Everyday Greene & Greene


In the hands of genius, ordinary items become fine art.
By David Mathias & Robert W. Lang
Pages: 66-71

From the November 2008 issue #172
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One of the best-known quotations to arise from the Arts & Crafts movement is from William Morris. A founding father of the movement in England, Morris was part designer, part philosopher and part social activist. He famously said, “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”

Brothers Charles and Henry Greene were luminaries of the Arts & Crafts period in the United States. While not involved in social aspects of the movement they did practice many of the design tenets. Charles Greene wrote of their principles for domestic architecture, that they strove, “… to make these necessary and useful things pleasurable.” The Greenes turned Morris’ “or” into an “and.” They saw no reason that objects couldn’t be both useful and beautiful. This simple idea is at the heart of their best work.

One of the Greenes’ talents was an ability to make common things uncommonly beautiful. Here we will focus on very common objects indeed: doors and cabinets for the kitchen and bath. With photographs from 10 Greene & Greene houses, from modest to majestic, we’ll get a grand tour of the Greenes’ gift for elevating mundane elements to high art.

In a Greene & Greene home, there are no unimportant details. Everyday items are crafted with the same degree of skill and care as showpiece items, and designed with the same thoughtful blending of form and function. A cabinet in a servant’s area would be simple and of less expensive material, but as well constructed as dining room built-ins.


From the November 2008 issue #172
Buy this issue now