Mason Farm Renders

Matt Donley News, Uncategorized 16 Comments

When I wrote my book, SketchUp to LayOut, I wanted to use meaningful sample files in it that related to real world projects. This article shares the personal story about why I chose the specific house as the sample project.

The House Project

To show how the methods in SketchUp to LayOut can be applied to multiple types of projects, I chose a table woodworking project, a kitchen, and a house. I wasn’t sure what house I wanted to use in my book, until I made a visit to my Mother’s house and she showed me something incredible.
I grew up in Bristol, RI, a small, historical New England town. Our claim to fame is our Fourth of July Parade, it’s the oldest in the country as a matter of fact, (and I also happen to march in it each year). I have family traced back to the 1700’s who’ve lived in Bristol, so I personally have a lot of ties to the town.

The house I grew up in was built in 1912 by my great grandfather, and has been passed on to each generation. I had thought about using it as my sample project for the book, but was a bit overwhelmed with the thought of having to measure everything in order to create an accurate model.

The Blueprints

My mother had called me over one day to show me something she had found, tucked away in a drawer somewhere. It was a set of plans, rolled up neatly and covered by wax paper, taped shut.

We carefully removed the wax paper, and unrolled the plans. I immediately recognized what they were. It was a fully in tact set of drawings of my great grandfather’s house! The house I spent my childhood in. Real blue prints, hand drawn, and dated 1912. I was floored! I couldn’t believe that we had held onto these for over 100 years, and that they were still in great shape.

The blueprints were drawn by Rowland G Goddard Architects in New York City. It’s crazy that my great grandfather hired an architect all the way from NYC to design his house in RI. I was so excited, I took pictures of the blueprints and posted them on my Facebook page.

West Elevation

South Elevation

East Elevation

North Elevation


First Floor

Second Floor


It turns out my great grandfather kept EVERYTHING, including a pile of receipts from when the house was built. (My favorite is the letter from the local college concerning the health of his peach trees, lol!) Here are a few pictures of the house, and some of the receipts from the early 1900’s.


My Grandmother on her wedding day, throwing her flowers off of the back porch steps.


Posing in front of the house (Not sure who they are, but surely at least some are family)

What's That?

I wonder what they are looking at?

The Landscaper

This is the groundskeeper who managed the property. He is standing at the front porch of the house.

Front of House

Here you can see the front of the house.

Shepard Company

A receipt for some clothing at the city department store, The Shepard Company, Providence, RI. Dated August 28th, 1913.

Westcott, Slade and Balcom Co.

A receipt for paint purchased on June 5th, 1914.

H. A. Seymour & Co

Plumbing, Steam, and Gas Pipe Fitting invoice dated 1912

Woodlawn Nurseries

Quote for Currant Bushes dated March 20th, 1912.

The White-Warner Company

7 Cabinet furnace for $36.00 dated October 8th, 1910.

Concerned Peaches

A reply letter from a local professor concerning the health of a peach specimen that was sent by my Great Grandfather for analysis.

Sears Apology

An apology letter for damage to a surrey top that was delivered. ( A type of horse drawn cart, I think)


Letter dated 1914 from William Stark Trees, in reference to 5 J. H. Hale trees that will be delivering to my great grandfather.

It was really cool for me to analyze the drawings and identify little things that had changes from what they drew, vs. what was actually built. These must have been an earlier set of drawings that weren’t approved. They changed the first floor wall type from stone to wood, they removed one fireplace; A little bit of value engineering if you ask me.

At that point, I knew that this was going to be the sample project for my book. The house means so much to me, and the thought of what my great grandfather would think if he could see the house he had designed, modeled by me in SketchUp, just blew my mind.

The Renders

render1When I had posted the scans of the blueprints on my Facebook page, a friend of mine, Duane Kemp from, became inspired and reached out to me to see if I’d be interested in collaborating. He wanted to take the model of the house and create a set of renders of it. He had been looking for a fun project to work on for a while and when he saw my blueprints it really sparked his interest.

So we thought it would be cool to create a set of renders of the house project in the book in order to contrast how technology has changed the way we design and present projects since the 1900’s.

You can check out his full presentation of the Mason Farm Renders here.

The renders he created are absolutely fantastic! I love the character and charm that he was able to capture in them. That house has such sentimental value to me, and it is really incredible to see what it might have looked like back in the day.
How times have changed!

It is really interesting to see how technology has completely changed the way we draw houses. But what has remained the same? Communicating an idea. That’s the real purpose of any drawing; To convey an idea, or spark emotion. That will never change. What do you think has been lost or gained as technology has changed over the years?

If you haven’t purchased SketchUp to LayOut yet, buy it now. It will teach you everything you need to know about LayOut so you can create fully detailed construction documents from your SketchUp model. It even goes into some advanced section cuts, hatching, and styling techniques. Learn how to gain full control over your viewports in LayOut. Go to now to purchase.

Comments 16

  1. I just loved this. I posted it on my Facebook page where I have a bunch of realtor friends. I’m sure that they’ll get a kick out of this.


  2. Great story Matt. I always enjoy working on a restoration project where we can find original blueprints and background info. As you discovered, also quite interesting to see how the project was executed versus the drawings. Same story through history I think. Also interesting how they would build large and complex building with about 1/10 th of the drawings, details and specifications we use today!

  3. Hi Matt:
    I am very impressed with the personal touch of Family History. Not many people would open up their lives like that. It is a great story. I am an older retired guy who just dabbles with Sketch Up for the pure fun of it.

    Many years ago I used to program AutoCad Drawings into CNC programs with Master Cam.
    They are very nice programs, but not many individuals can afford to own them. I am now getting used to Sketch Up Make, and I really like the program. It has many features I wish had been in the early versions of AutoCad. Right now I am into the process of designing our retirement home. I am spending hours doing what I always wanted to do. I won’t physically build it myself ( Too old 🙂 ) But I can enjoy the planning and design stages, I have signed up for your news letters and look forward to them. Keep up the GREAT work!.

    Dan Welch

  4. Matt, Fun to see the story behind this house. As far as how things have changed, I think I can still do working drawings a lot faster by hand, but I love seeing the design take shape in 3-D. Still have a lot to learn before I feel that I have Sketchup and Layout mastered.

  5. Matt: tried to open up the images on your friends site, waited……waited…….just would not seem to open up. Seems a shame not to get to see them first hand so maybe it is just a glitch or so but it may be worth checking into. I have already ordere the video and the book and hope we don’t have to wait tooooo much longer for that to reach us. Yea I know you were busy talking at the boot camp. So just a little nudge that we are looking forward to hearing and getting the info from you, soon. Perhaps I’m just feeling a little frustrated at not being able to view the renderings and so on. Well as we say in the building bussiness “just two more weeks.”

    1. Hello Michael,
      Could you try the link again? I know we’ve been having quite a bit of traffic on this, but this is the first time I’ve heard that someone had difficulty seeing the renders.
      Here is a direct link to one of the three galleries (you may return to “The Mason Farm Renders” page by clicking on the “KP” in the upper left hand corner of the page.

      Please let me know if you have any trouble viewing this gallery or navigation from it to the main article page.

  6. Matt, thank you so much for sharing this! It’s really neat to look at the old pictures and the history of your Great Grandfathers house that he built. It seems that your connection with sketchup and the work you do was somehow pre-destined. Maybe your Great Grandfather had something to do with that!

    1. My thoughts exactly. It felt right to think the spirit was moved to aid with treasured, long waiting artifacts to provide that needed detail that had him stalled with apprehension. Wonderful synergy and moving story. Brilliant really.

  7. Thanks for shareing… I’m interested in knowing what was used to create the sign. Could you please share?

    1. Post
  8. Wow, what a cool story, and what a treasure to have all of those old plans and records. We have a few of my grandfather’s things from his days of flying and being a gunnery instructor in WWII and they are just our most treasured things!

    My hubby is a pilot but with a degree in mechanical engineering and way too much creativity to know what to do with it! I’m going to show him this site!

    ~ Beth Anne

  9. MasterSketchup?’s SketchUp to LayOut’s “The Masan Farm Renders”…
    are entered in the Shaderlight 2014 Render contest. Kemp Productions “The Contest started OCT 1!!! Mason Farm Renders” and three other renders by Duane Kemp were placed in the contest album only the 24th.
    “Most Likes Wins!”
    So, we ask your support. Open the image below and scan through the whole album of Shaderlight artists renders and click “like” and leave your comments on the contest entries you wish to win.

    Please help support the Shaderlight artists and The Mason Farm Renders.
    Thank you so much.

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