Developing a Style: Designing the Environment
“As I said before, I am anxious to have you use the knowledge you may gain here on my own home. It will be impossible for me to describe to you the effect of the woods – there are things I would like to buy too, but I dare not until I know what you are going to do.”
~Adelaide Tichenor, letter to Charles S. Greene,
sent from the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, St. Louis, June 10, 1904
In 1904, the Greenes undertook two projects in Long Beach that characterized their desire to create a new California architecture. The first was the house for Jennie A. Reeve, which combined the structural expressions typical of wood-building cultures, with the broad, sheltering gable roofs and textured facades of the East-Coast’s Shingle style. Rather than specifying interior furnishing from shops or other designers, the Greenes created their own designs for furniture, lighting fixtures, leaded-glass windows and doors, and garden terraces and walks. The Reeve house represents the first significant expression of the Greenes’ concept of the total design of the living environment.
That same year, the Greenes began a pivotal commission that explored another direction ideally suited to the culture of Southern California: the house as a thematic stageset. The oceanfront house for Adelaide Tichenor was inspired by the owner’s love of Japan and aided by Charles’ own interest in the art and philosophies of Asia, as shown by his book collecting interests and the design of Japonesque elements for the (James) Culbertson and Bandini houses (1902 and 1903).
The quality of the design and construction of the decorative objects for the Tichenor house varied widely from the beginning of the project to its completion. Simple versions of what would later become signature elements — the curving uplift of line and forms — are seen in the Tichenor furniture, and a newly expressed freedom appears in the leaded glass, where refined silhouettes of birds curve gracefully from window to window.
Next: Important Collaborations