Ryan and Montana bought the house in 2004 from a 101-year-old man who had lived there since 1932. Luckily, most of the home’s original cherry woodwork remained intact with its original finish. However, the living room had been “modernized” in the 1950s, and as a result, the room’s ornate moldings—topping the walls, doors, and windows—had been removed. In addition, the living room’s remaining woodwork had received a thick coat of dusty rose paint.
Ryan and Montana began the room’s restoration by stripping away the paint and vinyl wallpaper, which uncovered ghosts of the original cornice moldings. Determined to restore the room to its former grandeur, they tapped the expertise of Gary Anderson, a third-generation cabinetmaker and carpenter who lives across the street. (Gary hand-shaped some of the pieces; others were off the shelf from various specialized suppliers.)
Gary guided Ryan and Montana to use cherry for the moldings to match the surviving trim, then created the crown molding in two layers: a picture rail, and a 4″-high piece with ogee and flute. Next, he assembled the door caps in three layers, milling the bottom piece on his shaper to match original moldings elsewhere in the house, customizing the profile of the main piece with a hand molding plane, and adding a flat piece on top to give the ensemble some heft.
After they had settled on the wood and design, Ryan and Montana turned their attention to the finish. They wanted the new moldings to match original finishes in other parts of the house, but there was a problem. “Modern stains were never dark enough,” explains Montana. “I wondered if we had to use an ebony stain with something else on top of it.” After a bit of Internet research, Ryan and Montana decided to visit a nearby woodworkers’ supply store, where a salesclerk advised them to try a dye with the brand name Trans Tint, but he couldn’t tell them how to apply it. “I experimented with dye, but when I put shellac over it, the dye re-liquefied and became very streaky,” says Montana. “I knew there had to be a better method.”