Saturday, August 6, 2011

Ahead of the Trend, If There is One

In the New York Times for the last Thursday of July, I saw an article about persons deciding to restore old windows rather than replace them. Probably I did not read it with the closest attention, for after all it was in the Thursday Styles section. Yet, unlike a large proportion of what appears in the softer sections of the Times, it is a topic I know something about.

I did not notice a mention of one important fact: restoring an old window is a lot of work. Perhaps, though, the article was aimed at the carriage trade, readers who'd never undertake the project themselves and wouldn't wince at writing a check for what it must cost, which should be quite a lot  As amateurs painfully taught by experience, my wife and I can probably restore a window in forty hours of work. Professionals who came up through an apprenticeship must be faster, but I doubt they're more than twice as fast.

The work requires chiefly a painter's and a glazier's skills, and indeed the same workmen have often had both. Brendan Behan wrote of being trained in both, and in this country the main painter's union, the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT) includes glaziers. It can require carpentry, if somebody (say, me) has broken a sash in getting it out. It requires a good deal of plain old shoving, shaking, and yanking to dislodge windows painted into place. And I must say that removing a window dirties the hands as thoroughly as changing a tire. I take it that this is because the window has recesses that are neither washed by the rains outside nor reachable by house cleaning.

For some years I read "trend pieces" as if they meant something. I didn't suppose that the behaviors reported were anything to imitate--commonly I thought "my, how odd"--yet I thought they reflected actual trends. It strikes me as strange that I should have done so in my twenties, considering that at the age of six I had come to have my doubts about Santa Claus. The explanation must be that Christmas presents interested me a great deal at a young age, and all the stuff the lifestyle reporters write about really doesn't.


  1. You don't mention if you're glad you restored the old windows.

  2. We are very glad. They are the windows made for this house in 1931. We are repeatedly surprised by the variety of sizes--there are six over six and four over four, not to mention the semicircular and quarter circular windows in the attic.