Architecture as a Fine Art; Furniture and Related Designs By Randell L. Makinson

Architecture as a Fine Art; Furniture and Related Designs By Randell L. Makinson Gain an appreciation for the distinctive Arts & Crafts; Crafts furniture and architectural style developed by the Greene brothers during the  early 1900s.  

GREENE & GREENE : Architecture as a Fine Art; Furniture and Related Designs

By Randell L. Makinson Price: $39.95 Publisher: Gibbs Smith Reviewed by Jim Harrold

Though many people are aware of the Arts and Crafts movement that thrived from the late 1800s through the first quarter of the 1900s, we may not know all of the players in the architecture and furniture world who influenced the era or who were influenced by it and then developed their own vernacular or special style. Two such players were Charles Sumner Greene and Henry Mather Greene, brothers who went on to create one of the more distinctive and desirable architecture and furniture styles in America. Not surprisingly, almost 100 years later, we find ourselves witnessing a revival of interest and appreciation of the brothers' work. Thankfully, their stories and contributions are vividly rendered in Randell L. Makinson's Greene & Greene: Architecture as a Fine Art; Furniture and Related Designs.

Makinson traces the development of the so-called "Greene & Greene" architecture and furniture styles from the very early examples to the final designs produced in the 1930s, pointing out such influences as Scotsman Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Americans Gustav Stickley and Frank Lloyd Wright. Later on, oriental design altered the way the Greene brothers, particularly Charles Sumner Greene, approached furniture design.

Interestingly, theirs was a time when designers wedded furniture design to architecture, making the one complement the other, and designing both simultaneously for their well-moneyed clients. And while Stickley's approach proved more straightforward in design and relied on oak, the Greene brothers poured forth an array of architecture, home furnishings, and decorative accessories that contained design elements of a less rigid kind, and using mahogany and redwood. In furniture alone, these included the "cloud lift" soft curves found in the rails, pulls, and other key parts of Greene & Greene furniture, through mortise-and-tenon joints, rounded edges, and square ebony pegs. In effect, these elements toned down the more austere Stickley look, replacing it with an inviting, decorative, well-crafted appearance instead.

Throughout this 460-page study, which combines two formerly published books, we find numerous black-and-white and color photos of Greene & Greene homes (such as the famous Gamble house in Pasadena), whole room settings, and stand-alone furniture pieces. Detail photos zero in on signature design elements. Makinson follows a chronology of design changes and modifications as the Greene & Greene look matured and expanded. Makinson's style makes for an easy read while brimming with enthusiasm for the subject matter and factual content.

While you won't find functional, dimensioned plans allowing you to build pieces of Greene & Greene furniture, you will come away with a wagon load of project ideas and inspiration. If you're seeking just one book on the breadth of Greene & Greene architecture and furniture, you won't go wrong buying this one. Indeed, you'll receive a full understanding of the Greene brothers' sizable contribution, as well as insight into the time period it was produced-a hearty thumbs up!

Note: Jim Harrold is the Executive Editor for Better Homes&Gardens® WOOD magazine and an avid woodworker.