Refining a Style: The Pinnacle of Materials and Craft
“There is in wood something that stimulates the imagination. Its petalous [sic] sheen, sinuous grain, delicate shading that age may give even the commonest kind.”
~Charles Sumner Greene, from his personal papers, ca. 1943
The Greenes presented ink-on-cloth drawings for the Charles M. Pratt house in mid-March 1909, two weeks before completing drawings for the William R. Thorsen house and shortly before Charles Greene’s departure with his family in April for an eight-month residence in London. The Thorsen and Pratt commissions would signal the closing days of the firm’s great work in wooden architecture.
On February 4, 1911, The Ojai newspaper remarked on the arrival by train of dining-room furniture for the recently completed Charles M. Pratt residence above the town of Nordhoff (later renamed Ojai). Contractor Peter Hall accompanied the delivery and supervised the installation of the pieces. The living-room furniture was designed the following year. The living-room table’s exquisite “fiddle-back” mahogany surface was sectioned and oriented so that the opposing directions of grain became a major decorative characteristic of the table. Nor was any of this left to chance; the Greenes’ drawing states “architect will give directions of grain.” Such a level of collaboration and control between architect and maker was as unusual then as it is virtually unheard-of today. The intricate, silver-inlay wave pattern in the drawer handles is echoed by wavelike perforations in the lower stretchers, a motif also carried into the ladder-back rocking chair and the living-room armchair, which also shares with the rocker subtle inlays of contrasting woods in the front and back of the crest rail.
Next: Later Public Commissions