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Friday, July 3, 2015

Window Drama
Channeling Victor Horta

Entry with New Windows

One of my favorite Art Nouveau Architects is a Belgian named Victor Horta.  He was born in 1861 and died in 1947.   One of his primary beliefs was that an entire space should be designed as one entity, that every small part of a design should contribute to a whole.

Baron Victor Horta - Belgian architect and designer

His work is truly magnificent, and in every building he designed you can trace this philosophy within the final result.

Every line complements every other part of the design, nothing is left to chance.   Lines flow into one another, shapes work together to create a memorable effect, and colors harmonize into an outcome that leaves one fully enchanted.  Every portion of the design, in some way, seems to be drawn directly from Nature itself. 

Exterior View of Manor Facade Windows

I wanted the facade of my Manor to capture a bit of this feeling, to send ones mind back to nature, to contribute to a whole that feels a part of nature.  Steampunk, in particular, often draws on this aesthetic to create environs that feel exotic and exciting.

Steampunk incorporates elements from many sources, a bit of fantasy and a bit of every artistic style imaginable.  It is heavily informed by historical design, particularly during the Victorian era. The elegance and studied beauty of the Art Nouveau Style is a favorite element in many representations of the Steampunk genre. 

Closeup of the Entry Window
One of the hallmarks of the Art Nouveau style, and of Victor Horta's work, is its asymmetrical lines and it's use of undulating lines that harken directly back to nature.  The myriad forms of flower stalks, insect wings, vine tendrils and sapling branches are deeply embedded into the design style. 

I chose to try and emulate the tendrils of vines to complement the colors I wanted to use, and to harmonize with  the deep browns and blues of the interior of the entry.  I felt like they went well together, and were in the spirit of the "designed whole" that Victor Horta displayed.  

Birds Eye view of the Manor Entry Grand Staircase

The shapes of the stairway, the door, and the almost water like appearance of the poured resin floor seemed to create a whole that I particularly liked.  I felt like this window treatment is solidly in the spirit of both Steampunk, and of the Art Nouveau style I so admire. I feel like it echoes the spirit of the Entry so far. 

In the photo of the Tassel House Stairway designed by Victor Horta, you can see the ghost of some of the choices I've made in my own Entry Stairway.  This is one of my favorite pictures of Victor Horta's work.  While the actual lines of the staircase above are somewhat different, the general effect of the final stair will be very similar, if I have my way!

Above is a photo of Victor Horta's studio, which now has been converted into a museum.  You can see the same curves and vine-like shapes in use in this example of his work.  I wanted this same sense of natural movement to inform my windows. The result of this desire is the window set I created for the facade of the Manor.

Foam Core Mockup In Progress

I began as I usually do with a mockup of my potential windows.  This was fashioned from Foam Core board.  I used a photo of a firescreen that I loved to help me determine the right lines, traced it onto Tracing Paper, and transferred it onto the Foam Core.  To transfer from Tracing Paper to the Foam Core I used the process of using a soft graphite pencil to scribble along all the lines of the tracing on the side I wanted to use.  Then I placed the tracing, scribble side down, on the Foam Core, and then retraced all the lines.  This left a clear imprint of the pattern on the Foam Core.  

Using the Scroll Saw to Cut the Windows

I then transferred the same pattern, once I had decided I liked the design, to two 1/32" pieces of wood.  I taped those together to try and cut the exact same pattern on both windows. 

Woeful results of the wood cutting process.  

Unfortunately, this did not work too well. Above is what I ended up with.  A lot of work went into those two sad pieces of wood.  Time to go back to the drawing board. 

Suddenly, I decided my mockup versions looked just fine.  We'll see whether that decision sticks.  I am not done with the windows yet, as I intend to add a bit more depth to them, so we'll see.  I may try a different thickness of wood and redo the windows with that, but for the moment, my plan is to see where this version takes me, and if I like it, it will become the final!  See how that works?

I painted the Foam Core board a bronze color that I thought harmonized well with the floors and the gold leaf above the door on the inside.  I am very happy with the results so far.  While they do still look a little rough to me, I know that the work I plan to do on them should remove that roughness.  

Now on to the door...  getting the basic shape of that right will be my next task.  I actually already have that shape designed, but the door is not yet built so we'll all have to wait for the final result!

The Rejected Door Design - the New One is much better!

I did do a mockup of "the door", but this one has been rejected.  I'll share it with you here, just because it really ought to see the light of day somewhere!  It's cool, but just not right for the manor. This is why we do mockups!  :0) 

Hope you all enjoyed seeing the work of Victor Horta.  He is truly my architectural hero...Everything he did appeals to me.  Maybe its the curves...maybe the colors, maybe the truly designed total environments, but something about his work speaks to me like no one elses!

Until next time!  I hope you all are enjoying your summer!

Doug S


  1. If you hadn't told me the window inserts were painted foam board I would have guessed that you had cut them from wood. I do love Art Nouveau - the way the structures seem to be grown rather than built. I think you're nailing it with your ideas. Have a good weekend =0)

    1. Hi there Pepper! I do think that the Foam Core board actually worked fairly well. The bronze paint, and the fact that the whole thing is meant to look like metal, helps to legitimatize the look, so for the moment I am going with it. We'll see how it all comes out in the wash.

      Art Nouveau is a wonderful design style for those that like it. It's also one of those styles that people truly love or violently hate! I happen to love it myself, if you haven't been able to tell. :0)

      Glad you think I am capturing the spirit of the Nouveau look! At this point I am so interested in what my own outcomes will be on this facade...I have ideas, but I wonder if they'll be too over the top. Time will tell!

      Thanks Pepper!


  2. Hi Doug! I didn't have much time to surf the net, so I'm quite surprised to see how much work you did. The windows look great and it is impossible to guess the material they are made of. :)

    1. Hi there Ersilia! I am so glad to know you've visited! I work slowly, but pretty steadily, so like the Tortoise in the story of the Tortoise and the Hare, I eventually get there!

      I am hoping once I trim out the windows that all vestiges of the Foam Core will disappear. I do find it amazing what humble materials can be used to create interesting shapes. You know all about that. I am amazed at times what you create out of just a cardboard box!

      Thanks for dropping by and leaving your thoughts!


  3. Hi Doug
    I just love your posts! Not only do we get to see progress on your lovely manor, we also get a little bit of knowledge as well. I had never heard of Victor Horta until now, but his works seems marvellous.
    When I first saw your windows I thought how beautifully musical they look. The elegant flowing lines are always gorgeous, but 'music' was looking back at me! Lovely post as usual. So looking forward to seeing the front door now.
    All the best and take care.

    1. Hi Vivian!

      I love that you think of music when you see the windows! You are right, now that you mention it, they do have the lyrical flow of music...totally a unintended consequence I assure you, but a happy one!

      A lot of the Art Nouveau architects aren't household names, the movement was short lived, and the architects who "did it well" were few. But Victor, in my opinion, was a true artist.

      I'm glad you enjoy the posts...!


  4. Hello Doug,
    Great pictures in this post. I love Victor Horta's work and remember that staircase from my art history classes. The windows look fantastic! I don't think they need to be transferred on wood at all. they seem to be just the right thickness and your design flows beautifully. Well done! I think the door in the last picture looked quite good, but is just not quite grand enough for your project.
    Big hug,

  5. Hi Giac! I hope you are right about not needing to transfer the windows to wood. . . I thought it would work too, or I wouldn't have gone there. We shall see!

    There are some great architects out there, but I have to say that I think Victor was a truly inspired artist. It is rare to see a perfect blend of architecture and artistry...he was able to carry that off. You know who he was, by seeing what he created. I think that is what art is all about...speaking visually.

    I thought the shapes of the "rejected" door were nice...but I just don't see them "flowing" in your words, with the windows. The balance just isn't that idea for the doors, I am leaving on the drawing room table. I don't know how to explain it at all, but there is just this sense of what is "right" and what is "wrong" that I have, and this door came down on the "wrong" side. :0)

    I hope you will agree when I get it done that I made the right choice!

    Have a great week Giac.


  6. Hi Doug! I think that Victor Horta would be giving you a Two Thumbs Up if he could see your "Steampunk" Manor! Just Imagine, he wouldn't know the word, but I'm sure that he could easily identify the style as well as his influence, and he would be proud! :D
    I love your windows and the graceful inserts which I had no idea were foam board. I would agree with you on the door though, and although I like the shape, it is the center bars that are throwing it off for me. They appear too rigid between the flowing lines of the windows. But I agree that often one has to let an idea "cook" for a bit in your brain before the right solution appears.
    It is so interesting watching the development of this manor. The resin floor in the entry reflects the beautiful windows and now the stairs and if there are stairs, then there is also a second floor landing. You are certainly making progress Doug and I along with Victor Horta, I am giving you Two Thumbs Up, too!


    1. Good Morning Miss Elizabeth!

      Actually, I have it on good authority that Mr. Horta is turning over in his grave...but not to worry, I'll do what I like, whatever he thinks!

      You know, I STILL haven't finished that crazy door. I have the shape and form issue all worked out, in fact, I had worked that out almost immediately after posting in July...(Aug, Sept....where has the time gone!). I love the new door shape, it solves the "problem" I was having, but I have these crazy ideas about how the windows should look, and have not yet been able to work through that. 'Course, I haven't spent much time trying either! We are, at least potentially, planning to sell our town home, and my artistic endeavors have now turned, temporarily, to real life design problems...(OK, really MAINTENANCE problems, but we won't quibble). So my mini Steampunk friends await my attention very patiently...probably more patiently than I do! I will get back to it eventually...I always do, but there has been a bit of an interruption!

      I love the way the windows and other architectural elements are reflected in the resin floor. I am actually very excited about this little room, because I think the final effect will be wonderful...much more in store! Come back in 2035, and maybe there will be enough progress to see a final result! :0)

      Thanks Elizabeth!


  7. Hello Doug,
    I was missing your posts and had to come and visit.
    I hope you are well!
    Big hug,

  8. Hey Giac! Thanks for the visit! I'm delinquent...but promise to return soon to a location near you!

    Real life is very full at the moment with repairing fences, painting, trips to the dump and caring for a busy family! Isn't life wonderful? !

    Thanks for tagging me! I'm it now.



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