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Originally published March 24, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified March 24, 2007 at 9:45 AM

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There's no project too challenging (or too quirky) for this super-handyman

Don Silverman is an equal-opportunity project guru. When the angular windows of his Laurelhurst home needed custom, handmade shutters, he...

Seattle Times staff reporter

Don Silverman is an equal-opportunity project guru. When the angular windows of his Laurelhurst home needed custom, handmade shutters, he spent hours measuring and cutting wood to fit the sloped edges.

But if quirkier inspiration strikes, like an idea for a lamp made out of a clear mannequin's head, those projects also will emerge from his garage workshop.

Silverman's handiwork is sprinkled throughout the elegant home he shares with wife Goldie, both 74.

A bamboo ladder he built rests against shelves in Goldie's study. Peer underneath the square, marble-topped coffee table in their living room, and you'll see the original round one that he modified to accommodate the room's decor. For Goldie's birthday one year, he built a wood base, dropped in a transformer and illuminated a neon sign with the word "writer" for his author wife.

"Some things are very specific," Don Silverman said. "The writer sign was a present. The coffee table — we needed a coffee table."

The Silvermans revel in the occasional fanciful piece for their interior décor, including pieces that did not come out of his workshop. A chair with the words "Hello There" carved from the metal sits in the entryway, and sculptural chairs with red alder twigs sprouting toward the ceiling occupy the dining room.

So when they saw a picture of a side table standing on mannequin legs, Don Silverman built one of his own. Theirs wears striped black-and-white stockings and bright blue Converse shoes.

Make your own wine rack

Anyone can make this simple and fun rack with just a few materials and some creativity.

Supplies: Carpet tubing (you can find tubes for free at most carpet stores), riveter tool, rivets.

Putting it together: Slice tubes into equal lengths, long enough to hold a wine bottle. Hold two tubes together, then put in rivets on either end to hold them together. Add more tubes, adding rivets to keep all adjoining surfaces in place, stacking the tubes according to your design sensibility.

Source: Don Silverman

Silverman uses salvaged material as much as he can. A small forest of bamboo in the yard serves as a renewable source for strong, lightweight material. He built a wine holder from tubing used to roll carpet, which he got for free at carpet stores. He constructed their compost bin out of leftover bread trays he picked up at a grocery store.

When they had their home built three decades ago, Silverman built ladders so his kids could clamber into lofts and he also installed an internal vacuum system. He has plans to do the electrical work in a sunroom attached to the kitchen when contractors are finished with a current renovation.

Working with his hands comes naturally to Silverman, a retired physician. When he served in the Navy, he learned to build furniture at a Sand Point workshop, including a bureau that he and Goldie still use.

While he thinks of practical solutions for the house, he also has come up with such creations as a towel rack held in place by jewelry display hands and an airplane toy storage bin made out of a discarded olive barrel. "There are always more projects than time," he said.

Nicole Tsong: 206-464-2150 or

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