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2011 - Volume 2 Issue 1
Casas Bonitas
Article: Bob Skolnick
Photos: Bill Faulkner
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European homes and castles have incorporated carved woods into the interior design for centuries. The early 19th and 20th century homes of early American industrialists and philanthropists in New England, New York and Atlantic states emulated styles and designs of England, Spain, France and Germany. In Europe, royalty and lords reveled in intricately carved woodwork in their homes. Asia and the Orient also have embraced carved wood as a strong element of their expressive designs. Mexico, our immediate neighboring country, was influenced by the French and Spanish aristocrats that settled and developed Old Mexico. Much of the carved wood in Mexico has been and is still being carved by hand by artisans using techniques handed down from generation to generation.

    This article was prepared with the assistance of Connie Hines and Mario Lopez.
  "As an interior designer, you’re in a constant state of gaining more information, and learning more about what’s new on the horizon… If I’m not aware of it, I feel like I’ve done a little bit of a disservice to the people I’m working with…"

Connie Hines,
The Studio Design Center

Renaissance Woodworks
Connie Hines
In the United States, we have automated most furniture making and wood working. There are, however, those who embrace the traditions of the old masters and included them in today’s new home designs for El Paso and Southern New Mexico. One of those companies retaining the artisan traditions is Renaissance Woodworks, a collaboration between Connie Hines of Las Cruces and Mario Lopez of Mexico. Connie’s years of experience as an interior designer and her art background provided the basis for one-of-a-kind carved wood designs, and Mario’s family tradition of custom wood carving from Mexico started by Mario’s father 65 years ago provides the ideal combination of unique design and artisan skills.

Carved woods are typically used for front entry doors and matching casements, ceiling beams, window surrounds, fireplace mantels, kitchen cabinetry, kitchen islands, book cases and entertainment centers, adding a touch of style to the warmth characterized by wooden surfaces. Furniture, such as headboards, is also another application that can manifest into a beautiful focal point in any private living area. Connie starts the process with hand-drawn sketches developed from the customers’ preferences identified in the initial meeting. At the second meeting, the drawings are presented, samples of woods and colors are brought to the customers’ viewing. Once the wood is carved, which usually takes several weeks, the colors, stains and finishes are applied. Then the pieces are brought from Mexico and assembled at the home using exact adjustments to show a built-on-site classic fit.

Renaissance Woodworks uses all solid woods to produce hand-hewn pieces that are rich in elegance and personality. Hard woods that are best suited for wood-carved elements with knotty alder, pecan and walnut being the best choices for custom carving. Mesquite, an extra hard wood and indicative of the southwest, is often used for tables and furniture. Mesquite has a lot of pattern and is sought after by people who want a wood with charming character that holds well. Exotics, like Zebra wood, are not often carved because their grain stands out on its own. To maintain the refined surfaces of the carved elements, a light furniture oil should be lightly applied to a soft cloth and then buff it in every three to four months for interior woods, and monthly for the exterior door surfaces and surrounds that have daily sun exposure.

A specialty of Renaissance Woodworks and its contribution to custom homes is old hand-carved pieces from Central and Southeast Asia. These window grills, doors, doorways and furniture have their own style as this part of the world has embraced woodcarving for centuries. Old carved pieces from this region often tell a family or spiritual story. Renaissance Woodworks has developed unique sources that import these early generational wood carvings and then Renaissances anchors them into the home, finishing them with hand-carved borders and frames as required.

You might think that including carved woods to your home might be cost prohibitive, but in fact the areas you apply the carvings to will always have a materials cost associated with it and for example, the custom carved woods cost less than cantera, travertine or marble. Adding the custom carved woods creates an artistic element for the home and the material adds long-term value with long-lasting appeal to be enjoyed by future generations. ///
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