Greene & Greene Houses

An Introduction

William T. Bolton House

View from entry, William T. Bolton house #3, Pasadena, 1906.

Interior trim is custom made and integral to the design. Typically finger jointed and pegged at outside corners, it serves to unify architecture and furniture. Picture rails are ubiquitous and functional but also provide a break in the wall, an opportunity to distinguish the frieze level and prepare it for decoration in the form of murals or carved panels. Lighting is, after 1903, typically custom designed to suit a house's interior (or exterior in the case of lighting outside the house). Unifying themes and attention to detail revisited.

Greene & Greene furniture is among the most beautiful ever designed. That is a bold statement. And given that there is no universal scale for beauty, it's a statement that can be neither proven nor disproven. Ultimately, it is best to allow the designs to make their own argument, to speak for themselves as it were, through photographs, books and museum exhibits.

William R. Thorsen House

Dining-room cabinet, William R. Thorsen house, Berkeley,

Much Greene & Greene furniture is constructed of mahogany though woods such as teak and walnut were used as well. Finishes are simple leaving a close to the wood look and feel that well suits the expertly prepared surfaces. Subtle decorative elements are used to stunning effect: ebony pegs, inlays, carvings, heavily eased edges and surprising details all serve to stamp pieces as unmistakably Greene & Greene. As with the architecture, mundane elements are used as an opportunity to introduce unexpected beauty. Breadboard ends are design features rather than functional necessities. Drawer joinery becomes the dominant visual theme of some pieces. Table extensions are functional as they should be, but also quite beautiful and inventive. Variations in these details serve to enhance the surprise and draw one into the designs. Once there, the lucky onlooker can consider for himself the claim above. The most beautiful furniture ever created? In the end, it doesn't matter. For those with the good fortune to experience the genius of Greene & Greene, the question is rendered moot.

Robert R. Blacker House

Detail, dining-room table, Robert R. Blacker house,Pasadena, 1907-09.

David Mathias, Author
Poems of Wood and Light
Greene & Greene Furniture - Poems of Wood & Light.
A new look at the houses and furniture of Charles & Henry Greene. Publication date:
September 2010 -- Available now for pre-order.


Greene and Greene - Virtual Archives
The Gamble House


Greene & Greene Furniture: Poems of Wood & Light
Greene & Greene: Design Elements for the Workshop
Greene and Greene: Masterworks

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