Friday Five with Tom Givone
Architectural designer Tom Givone, founder and principal of Givonehome, calls New York City and upstate New York’s Catskill Mountains home, where he specializes in both city and country properties. The self-taught Givone has a knack for transforming rundown 19th century structures with both primitive and industrial materials, blending historic charm with modern sensibilities, like a recently completely, twisted farmhouse project that was built in collaboration with a roller coaster manufacturer. Givone will be sitting down on May 31st for a talk at the 2015 Dwell on Design to discuss his philosophy on reviving historic buildings. Let’s take a look at five salvaged objects that he loves in this week’s Friday Five.
1. The 18th century hand-chiseled, Italian marble sink was discovered in a hillside on the outskirts of Rome. I mean hillside literally; it was lying in the dirt on a grassy slope littered with other ancient stone artifacts. Had no idea where I would use it or how, but was determined to take it home. It is now in the Floating Farmhouse, set on a heavy steel angle bracket hidden in the wall to appear weightlessly hovering in the guest bathroom, belying the sizable heft that nearly broke my arm trying to pass it off as light enough to travel with me in coach.
2. The wood and copper tub, dated to the late 1800s, was from a tenement in the lower east side and discovered by my uncle at a rummage sale downtown. He and I would do flea market excursions on Saturday mornings together, collecting whatever little treasures we could find. I wrapped the tub in stainless steel to emphasize its clean architectural lines and recast it in a thoroughly modern context. The challenge there was laser-cutting the stainless steel to exactly follow the bow in the room’s original wood floors. It now rests opposite the Italian marble sink in the spacious guest bath.
3. As in architectural design, combining historic and modern materials and forms is impactful when applied to furniture design as well. These clean-lined tables, by Green Pallet in Lumberland, NY, are made from hardwoods salvaged from tobacco drying barns in Kentucky and Tennessee. Maple, sassafras, walnut, and up to a dozen other wood species are installed perpendicular to length to emphasize grain and stripe pattern, and welded steel edging and legs give the piece a strong, minimal look and feel. It is the perfect complement to the original wide plank floors and undulating walls, the old and new, in the torqued-volume addition of the Twist Farmhouse.
4. Old farmhouse chairs, like those set around the table in both the Floating Farmhouse and Twist Farmhouse, are easy to come by in the country; at tag sales, antiques shops, and stashed away in barns. The beauty of them, outside of their solid wood construction, hand crafted feel, and marvelous paint-chipped patina, is that they can be mixed and matched at random yet all feel intimately tied together, like family siblings. They can also be quite affordable; as little as $10 each.
5. The most interesting “found object” I’ve ever worked with is a centuries-old, hand-dug stone water well, unearthed at my very first farmhouse project. A large pane of load bearing glass was laid over the well and walked across like the rest of the new stone patio, providing a unique glimpse into the past. Lit from within, the original well casts a glow across the patio while revealing the water 25 feet below.