Thursday, July 12, 2012

Two projects by American Prairie Homes will be featured in the National Building Museum's Architecture 101 Lecture Series - Arts & Crafts.  July 21st in Washington D.C.   We are honored!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

"The Life So Short, The Craft So Long To Learn"

As many of you are aware, John Hilla, the owner of American Prairie Homes, died tragically in a vehicle accident on September 10th, 2010. He had devoted his entire life to the craft of woodworking, as well as to his family and friends. His talent, love and humor will be thoroughly missed. John’s daughters - Heather, Jennifer and Jessica - will be maintaining the company websites as a memorial to John’s life and work. 

Please take a look and feel free to share your thoughts with us!,

Gunflint Trail, September 2010

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Happy Earth Day

6 ways to "green" your home:

Improve the energy-efficiency of your home by selecting energy-efficient appliances, lighting, and heating, cooling and ventilation systems.

Create an energy-efficient building envelope by using superior insulation in your walls, foundation and roof, in addition to high performance windows and doors.

Consider an alternate energy source for your home, such as geothermal or photovoltaic systems. Take advantage of the tax credits that encourage the use of these systems.

Reduce water demand by selecting water-efficient plumbing fixtures and appliances, and by collecting and storing rainwater on site for landscape use.

Consider the source and impact of materials in your home. Use salvaged materials whenever possible and consider the life cycle of a product. Quality construction and low maintenance products reduce impact on our landfills.

Improve the indoor air quality of your home by selecting materials and finishes with low emissions and VOC's. Proper ventilation and humidity control are also critical.

Text by Jennifer Hilla Schlag, AIA

Monday, February 1, 2010

Mission Trip to the Copper Canyon

American Prairie Homes’ owner John Hilla will be joining his wife, Dr. Kathleen Garry, on a LIGA International dental mission trip to the Copper Canyon of Sinaloa, Mexico.

LIGA International (The Flying Doctors of Mercy) is a non-profit organization that provides free health care and education to the people of Sinaloa, Mexico since 1934.

The goal of this 12-day mission trip is to make a long-term difference in the oral health of the people who live in and around the Copper Canyon. They will not only provide free dental work in isolated pueblos inhabited by Tarahumara Indians, but also encourage the local Tarahumara students to consider a career in dentistry.

We wish John and Kate safe travels and personal enlightenment throughout their stay in the Copper Canyon.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Handcrafted Wood Doors

You don't get a second chance to make a first impression.

This is true for your home too, and it begins at your front door. Work with the artisans at American Prairie Homes to create a beautiful, handcrafted, solid wood door not only to make a good first impression but also to protect your family and preserve the integrity of your home.

Our handcrafted doors provide safety with a Multipoint Locking System.

According to the Home Safety Council, unlocked or improperly locked doors and windows are responsible for nearly half of all home break-ins. Multipoint Locking Systems enhance security because the lock engages the frame at three or more points, rather than only at the strike plate.  The Multipoint Locking System takes that a step further, by providing a better seal and reduction of air infiltration.

The patented HOPPE Multipoint Locking System offers added security, tighter weather seals, smoother operation and protection against warpage and twisting in fine wood entry doors by offering multiple locking locations along the lock stile.

Improve the energy efficiency of your home.

The Multipoint Locking System seals the door tightly into the jamb, which reduces heat loss. Also, our solid wood doors are 1 3/4" thick with double insulated panels, which is thicker than the industry standard. In addition, a flexible gasket seal is applied around the entire perimeter of the door to create a tighter seal.  Select from multiple glass options, including insulated glass for higher performance in our cold climate. All of these steps result in a higher R-value for your home.  And, since all of our doors are custom, there is no limit on how "green" or energy efficient you want your home to be.

Enhance the architectural style of your home.

Some of the best ideas come to us sketched on a napkin or ripped out of a magazine. Our handcrafted doors are as unique as the homes we encounter, and the families that inhabit them. We do not have pre-built doors in stock; we design every door from your conceptual ideas and specifications, and expertly lay up each piece of wood for every rail, stile and panel. This insures that our doors are built with a consistent look, quality and beauty.  We always us the finest woods and raw materials while employing the best construction techniques to everything we build.  Browse through our door gallery here.

Consult with American Prairie Homes to create a lasting first impression.

Text by Jennifer Hilla Schlag, AIA

Friday, February 27, 2009

Creating Successful Period Stained Glass

When building a historical period style home, there are many important elements to consider in successfully recreating the proper aesthetic. Among these, stained glass is often one such element.

While it is certainly possible to locate and purchase antique stained glass panels to design into a new home, the availability of truly great pieces is quite limited and are often in need of repair or full restoration before being utilized safely. It is precisely these sorts of limitations in design, size and condition that cause most people to turn to stained glass artisans to create new custom pieces that better suit their individual needs. However, making the decision to do so is just the beginning. After a little research into the variety of work being produced today, it will become evident that all stained glass is not created equal.

What is it that makes some stained glass appear brand new and others to commonly be mistaken for a true antique? Whether it's a simple organic Arts & Crafts window or an elaborate jeweled Victorian, there are several factors that combine to create a successful period look. Among these are design, scale, color, texture and density. Although design would seem to be the most important factor in this list, proper glass selection is equally important. You could locate an antique stained glass panel that you like and copy it line for line but unless appropriate glass colors and textures are used to create the reproduction, all sense of authenticity will be lost.

Stained glass is a term used today to typically describe colored glass windows or other items that are made of individually cut pieces assembled within a metal matrix. Originally, stained glass was a term used interchangeably to describe two different methods of coloring glass - The first involves the addition of various metals to the glass in the molten stage to “stain” it with certain colors. Copper creates green, cobalt creates blue, gold is used to create reds, and so on. The second method involves the to application of various vitreous paints and stains onto the surface of the glass, which are then fired to produce various colors. Silver stain , a mixture of silver nitrate in a gum base, was first discovered in the 14th century and was used to “stain” glass with various shades of gold, amber and brown.

Hand-painted stained glass can range from simple decorative elements to elaborate enameled pieces more closely resembling classical oil paintings than traditional stained glass windows. These variations in painting styles are another indicator of the possible age of a piece as artisans’ techniques were a reflection of the tastes and cultural attitudes of the time.

Leaded glass is another term commonly used to describe stained glass but originally was a term used to describe clear glass that was made with a high lead content to it’s increase it’s refractive index, much like lead crystal. This “leaded” glass was then cut and polished into beveled shapes that created a spectacular prismatic effect. Beveled glass produced today is typically made from standard plate glass so it does not contain the high lead content and is therefore less brilliant than the glass formerly associated with this name. Today, the term leaded glass mostly refers to clear glass that is leaded together in the traditional manner.

Stained glass begins it’s journey as large sheets, which are then cut up, shaped and assembled by glass artisans to create finished stained glass pieces. This sheet glass is produced by a small variety of manufacturers in the US and abroad, some of which have been in existence for over a hundred years. Each manufacturer typically creates several lines of glass, some transparent, some opaque, and some possessing both of these qualities, depending on whether the light is transmitted or reflected. Manufacturing processes differ as well, ranging from machine made to glass to glass that is made completely by hand.

Because of the age of each manufacturer and the fact that their lines are quite distinct, it’s important to know a bit of their history in order to make appropriate choices when creating an authentic looking period piece. In addition, the overall history of stained glass contains several period indicators that are based on the development of certain materials and techniques, so these are important to know as well.

For instance, opalescent glass, a term used to describe opaque and semi-translucent glass, was invented in the late 19th century. Prior to that, sheet glass was largely transparent in nature, whether completely transparent or textured. This is referred to as Cathedral Glass. The earliest glass of this type used in the production of stained glass windows was first blown into cylinders, then scored and reheated to lay flat, creating rectangular sheets. Mouth-blown glass, referred to as Antique (also Full Antique and New Antique), is still being produced today in the same way it has for centuries. Because of the hand-made nature of this glass, each sheet is unique, containing striations, bubbles and/or seeds (small bubbles), which are considered highly desirable. There are a variety of machine-made simulated “antiques” out there but they lack the brilliance and unique qualities of their mouth-blown predecessors and are clearly detectible to the informed eye.

A common example of this difference in manufacturing techniques can be seen in the window glass of today, termed Float Glass, because it is manufactured by floating molten glass on a layer of tin. Prior to the early 21st century, window and cabinet glass was made by hand, which caused slight irregularities that subtly warp what is being viewed through it. And the further back in time you go, the more irregularities you will find. Looking at this glass at an angle with a light source reflected on it's surface, will reveal these surface irregularities and give you an indication of it’s possible age. A successful reproduction of this type of glass is called Restoration Glass and is available in either Full Restoration or Light Restoration, depending on the time period you are choosing to emulate.

Besides glass choice, there are other important factors as well, such as fabrication technique. The use of lead came is the most traditional method, with certain sizes and profiles used to reflect different eras. Another method of fabrication was developed in the late 19th century, involving the use of copper foil and solder. This technique is mostly commonly attributed to Louis Comfort Tiffany but there is debate as to whether he actually invented it or whether it was work of his contemporary, John LaFarge.

With so many factors to consider then in creating an authentic period stained glass piece, it’s important to select artisans with not only skill and attention to detail, but also a solid knowledge of the history of their medium. This, combined with an artist’s personal passion for antiquities, ensures that their addition to your environment will blend seamlessly and exemplify their time-honored tradition. And although the price is often higher for this type of hand-crafted excellence, most with an eye for detail and quality will agree, it’s well worth the investment.

Text and Images by:
Michael Watts
Owner of Studio Watts, Inc

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Welcome to American Prairie Homes' BLOG spot!

American Prairie Homes created this blog spot to bring you more ways to connect and grow with us! In 1 week, we will be launching our new website, . It will feature more photos of finished work and updated progress photos of homes still under construction. This will add an interesting layer to our site, documenting the creative process we go through to bring warmth and quality craftsmanship to each home.

We are also going to be posting articles by our builders, designers and a collection of artists as a resource to our readers to learn more about the art, craft and process of working with American Prairie Homes.

Please check back often!