By Darrell Peart
Recently I joined a group whose primary goal is to restore the Thorsen House, one of the “Ultimate Bungalows” designed by Charles and Henry Greene. In fact, I am on the board of directors of the Friends of the Thorsen House. Our purpose is to raise funds for a seismic retrofit to the house (it sits atop the Hayward fault), but there are several smaller projects going on, too.
The original furniture resides in the Huntington Museum in San Marino, Calif. One of our goals is to eventually reproduce all the original furniture and populate the house with related pieces. The Greenes never designed a bed for the house. Because it is a fraternity house (and has been for nearly 70 years) there are a lot of beds in the house now, but none in the Greene & Greene style. So I volunteered to design and build a twin XL bed.
While this was a tremendous thrill and honor, it was also intimidating. I never would have dreamed that I would design and build a piece of furniture for one of Greene & Greene’s Ultimate Bungalows.
I decided to use khaya (an African mahogany) to fit in with the house and existing furniture. And I kept things simple enough for the fraternity brothers to replicate – so they could in turn furnish the other bedrooms.
The Thorsen furniture is, for the most part, more restrained than designs from the other Ultimate Bungalows. This does not mean the designs are unsophisticated – they have more than their share of complexity and subtle finessing. I attempted to keep my design outwardly simple yet throw in a bit of finessing as well.
There was no original bedroom furniture for the house, so I based my design in part on the Thorsen House plant stand (available in the book “Shop Drawings for Greene & Greene Furniture”). I started by borrowing the stand’s scroll pattern to use as a cut out in the center panel. Using a common centerline I radiated the pattern’s arches outwardly to telegraph to the upper rail. I also spaced the spindles to radiate out from the center. I set the height of this first bed so the mattress would be level in height to the original plant stand. This is lower than the standard height of a bed. You might add 3″ or 4″ to the length of the legs to bring it to typical height (and the plans can be modified to fit any size mattress).
Web site: Find out more about the Friends of the Thorsen House.
Panel Pattern: Download a full-size pattern of the center panel in PDF format: Thorsen Bed Pattern
Online: Visit the author’s web site to see photos of his work, read his blog or purchase his book, “Greene & Greene: Design Elements for the Workshop.”
In Our Store: “Thorsen House Side Table,” an adaptation of the Thorsen House plant stand.
From the February 2013 issue #202
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