The Story Behind the Work

Friday, March 27, 2009

Only one of Charles and Henry Greene's creations remains intact today with its original fixtures: The Gamble House in Pasadena, which is operated as a national historic landmark by the University of Southern California. It's fitting, since the brothers' furniture and architecture, designed to fit together like a hand in a glove, belong in a museum.

It's just not always certain whether all of it belonged in an actual living room.

As gorgeous as the Greenes' Arts and Crafts-style furniture is, there's an austerity to much of it. Let's face it: Wood is hard on the derriere. And this isn't just by today's couch-potato standards, either.

Here's Mrs. J.W. Beswick-Purchas, writing to her brother, a client of the Greenes, after a 1909 visit to one of their houses:

"As for the furniture, I find it very excellent for one or two rooms -- such as the hall or dining room especially -- but in my opinion it is too light in structure and too hard for living rooms. It is all in keeping with the style of architecture and the wall fittings but there is not a deep, soft chair or sofa in the house."

There's hardly one at the Renwick, either.

-- Michael O'Sullivan

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