Greene & Greene – Furniture Designers & Architects

A Modernist coffee table from the Chan series by Philip and Kelvin Laverne, etched bronze and pewter, New York, 1960s

p4A ItemID E8861754
JEFFREY GREENE (b. 1943); Coffee table, Bucks County, PA; Stained wood, walnut, rosewood

p4A ItemID E8841737
Milligan Family Tennessee sideboard, possibly made by William McClure, Greeneville, Tennessee, 19th century

p4A ItemID F7975256
Louis XV‑style walnut canape, early 20th century

p4A ItemID F7955952

Charles Greene & Henry Greene, Architects

Architects and furniture designers, Charles Sumner Greene (1868 to 1957) and his brother Henry Mather Greene (1870 to 1954) were born in Brighton, Ohio to old New England families. They moved to St. Louis in 1874 and enrolled at the Manual Training School of Washington University. They would complete their formal education in 1891 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in architecture and then began apprenticeships in Boston.

The brothers moved to Pasadena, California in 1893 and opened an architectural office. Their early work reflected the styles of the East, but they soon sought to develop a new distinct style that would be a true expression of California. The houses they designed between 1900 and 1905 were mostly small bugalows with dark stained exterior walls, overhanging roofs, exposed beams and rafters.

The two major events that sparked their interest in furniture designs were Charles’s honeymoon in England in 1901, which exposed him to the English Arts and Crafts movement, and a chance knock on Charles’s door by an itinerant bookseller about 1903. As Charles leafed through a travel book, he saw pictures of Japanese homes and gardens and found what he had been seeking; a unified house and garden. This sparked his imagination and soon his creations took on his personal character – setting apart the Greene and Greene designs from anything else. The brothers complimented each other architecturally with Charles providing the imagination and artistic eye and Henry providing the sense of order and conceptual vision.

Each house was designed individually, in harmony with its setting. The characteristic details were carried through in the furnishings as an extension of the design. The brothers paid personal attention and supervised every detail of each house and the furnishings designed for it.

The furnishings and gardens of later Greene and Greene houses designed for their wealthy clients produced a unity of design that has been imitated by many but never surpassed. The design genius of Greene and Greene and their feeling for materials together with the availability of skilled craftsmen, the abundance of fine materials and the economic and social conditions of the time, brought about a new style which truly expressed the culture and solved the climatic and structural problems of southern California.

The Greenes considered the Robert R. Blacker house in Pasadena to be their masterpiece. The Blacker House on a 6.5 acre Oak Knoll tract (1907) was a much larger project than the Greenes were accustomed to and represented the type of estate they dreamed of building and furnishing. The scale and quality the Greenes used was unsurpassed as they had an unlimited budget. Both Robert Blacker and his second wife Nellie were of considerable means, and with family connections to the lumber industry had access to the finest materials for building their home. Other important Greene & Greene projects include the D. L. James House at Carmel Highlands (1918), the Gamble House at Pasadena (1909) and the N. Bentz House in Santa Barbara (1911).

For additional information on Greene & Greene, consult:

Greene and Greene Masterworks, by Bruce Smith and Alexander Vertikoff, Chronicle Books, San Francisco, 1998.

Greene & Greene, The Blacker House, by Randell L. Makinson, Thomas A. Heinz and Brad Pitt, Gibbs Smith, Layton, Utah, published 2000. and,

Greene & Greeneby Edward R. Bosley, Phaidon Press, London, published 2000.

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