The Ultimate Bugalow
July 26, 2010 9:18 AM   Subscribe

The Pasadena architectural firm of Greene & Greene was one of the foremost exponents of the Arts & Crafts movement. Their "ultimate bungalows," including the Gamble, Thorsen, and Blacker Houses (and a host of modern-day disciples) stand testament to the enduring elegance of their work, but for a fuller examination of the brothers' design process, delve into the thousands of blueprints, drawings, and photos at the Greene & Greene Virtual Archives.
posted by Horace Rumpole (25 comments total) 52 users marked this as a favorite
Awesome! LACMA had a very cool Arts and Crafts exhibit, oh, maybe five years ago? It was really great and featured a lot of the work and designs of Greene & Greene. The turn of the century really seemed to be a wonderful time for design and architecture.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 9:24 AM on July 26, 2010

I was a junior docent at the Gamble house when I was in 7th grade. Loved it, loved the house. More than 20 years later, and I can still visualize some of that gorgeous design & woodwork. I will definitely be looking through the archives!
posted by epersonae at 9:35 AM on July 26, 2010

Don't forget the sequel: The Electric Bugalow.
posted by clvrmnky at 9:38 AM on July 26, 2010

This may be the best thing (for me) that I've ever seen posted to MetaFilter. I wonder how feasible it would be to update a set of those blueprints to modern building codes...
posted by davejay at 9:43 AM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

When I hear the phrase "arts and crafts," why do I always think of macaroni necklaces and lanyards made from those colorful strips of plastic?
posted by Afroblanco at 9:50 AM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Pasadena represent! (Sorry, it's my hometown and it so rarely appears in FPPs.)
posted by blucevalo at 9:51 AM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

The Gamble house is fantastic... well worth taking the time to do the tour.

A friend of mine owned a house one of the Greene brother built for himself (in Pasadena)..a beautiful place...
posted by HuronBob at 10:04 AM on July 26, 2010

Yeah, the Arts & Crafts movement is somewhat unfortunately named. I had never heard of Greene & Greene and their design style before I moved to Southern California over twenty years ago. They were great designers, with a brilliant grasp of scale and proportion, mass, and line.

It truly pains me to see elements of Greene and Greene designs misappropriated and poorly copied onto today's tract or custom homes by architects who seem to have little understanding of basic design principles, much less an understanding of G&G's deliberate use of mass, line, color, and texture. Well, that goes for any style, I suppose.

Pasadena, and it's spectacular suburb, South Pasadena, are home to some of the best and most beautiful homes in North America. South Pas has endured a long and bitter battle to prevent the State Department of Transportation (Caltrans) from destroying a large swath of these irreplaceable buildings for a freeway.
posted by Xoebe at 10:08 AM on July 26, 2010

Holy sweet Jesus! I need to make a pilgrimage to the Gamble House.
posted by zerobyproxy at 10:14 AM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'll have to admit, the idea of a freeway through South Pas is fairly unimaginable.
posted by blucevalo at 10:15 AM on July 26, 2010

Also, South Pas would collectively retch at the idea of being considered a suburb of Pasadena (although that's how it's frequently described).
posted by blucevalo at 10:23 AM on July 26, 2010

I guess I'm something of a modern-day disciple - I'm in the shop today finishing up a walnut table that incorporates a cloud-lift design - but I'd never heard of the Blacker House and the rape thereof. Absolutely sickening, and yet not unsurprising; especially that it was a "Texas rancher" who did it.
posted by lost_cause at 10:32 AM on July 26, 2010

That sort of dismantling of historically significant sites has been going on for centuries. Ask the Greeks, who now have to visit their heritage in the British Museum.
posted by crunchland at 10:46 AM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Hey! My house resembles this post! An American foursquare in the arts and crafts style, I'm told. Thanks for the post! It should help me appreciate my house a little more.
posted by charred husk at 10:55 AM on July 26, 2010

My neighborhood here in Fort Worth is full of Arts and Crafts bungalows and we love it. Ours is a remodeled 1920s bungalow.

I wonder how feasible it would be to update a set of those blueprints to modern building codes...

I don't know about those specifically, but there's certainly people building new homes based on Arts and Crafts bungalow ideas. It looks like they get their plans from this place.

Absolutely sickening, and yet not unsurprising; especially that it was a "Texas rancher" who did it.

Interesting that "Texas rancher" is the description you picked up upon, rather than "Princeton graduate". And that you ignored the NYC based antiques dealer.
posted by kmz at 11:07 AM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Ohmanohmanohman this is great, thank you! If you live anywhere in the greater Los Angeles area you owe it to yourself to go take a tour of the Gamble House. I wish I had visited more. It's an unbelievable treasure; not only did the family not recklessly renovate the place, but most of the original furniture was still in the basement when they donated the place to USC.

While you're in the neighborhood you might want to drive by La Miniatura, which was the first of Frank Lloyd Wright's four concrete block houses. It's not open for tours but it is just around the corner.

(If you like amazing, famous houses, consider volunteering at one as a docent - they're almost always looking for people to help out, and in exchange for your time you get to hang out inside a work of art. I never volunteered at the Gamble House because I was already busy enough at Hollyhock House and The Ennis House... but there's a lot of overlap and there are occasionally opportunities to take private tours of other places; while volunteering at the Ennis House we got to tour La Miniatura with Eric Lloyd Wright, as well as Lloyd Wright's Sowden House.)
posted by usonian at 11:13 AM on July 26, 2010

Oh, and if you enjoy drooling over Arts & Crafts architecture, design, and decor both new and old, pick up a copy of American Bungalow. The ads are almost as nice to look at as the articles.
posted by usonian at 11:14 AM on July 26, 2010

As a little girl in Pasadena, my mother lived in a Green and Green house. Decades later she took us by and even from the outside it was obviously a masterwork.

She talks about it all the time; it really seems like it was her favorite place to live.
posted by happyroach at 11:24 AM on July 26, 2010

The Huntington Library has a perfectly rendered reproduction of the dining room of the Robinson House as a permanent exhibit. (I was lucky enough to get a tour of the real Robinson House, which is now a private residence, also exactingly, lovingly restored.) The attention to detail that the Greene brothers brought to their designs is truly astounding. If you're interested in their furniture designs, check out the Hall brothers, who built what are considered their finest pieces. Contemporary woodworker Jim Ipekjian is widely known as the go-to guy for reproduction Greene and Greene furniture. He also gives special white glove tours at the Gamble House, focusing on joinery and construction.
posted by killy willy at 11:56 AM on July 26, 2010

The Boston Museum of Fine Arts had a Greene and Greene exhibit in fall 2009; their online exhibit tour is still up in Flash (click tour button) or html.
posted by nonane at 3:05 PM on July 26, 2010

hunh. Must be something in the marine layer.

Another Greene and Greene was in the news recently -- the old pawn shop on the northwest corner of Colorado and Raymond is about to undergo a facelift. At some point during the planning, architect and owners discovered the original building was designed by Greene and Greene, making the structure the only known commercial project built by the architects. Unfortunately, they will not be restoring the facade to it's Greene and Greene original, but to the late-20s Art Deco re-do that was required after Colorado Boulevard was widened.

Oh hey usonion -- I used to know a gal who worked as a nanny for the people who owned La Miniatura back in the '80 and 90s. She hosted some great barbecues. The house was well lived in and maintained well enough, as I recall, although there has been some controversy regarding that, I think.
posted by notyou at 3:21 PM on July 26, 2010

notyou: The concrete block houses suffered from numerous problems, not least of which was Wright's idea of making the blocks from decomposed granite dug from the building site... nice idea (maintain the natural earth tones of the property, make the building truly a part of its location) but poorly executed; the decomposed granite was never cleaned properly, so the concrete blocks are full of impurities and have degraded unevenly over time. By the time they build the Freeman house, I think they were using commercial materials instead. And I think pretty much every structure ever designed by Wright has been plagued by leaky roofs. But yes, overall the interior of the Millard House seemed well maintained! I think most of the work the new owners were doing was related to the leaks.

I really liked Pasadena, which still retains a lot of the charm that has long since fled most parts of Los Angeles. The high concentration of Arts & Crafts architecture has a lot to do with that.
posted by usonian at 6:15 PM on July 26, 2010

Historic Chicago Bungalow Association. I love the Arts and Crafts Movement. There's a neat library near where I live that was built in the style. Heavily influenced by Lorado Taft and his minions at the Eagle's Nest Art Colony.
posted by IvoShandor at 12:25 AM on July 27, 2010

notyou: that's a Greene & Greene building?! Amazing. I fled So Cal like a bat outta hell once I graduated high school, but I do still have a soft spot for parts of Pasadena & Altadena. (I remember when they started fixing up Old Town when I was in high school...ah, back before it went upscale.)
posted by epersonae at 7:56 AM on July 27, 2010

For me, the best thing about Arts and Crafts style is how they liked to have everything "built-in" so there was less of a need for furniture. I currently live in a cute little Arts and Crafts apartment with built in bookshelves, buffet, and coat rack but some of the bigger bungalows have built-in dressers, telephone booths, ironing boards, magazine racks, desks, benches, etc. It's my fantasy to one day find a house with *everything* but clothes and food built in and I will buy it and live there forever.
posted by Jess the Mess at 8:01 AM on July 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

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