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Mystery of the Lost Colony

For many Americans, Thanksgiving is a time to enjoy family, food, and football.  But life for the first English settlers was not always so festive, especially for the members of the “Lost Colony” of Roanoke Island.  

What Do We Know?

On June 22, 1587, John White and 118 English colonists arrived at Hatteras Island.  They quickly decided the area was not suitable for settlement and migrated around the Pamlico Sound to Roanoke Island.1  This group was the third of Sir Walter Raleigh’s expeditions to arrive in North Carolina but the first attempt at settlement.  Day-to-day life for the 90 men, 17 women, and 11 children must have been difficult as they attempted to farm the land and interact with the Native inhabitants.2   John White soon needed to return to England for supplies but, due to the Anglo-Spanish War, could not get back for three years.3   

He finally arrived at Roanoke Island in 1590 but found the settlement completely deserted.  Not a single person remained.  The only traces left by the colonists were mysterious words “Cro” and “Croatoan” carved into a tree and gate post.4  What were the settlers trying to communicate?  Did they leave the island?  Did they die from an epidemic?  Research conducted by Dennis Blanton from the College of William and Mary and David Stahle from the University of Arkansas may illuminate the mysterious disappearance of the Lost Colony.

The Mystery of the Lost Colony
John White discovers the word Croatoan carved on the Roanoke fort gate post. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

 Is the Truth in the Trees?

According to the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, Blanton and Stahle looked at the rings of centuries-old cypress tree trunks along the rivers of the Virginia-North Carolina border. Every year, trees grow by adding layers of wood cells.  The width of the tree ring indicates how much the tree has grown in a particular growth season.  The wider the ring, the better the conditions for growth. The research team discovered the tree rings were significantly smaller than average during the years 1587-1589.5  This discovery, along with other environmental data, indicates the settlement of Roanoke Island coincided with the worst drought of the past 800 years!6  

Has the Lost Colony Been Found?

Historians hypothesize that the colonists dispersed, searching for more hospitable environments, perhaps trying to cohabitate with Native American tribes.7  Some scholars believe the colonists traveled 50 miles south to Hatteras Island, then known as Croatoan Island.8  Is that the reason Croatoan was carved into a gate post at the site of the original colony?  Were they trying to tell John White where they had gone?

The mystery was further compounded in 2012 when the British Museum uncovered a tantalizing clue on one of John White’s maps.  Using X-ray spectroscopy, a four-pointed X or star was uncovered underneath a paper patch that had been secured on the map.  The X marked a spot at the western end of Albemarle Sound near the outlet of the Chowan River, which corresponds to an area White mentioned in testimony he gave after returning to the colony.9

Map of the Lost Colony
A paper patch on the map covers an X shape, visible when backlit, that might be a “lozenge”, a symbol that represents a fort. Image from the Trustees of the British Museum.

The James River Institute for Archaeology and the First Colony Foundation, as well as British archaeologists, have been excavating sites near the Albermarle Sound attempting to find traces of the settlers.  While they have discovered artifacts dating back to the 16th century, there isn’t yet enough evidence to say for certain that the colonists ended up there.  It’s possible we will never know exactly what happened to the “Lost Colony” but scholars will persevere.  As Eric Klingelhofer, professor of history at Mercer University, said:

“We need to know more.  This whole story is a blank — a blank page, a blank chapter of history, and I think archaeology is the only way to come up with answers.”10


Blog by Jessica T. Smith for the Coastal Cottage Company

Cabinet Boxes: Particle Board vs. Plywood

The Coastal Cottage Company’s last post focused on choosing a design for your kitchen cabinets – Shaker, inset, flat, or beadboard.  When building or remodeling, figuring out your style is the fun part.  But as important as style is, cabinets are worthless if they aren’t made of sound materials.  

Particle Board or Plywood?

One of the most important considerations to ensure your kitchen cabinets will survive typical wear and tear is choosing the right material for your cabinet boxes.  Because the box is mostly hidden, folks often don’t worry about its construction.  But much like your skeletal system keeps you upright and stable, the box keeps your cabinets sturdy.  Think about the abuse cabinets endure — they’re weighted down with dishes, their drawers are slammed, and their doors are kicked.  Thus, cabinet boxes must be strong.

Typically, homeowners choose between plywood and particle board.  Each has its own benefits and weaknesses but, generally speaking, plywood is considered the better option.

What’s the difference?

Particle board (sometimes called “furniture board”) is a wood product manufactured from wood chips, sawmill shavings, or sawdust, and a synthetic resin, which is compressed.  In contrast, plywood is made of thin layers of wood veneer, called “plies,” that are glued together with adjacent layers having their wood grain rotated 90 degrees.  This alternation of the grain is called cross-graining and has several important benefits: it reduces the tendency of wood to split when nailed; it reduces expansion and shrinkage; and it makes the strength of the panel consistent across all directions. There are usually an odd number of plies which helps to reduce warping.

Cabinet Boxes: Particle Board vs. Plywood
7-ply spruce plywood. Image from Wikipedia.

But not all plywood is created equal.  Jim Mallery, from Old House Web, recommends the following:

  • The wood should have many thin plies — at least 7-ply for ¾-inch plywood (including the veneer), but you can go as high as 13-ply.
  • When you look along the edge of the plywood, you should not see any voids or gaps in the plies.
  • And if you see any warping in a sheet of plywood, it is not suitable for cabinetry.

According to Kelly Gallagher, of Boston Building Resources, particle board quality depends on the size of the particles, the glue that holds it together, and the density of the board. Smaller particles make the board denser and heavier while polyurethane resin makes it more moisture resistant. One of the best kinds of particle board is medium density fiberboard (MDF), but it can be very heavy, making it difficult to hang large cabinets.

Cabinet Boxes: Particle Board vs. Plywood
Particle board of different densities. Image from Wikipedia.

How do you decide?

The biggest strengths of particle board are its lower price and smoother finish, but plywood tends to be more durable, less susceptible to moisture, and holds glue joints better.  When deciding, consider your budget and even ask your contractor if it’s possible to use both.  For example, choose plywood for areas where there may be more moisture (such as around the sink and next to the dishwasher) or use particle board just for shelves.  Whatever your decision, select the highest quality materials you can afford to ensure your cabinets will last for years to come.


Blog by Jessica T. Smith for the Coastal Cottage Company 

Kitchen Cabinet Door Styles

The Four Most Popular Kitchen Cabinet Door Styles

The holidays are quickly approaching. This means our kitchens will experience an increase in traffic as we host parties and welcome family into our homes.  This is also the time of year we complain about our kitchens and dream of spaces more amenable to entertaining.  The Coastal Cottage Company is here to help, whether you’re considering a remodel, building a vacation home, or just writing a wish list for the future.  This month and next, we will feature posts to help you achieve your dream kitchen!


First, let’s talk cabinetry.  Cabinets are more than utilitarian; they’re the face of your kitchen, communicating style and personality.  They’re also something that can be changed without completely remodeling.  New cabinet doors and fixtures can invigorate a tired kitchen, but the number of options is overwhelming!  So here are four of the most popular kitchen cabinet door styles to get you started.

Shaker

Shaker kitchen cabinet doors get their name from the Shaker furniture style characterized by clean and functional design.  According to Gabrielle Di Stefano, contributor at Houzz.com, Shaker cabinets are made using rail and stile construction (four pieces make the frame and a single flat panel sits in the center).  

Rail and Stile: Kitchen Cabinet Door Styles
Image: Robert Robillard, from A Concord Carpenter


This style has been popular for decades due to its versatility and simplicity.  Homeowners can choose from a variety of finishes.  If you want a more contemporary look, a painted finish looks fresh.  Or, use a glass insert for the center panel.  For something more “shabby-chic,” consider a burnished finish or maintain the natural woodgrain for a rustic style.  Check out this photo gallery for inspiration:
http://www.houzz.com/shaker-style-cabinet-door

Kitchen Cabinet Door Styles
Image: Kitchen Cabinet Kings

Inset

The inset style is characterized by the doors sitting inside the cabinet frame, as opposed to resting outside the frame.  This style is very attractive, but also tends to be the most expensive option because it requires extremely precise measurements to ensure the door sits perfectly inside the cabinet frame with enough room for the wood to expand and contract.  

According to Shane Inman, principal interior designer of The Inman Company, inset doors with exposed hinges is often a nice combination.  Homeowners can choose hinges that reflect the style of the kitchen, but keep in mind that it will add an additional cost (in contrast, hidden hinges are often included in the price of the cabinet box).  This photo gallery includes beautiful examples of inset cabinets with exposed hinges: http://www.houzz.com/inset-cabinets

Kitchen Cabinet Door Styles
Image: Stonebreaker Builders & Remodelers

Flat

Because there are no frames or inset panels, flat cabinet doors look clean and minimalist, making them especially attractive in contemporary homes. Flat doors typically come in wood or laminate, with a variety of colors and finishes to choose from.  Some homeowners avoid cluttering their cabinet surfaces with hardware while others choose modern options like stainless steel or brushed nickel bar pulls.  Check out this gallery for examples: http://www.houzz.com/flat-cabinet-door

Kitchen Cabinet Door Styles
Image: LDa Architecture and Interiors

Beadboard

If the flat kitchen cabinet style is just too plain, you may like the look of beadboard.  Beadboard is made of rows of vertical planks with an indentation or ridge–known as a “bead”–in between each plank.  This gives the cabinet door texture and looks fantastic in country farmhouse or cottage style kitchens.  It can look crisp and cheerful when painted or rustic when the wood is left more natural.  Peruse this image gallery for ideas: http://www.houzz.com/white-beadboard-kitchen-cabinets

Kitchen Cabinet Door Styles
Image: The Coastal Cottage Company

Shaker, inset, flat, and beadboard are a few of the most popular styles of kitchen cabinet doors.  Each reflects different interior design styles and even homeowners’ personalities.  What style would go in your dream kitchen?


Blog by Jessica T. Smith for the Coastal Cottage Company 

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