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Inside Greene and Greene Furniture

How teamwork between architects and woodworkers solved classic problems in furniture design.

By Tom Caspar

Here’s a recipe for creativity: Mix two gifted architects with two seasoned woodworkers, throw in a bunch of money and shake. The result can be a huge step forward in practical furniture design. That’s exactly what happened in California just before World War I, when architects Charles and Henry Greene worked with cabinetmakers John and Peter Hall building houses and furnishings for wealthy Pasadena clients. As a team they solved problems of wood movement, weak short grain and efficiencies in production that had plagued woodworkers for generations.  

The look of Greene and Greene furniture has captured the imagination of many of today’s furniture makers. For me it’s the guts that are really fascinating. What holds this furniture together? What’s the story behind the innovative construction techniques?

Recent X-ray photographs published by Professor Edward S. Cooke, Jr. of Yale University have cleared up a lot of misconceptions about how this joinery actually works.


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