Greene & Greene Masterworks


Awakening of a style.
By David Mathias & Robert W. Lang
Pages: 66-70

From the August 2008 issue #170
Buy this issue now

One hundred years ago, two brothers were in the midst of an amazing period of creative success. The result was a unique, enduring style that is instantly recognizable. The brothers were Charles and Henry Greene, and the style is a synthesis of Arts & Crafts with Asian influences, a casual California sensibility and obsessive attention to detail.

Few understand the work of Greene & Greene better than Jim Ipekjian. While visiting a Greene & Greene home with him, he pointed out a difference in two details at the stairs. After more than a decade in the house, the home’s surprised owner had not noticed the subtle distinction. This is likely common as the Greenes put considerable thought and effort into details that few would notice, or have the opportunity to see.

Greene & Greene’s earliest commissions were modest but well executed homes in the style of the day. Within a decade of opening their practice, they were working on more substantial homes and began designing the interiors as well.

Drawings from1903 depict rooms incorporating built-ins and Stickley pieces. By the next year they were designing complete environments down to lighting fixtures and fireplace tools. Two years later the firm was designing most of the furniture and household items for truly grand residences, now known as “Ultimate Bungalows.”

The Blacker, Ford, Gamble, Pratt and Thorsen houses, built between 1907 and 1910, constitute an amazing body of work in a fully realized, mature style; the culmination of a brief yet astounding period of development.

This article is the first in a series examining the Greene & Greene style and a marvelous evolution. The focus here is a broad overview of how the style evolved. The next article will explore details of the brothers’ well-known furniture designs. Even everyday objects can be beautiful, so the third article will focus on doors as well as kitchen and bath cabinets.

Online Extras

To view additional photos in PDF format, click here (2.12 MB).

To download a listing of additional resources on the work of the Greene brothers in PDF format, click here.


From the August 2008 issue #170
Buy this issue now