defective parts. Thinking about buying a faucet? Before your do, see our list of major faucet manufacturers with ratings and guidelines on what to look for and how to select a good, lifetime faucet.

An Overview of Faucets, Part 2: Reviews and Ratings

Thinking about buying a faucet? Before your do, see our list of major faucet manufacturers with ratings and guidelines on what to look for and how to select a good, lifetime faucet.

Pantry Perfect: The “Can't Go Wrong” Pantry Design Rules

Every kitchen needs a pantry. Whatever the size of your kitchen, it should include a convenient place to store groceries, and this critical storage requires careful thought and planning. It should be large enough to hold at least a week's worth or groceries, and close enough to the food preparation area to be easily accessed. While size does matter, simplicity, organization and the right location are usually more important than size alone. A well-designed small pantry will usually provide better, more accessible, storage than a poorly designed large pantry.

Planning Your Addition

Here are the basic steps for designing an addition that is as functional as it is beautiful.

Postwar Architecture: Cape Cod, Colonial and Ranch

The end of the Second World War brought a sea change to American housing. Prior to the war most Americans were urban-dwelling renters. By the end of the postwar era in the mid-1960s, most Americans were suburban-dwelling landowners. From a nation of tenants to a nation of homeowners in just two decades. There has been nothing like it before — and probably never will be anything like it again.

Porcelain vs Ceramic: What is the difference?

Is it porcelain tile or is it ceramic tile? Does it really make any difference? Find out what makes a tile porcelain, and when you should use it.

Redefining an Arts & Crafts Bath

Designing a bathroom to comple­ment an early 20th century Four-Square house does not require slavish copying of every tiny design detail of a Crafts­man-era house. Witness this elegant bath that follows Art & Crafts design principles while incorporating modern fixtures and refinements.

The Remodeling Design & Planning Process

If your plans include substantial changes to your kitchen or bath, or another room, or you are contemplating an addition; then a construction plan is required. Learn how your ideas are turned into a concept plan and then a construction blueprint in a three-step process using computer-assisted design.

The Rules of Good Bathroom Design, Illustrated

The Kitchen and Bath Association has published guidelines for designing a safe and functional bathroom. Created and maintained by a panel of expert designers, these recommendations should be closely followed in any bathroom plan.

Saving Household Water

Fifteen billion gallons of fresh, treated water are used in American households every day. It not only depletes our water sources to waste this water, but costs a fortune in electrical power to treat and pump it into our homes. Find out what you can do to reduce your impact on the environment while saving 33% of your water bill.

Selecting Bathroom Fixtures

The choices of bathroom fixtures are a little overwhelming. Tubs, showers, sinks, faucets and toilets come in so many shapes, sizes, colors and with such a great variety of features that choosing the right fixtures can be a challenge. Here are some guidelines and suggestions.

Solving Corner Cabinet Woes (Sidebar)

Corner base cabinets are notorious as dark, difficult-to-reach storage space. Useful corner storage requires some pretty fancy hardware to make the space work. There are a variety of solutions, some better than others. But is is possible to make a corner cabinet effective storage with just a little prior planning.
Steam Showers (Sidebar) At about the same price as a hot tub, steam showers are an affordable luxury for many homeowners.

Structural Insulated Panel Construction

Structural insulated panel systems are the leading edge technology for building air-tight, super-insulated, extremely strong walls and roofs at less than the cost of conventional construction. Find out about this Energy-Star rated construction system that is sweeping the country.

Taking the Crook Out of a Crooked Bathroom

Among the major problems of this bathroom were that its walls were crooked, and looked it. See how we fixed this problem without rebuilding the walls, opened up the room visually and provided some unique storage in a small guest bathroom.

The Thirty-One Rules of Kitchen Design

In 1944 the University of Illinois conducted a study of kitchen design and developed fundamental design principals that have been modified periodically from time to time, but are still very much in use today. Here are the 31 rules for designing great kitchens.

This Old Garage

By far the most common outbuilding we build is a garage. We replace a lot of garages that are falling down now because they were originally built without a foundation — just a slab on the ground. The result is predictable. The weight of the garage walls eventually cracks the slab. The walls start to sag, them the roof. Finally the door jams and stops working. Learn to avoid old garage woes by building your garage correctly.

Understanding the Victorian Kitchen

The Victorian kitchen was anything but a modern kitchen. Its basic organizing principal was entirely different, which is why it really is not possible to recreate a Victorian kitchen just by adding some Victorian-looking cabinet doors and a few accessories. It takes an entirely new, or rather very old, approach to kitchen design, but one that works very well in a modern kitchen …

Victorian Architecture: Queen Anne, Italianate, Gothic Revival and Eastlake

The Victorian house styles flourished in post-Civil War 19th century America. The trend throughout the 19th century was toward more ornate homes showcasing the increasing wealth produced by the Industrial Revolution. Mass production processes had made even very elaborate ornamentation relatively inexpensive, and the expansion of railroads made it possible to ship great quantities of mass produced goods into every city and hamlet. This abundance was increasingly reflected in American housing styles and decoration.

The Victorian Bath: The Comfortable Bathroom

The Victorians invented the modern bath with running water, porcelain fixtures and a flushing toilet. And, to celebrate their inventiveness, proceeded to add as much fuss and detail as they could to the room. Victorian bathrooms, especially in England and the Northeast United States were elaborate fanciful rooms designed for comfort, relaxation and liesure.

Victorian Interiors: The Evolution of Opulence

A Victorian house was arranged as a showroom up front with family quarters and service areas at the rear. The public areas of the home —the parlors and drawing rooms — were the show places: designed to advertise prestige and social status — to awe and impress visitors with the wealth, refinement and good taste of the homeowners…

The Well Organized Closet

If your closets look like the aftermath of the perfect storm, you need a little organization. See how you can do it yourself, or call us so we can do it for you.

Your Old Windows

If the fine craftsmanship and charm of your old windows is quickly being eroded by cold drafts and frost on the panes, it may be time to consider doing something about them. Can your old windows be saved? If they are saved, can they be made as energy efficient as modern windows? The answer is "yes" and "yes". Most heritage windows can be restored and upgraded to rival the performance of a standard replacement window, and usually at a fraction of the cost.