In My Own Words: Blair Custom Homes

John Blair of Blair Custom Homes in Bethlehem, Penn., describes what products he wouldn't build without.

January 01, 2006


Kirkstone began quarrying its unique green slate in the north of England 55 years ago. The company offers Kirkstone Sea Green, a rich dark-green slate with limited variation in color and pattern; and Kirkstone Silver Green, a lighter shade of green with wonderful markings and lots of variation. Both are available in a variety of finishes. The smooth-honed finish is popular for the majority of worktops and floor and wall tiles. Click here for more information


"Kirkstone doesn't look modern, so for a farmhouse, it gives that period look. It is a very dense product with a beautiful, unusual, variegated dark- and light-green appearance that is different than granite or marble. It looks like stone, and it stands out. People say: 'Boy that's different. What is it?' And I tell them it's a natural stone. You seal it every two to three years and, because it is very dense, it is easy to wipe up."

Rumford Masonry Fireplace

Tall and shallow to reflect more heat, Rumford fireplaces have streamlined throats to eliminate turbulence and carry away the smoke, with little loss of heated air from the room. These fireplaces were common from 1796, when Count Rumford first wrote about them, until about 1850. With the extensive restoration of historic houses and the renewed popularity of early American and classical architecture in new construction, Rumford fireplaces are enjoying a comeback. Click here for more information


"We use a lot of Rumford masonry fireplaces. They are energy-efficient because the reflection off the back kicks a lot of heat into the room - versus up the chimney. A Rumford isn't as deep as a normal fireplace. The opening is shallower than usual and you can go five feet high with them, so they look unusual, but they burn fantastic. They are also excellent if you have to do back-to-back fireplaces, because they aren't as deep as a standard firebox."

Jeld-Wen IWP Aurora Craftsman Door

IWP Aurora Craftsman doors from Jeld-Wen combine authentic American design with state-of-the-art technology to produce an exquisitely beautiful door that will withstand the harshest weather in any climate. The ideal choice for homes with Craftsman, Shaker or Mission architecture, these fiberglass doors are exceptionally low-maintenance, yet nearly impossible to tell apart from real wood doors.


"We use the 1-3/4-inch knotty elder door. It's pre-finished and a little more expensive, but it has the most natural look you've ever seen. I love the weight of it. It's strong, and it gives an Old World look to our homes. They are just well made. But mostly I like the natural beauty of them. You'd never think it is a pre-finished door."

Applegate Insulation

Applegate manufactures premium cellulose insulation that is noted for its low dust and outstanding coverage.

  • Applegate loose-fill is a high-performance insulation for walls, attics floors and retrofits.
  • Applegate Stabilized Cellulose contains dry adhesive that, when activated, locks in place and virtually eliminates settling.


"We use Applegate blown-in cellulose insulation because it increases the R-value and makes for a much more energy-efficient home. The biggest benefit is that it reduces air infiltration much better than conventional fiberglass insulation. You can put it anywhere - you name it. It is also excellent for sound insulation in interior locations."

AZEK Trimboards

AZEK Trimboards is the only exterior-trim product with a building code report from the International Code Council Evaluation Service (ICC-ES). A cellular PVC board with the look and feel of clear lumber, AZEK Trimboards can be easily worked with regular tools and even milled, routed and heat-formed. With a 25-year warranty, AZEK resists moisture and insects and will not rot, warp or decay. Available in a white matte finish, it has excellent paint adhesion, although it does not require paint for protection. Click here for more information


"In the Northeast, where we're trying to replicate colonial homes, AZEK is a big item that we're very happy with. We're doing a lot of dormers, and AZEK comes in sheets for cornice work, and we can route it. It's very dense and will never rot and does not shrink. If we had to build a fake barn door, we'd use AZEK. It also comes in tongue-and-groove and crown moldings, fascias, window trim and sills."

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