Art

Restoration Done Right

The art of wood and glass restoration

Posted

If the eyes are the windows to the soul, then windows are the eyes of our buildings. Peter Paltrineri Co. of Warren fits authentic new (re: old) glass over ancient eyes.

As the world and its buildings age, the broader definition of art is not only to create, but to recreate. Chiseled into an open-aired woodworking space at the Parker Mill complex on Metacom Avenue in Warren that has fittingly seen major renovations and restoration of its own, Peter Paltrineri, 71, leads a staff of six in the authentic reparations of glass and wood. Peter started his own business four years ago after being a sub-contractor for many years, nine of which were spent doing restoration work for Kirby Perkins, a very high-end Newport general contractor.

The economy shifted in 2009 and so did Peter. “I needed to do something else and this was it. Everyone says you have to have a ‘niche’ business. Well, this is our niche,” he says of his restoration of traditional wood and stained glass windows.

“Windows are the most important parts of the aesthetic of a house, he adds. There are a whole lot of things they do.” With his more than 40 years in the business, Peter’s company specializes in full historic window restoration, meaning removal of glazing and glass, replacement of broken glass with glass that is the same age (reclaimed glass from old buildings that is no longer in use), stripping of all paint, wood repair in all areas, re-glazing, full paint application and interlocking metal weather stripping (if requested).

For stained glass, they repair, match or make the sections that need to be replaced. “The windows commonly go back two centuries,” says Peter. “We work for people who have a passion for older houses. They want to keep the original look. Modern windows change the look.”

He points to photographs of a Victorian house in Providence that had replaced its original artistic carpentry with, ugh, vinyl windows picked up at the local hardware store.

“With modern glass, there is no distortion. Period glass is wavy. It has distortion, the way it curves,” adds Peter. “A set of vinyl changes the whole look of the buildings and not for the better. We take the windows out of the buildings, bring them here, take the entire glazing out and, using Department of the Interior guidelines on all restoration, repair and replace the windows to their original look. We don’t change it.”

Oil-based paints are used – no acrylic, no latex. All applications are brushed by hand. Nothing is ever sprayed. “If it lasted 200 years before, it will last another 200 years,” says Peter.

He has a RISD grad working for him, along with a professional glazier and a former realtor-turned-carpenter, among others. His staff is just as passionate about the hands-on carpentry as he is.

Recent jobs have included the Burnside Memorial Building in Bristol, the entire third floor of the Governor Henry Lippitt House Museum in Providence, the To Kalon Club in Pawtucket and the Pocasset Worsted Mill in Johnston.

An example of the extent Peter goes through to accurately restore windows is a job requiring replacement for a broken piece of “irreplaceable” glass in some skylights at Brown University. The substitute required “hammered” glass, which has a rippling, dimpled look. There was none to be recovered, so Peter turned to a colleague, an artist in Connecticut, who handpressed the 1,400 octagon-shaped tiny dimples in panes of glass she heated and softened in her country kiln. Twice. The first time, with the absence of her cat to control the mouse population, scurrying rodents had rearranged the tiny octagons, destroying hours of work.

“My name is on the company. When you put your name on it, doesn’t it mean more?” asks Peter. “I’ll never retire. I will die in this business.”

The entrance to Peter C. Paltrineri Co. is actually 100 Elm St., Rear, behind Parker Mills, visitors always welcome.