Wood remains the prime choice for traditional-style windows and doors. It provides the correct period-style look, and its longevity all but guarantees that it will last as long as the historic buildings it is used in.
Here are some of the millwork specialists who are bringing the past back to life again.
Adams Architectural Millwork Co.
Using vintage machines such as single-end tenoners, shapers, and jointers, the artisans at Adams Architectural Millwork create historically accurate wood windows, storm windows, and storm doors, shutters, and other millwork items.
“The designs usually come from architects, contractors, or the homeowner,” says Chad Lueken, the company’s owner. “We also produce replicas. If we can’t get the actual product to replicate, we provide shop drawings and keep tweaking the design until we get it right.”
Most of the company’s products are made of mahogany, which is durable and weathers well. “There is a warmth and beauty that comes from using wood,” he says. “It has superior insulative and sound-proofing properties, and it is versatile in both design and finishing to give you the look you want.”
Adams Architectural Millwork, which has 15 employees, has done a variety of residential and commercial projects in the Midwest. The company made the doors for the Railroad Roundhouse at The Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan; supplied doors for the General Dodge House in Council Bluffs, Iowa, and for Beardshear Hall at Iowa State University in Ames; and provided doors, windows, and trelliswork for the Brucemore National Trust Historic Site in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
“We have employees who have been fabricating windows for over 40 years,” Lueken says. “Their experience, combined with technology and tools, gives them the ability to fabricate custom products to meet historic preservation standards and specifications as well as those for new construction.”
Specializing in custom and reproduction wood architectural millwork, primarily windows, interior and exterior doors, doorways, and architectural panels, Architectural Components is an expert on complex residential and commercial projects.
“We take on custom work that others may shy away from,” says President Chris James. “For example, bowed in plan windows, oval pivot windows, unique methods of designing screens, and mixing period windows with unique new hardware. Also, some customers want to only replace certain components of a window or door, such as a sash or a door slab, and leave the existing frame in place. We will often take on these types of projects where other companies may not.”
The family-owned company has 12 employees, many of whom have over 20 years of experience as woodworkers. The woodworking is done on site at its Massachusetts shop, which is in an old mill building. The craftsmen use vintage as well as newer machinery.
Architectural Components has worked on a number of historic or public buildings, including Harvard University, Yale University, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Historic Deerfield, and the Ellis Island Immigrant Hospital building.
The company prides itself on historical authenticity. “We always want to know the history of the building that we are working on to understand the period that we should be reproducing and what style best fits the project’s goals,” James says.
When the company does make a replica of a historic design, it often customizes it to allow for the use of modern weatherstripping, insulated glass, or modern hardware.
It’s the details, James says, that make all the difference. An 18th-century plank frame window, for example, calls for through mortise and pegs on the sash joints and no sash-balancing system other than a wrought-iron pin. A late 19th-century double-hung window, on the other hand, may have stub tenons and closed mortises and no pegs with a weight and pulley sash-balancing system.
“We use historically accurate mortise-and-tenon joinery as it is still the best out there,” James says. “Other shops often cut corners by using dowel joints. The traditional method takes more time and effort but is overall a better product and will stand—and has stood—the test of time.”
He adds that wood doors and windows, when properly maintained, will last a century or longer.
For architects who design traditional-style residences, the placement of the garage can present a major challenge because homes from previous time periods often didn’t have them. Even if they were present, they were smaller structures that would not accommodate the contemporary automobile or the car collections of contemporary dwellers.
Period-style garage doors that complement the home’s architecture are one effective solution.
Here are some suppliers that specialize in traditional styles.
Cambek Designer Doors
The company, originally Designer Doors, has been handcrafting artisan wood garage doors, as well as entry doors and gates and shutters, for decades.
Moulton Custom Door of Vermont
For two decades, the company has been making custom sectional overhead garage doors that look like traditional swinging or sliding carriage doors when closed and roll up at the push of a button.
Town & Country Door and Operator Co.
The family-owned and -operated company specializes in fabricating carriage house-style garage doors and matching entry doors, transoms, and side lights.
JA Gulick Window Co.
With over 30 years of experience in the industry, JA Gulick Window Co. custom fabricates wood windows, window sashes, and doors using traditional techniques and even some vintage machinery.
The company, based in Buffalo, New York, was founded by John Gulick, who entered the trade more than a half century ago.
“Wood windows were originally crafted to last forever, so we take on that same philosophy,” he says. “Our sashes are built using traditional mortise and tenon joinery, and the frames use a dado joint.”
Although Forest Stewardship Council-certified select-grade Eastern white pine is the company’s standard, it works in a variety of other woods, including white oak, cypress, and mahogany.
“Wood has served the test of time— it has a long service life proven over centuries,” Gulick says. “We do not recommend any other material.”
The company, which also makes custom storm windows with a lower interchangeable storm/screen panel, offers several glass options.
“Retrofitting an existing window with insulated glass can be difficult, so laminated glass is a nice option,” Gulick says. “It provides the same insulating qualities but also is sound-deadening. Adding a laminated-glass storm window adds even more thermal and sound protection. For a new sash, we have the ability to use insulated glass and glaze it with special paintable silicone, so it looks like a traditional putty-glazed window.”
Through the decades, JA Gulick Window Co. has worked on numerous residential and commercial projects in western New York, including the glass dome of the main conservatory of the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens and the Old Fort Niagara near Youngstown.
“Our specialty is traditional craftsmanship and a passion and respect for classical construction methods,” Gulick says. “It has been part of our business plan since day one to train the next generation with the skills to fabricate and restore historic wood sashes and doors.”
Jim Illingworth Millwork
Established in 1993, family-owned Jim Illingworth Millwork specializes in the custom building and manufacturing of traditional and historical wood windows and solid wood doors using old-world craftsmanship techniques and machines and tools dating from 1872 to the 1950s.
“We can replicate old moldings, casings, baseboards, and such,” says owner Jim Illingworth, who learned some techniques from his builder-father but is mostly self-taught. “We work exclusively in wood–premium-grade solid lumber—because it’s authentic and long lasting.”
The products produced by the boutique company, which is based in Adams, New York, and has only two employees, feature mortise and tenon joints.
“We custom build or produce doors, windows, moldings, storms, and screens to match historical or traditional styles or to meet the customer’s specs,” Illingworth says. “Our customers get exactly what they want.”
In addition to working on residential projects, the company also has done numerous high-profile commercial projects. At Manhattan’s Union Square Park, Jim Illingworth Millwork reproduced the hopper and double-hung windows; at the train station in Rutherford, New Jersey, it reproduced some of the windows and front entry doors; at a train station in South Dakota, it built all the windows; and at Rock Island Lighthouse State Park in New York’s Thousand Islands region, it produced replica windows for the lighthouse and keep house.
The oversized walls of windows that defined factories in the 19th and early 20th centuries are becoming prominent in traditional-style contemporary homes. They open the indoor and outdoor spaces, inviting in illumination and nature, beautifully blurring the boundaries between inside and outside. In some cases, the glass and metal panels even serve as room dividers, retracting into the walls like pocket doors to create a loft-like space for entertaining.
Here are some longtime key suppliers.
The English maker, which bills itself as “the original steel window manufacturer,” has been in business since 1849 and has expertise in residential and commercial projects.
Graham Architectural Products
The company, which has been in business for more than four decades, manufacturers commercial and architectural windows, including steel replicas.
For more than a century, the company has been manufacturing customdesigned, solid hot-rolled steel and solid bronze window and door systems; it specializes in historic preservation, cultural, institutional, commercial, and luxury residential projects.
Seekircher Steel Window
The company, which was founded by John Seekircher in 1977, has one of the most comprehensive collections of vintage steel casement windows in the country. Today this family-owned business is managed by John’s son Todd Seekircher.
St. Cloud Window
Founded in 1952, the second-generation female-owned business designs and manufactures commercial aluminum windows and doors.
Based in Canada, the company works with architects and builders and supplies historically accurate custom steel, stainless, and bronze doors and windows.
Parrett Windows & Doors
Since its founding in 1982, Parrett Windows & Doors has had a history of providing historic-style products—and a wealth of knowledge—to architects and designers.
The company, which is based in Dorchester, Wisconsin, manufacturers all-wood and aluminum-clad windows and doors, and upon request, replicas with historic profiles.
“Metal and synthetics do not capture the warmth and beauty of natural wood, and when compared with metal, wood will provide superior energy efficiency,” says president Ron Safford, who bought the company in 1995 and whose sons, John and Tyler Safford, are involved in the operations and ownership of the 110-employee company. “Wood also gives us the ability to machine the profiles to the exact detail of the original historic profile, whereas metal and synthetics generally have very limiting options and excessive costs.”
The correctly designed windows and doors, he adds, “help maintain the history, character, and often the architectural beauty of the building so its story lives on.”
They also can be equipped with high-tech features that save energy, dampen sound, and enhance the home’s security.
“Glass technology has developed to a level of electronically optimizing tint levels during daylight, thus allowing for natural daylight to penetrate through but rejecting unwanted solar radiation,” Safford says. “And laminated glass, through the use of interlayer films sandwiched between two sheets of glass, has improved sound-deadening value and also provides a better level of security protection.”
Parrett has manufactured windows and/or doors for virtually every U.S. metropolitan city that has historic commercial and residential structures. Projects include Tavern on the Green in Manhattan’s Central Park, Lincoln Hall at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, the Four Seasons Private Residences at 706 Mission in San Francisco, and McKinley High School in Oahu, Hawaii.
“The combination of skilled employees and modern technology separates Parrett from many competitors,” Safford says.
Vintage Millwork & Restoration
Pairing old-world craftsmanship with modern technology such as CNC machines, Vintage Millwork & Restoration, a one-stop shop established in 2000, creates a variety of custom designs ranging from wood doors and windows to gates, cupolas, and staircases.
“The majority of our projects center around creating new works of functional art,” says General Manager Amos Fisher. “Sometimes clients provide historic photos as inspiration; in these instances, we’re able to create custom pieces that are reminiscent of historic design, but we have the freedom to add our own touch. We can also replicate historic designs.”
As the idea of making old buildings look new again is becoming commonplace, clients are investing in restorations and showing an increased interest in reclaimed wood, he says, adding that he believes that this trend will remain popular, especially for the fabrication of doors and windows for traditional-style structures.
“White oak and mahogany are growing in popularity,” he says. “Both species offer tight grain patterns, which means the wood is more dense, and in turn more robust, adding longevity to finished doors and windows.”
The company, which typically works with sapele mahogany, white oak, Spanish cedar, western red cedar, and knotty alder, has been experimenting with adding a metal interior to its doors.
“If the application calls for a more robust door that will undergo heavy use, we can add a hidden aluminum frame inside the wood door,” Fisher says. “Often used in barns, this technique prevents warping and reinforces the door’s strength.”
Vintage Millwork & Restoration’s small staff—the 13 employees are like a family, Fisher says—is united by its passion for exceptional design.
The company has fabricated the millwork for a variety of public projects, including for the historic Star Barn Village at Stone Gable Estates, which won a 2021 Palladio Award for commercial interior design.
“We pride ourselves on honoring the past through accurately replicating design and bringing spaces back to their original, intended beauty,” Fisher says. “At the end of the day, everything we do goes back to one main point—we create quality custom products that are made to last.”
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- Brownstone Door Co.
- Cooper Historical Windows
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- KSD Custom Wood Products
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