This has been my favorite job to date! One of my long-standing clients came to me and told me she wanted a suite of furniture for her new office. She wanted an L-shaped desk with bookcases above it, to go into a corner. She also needed a printer cart and a storage cabinet. She wanted it in cherry.
For the actual design, she handed me a book in which she had flagged a number of pages, marking details she liked. All I could do was smile.
The book was Greene & Greene: Masterworks, a book with which I am intimately acquainted. Charles and Henry Greene are my favorite designer/architects from the Arts & Crafts period. Many of the flagged details were from the Gamble House. Someone would be hard-pressed to come up with a job I’d be more eager to take on. I started the first sketches that night
After several follow-up meetings and a number of sketches later, I was off and building a modern office suite that I hope would make the Greene brothers proud of the legacy they inspired.
My client wanted to have her working files close at hand. So instead of giving her the usual two file drawers, I designed her desk to have a few drawers for office supplies, and the rest for file storage. She also likes to spread out the projects she’s working on, so I elevated the bottom shelves sufficiently that she could get the most surface space possible.
Note the Japanese-inspired details on the sides of these pieces. These are called “rising clouds,” and were frequently used by the Greenes.
"Rising cloud" involves two arcs that meet in a horizontal line. Japanese and Chinese art often used this motif, sometimes in furniture.
I hand-carved each one of the twelve mahogany drawers pulls, modeled closely after a classic Greene and Greene detail.
My client not only needed additional storage space for office supplies; she also wanted to display a doll collection that dated back to her childhood. It even included dolls that had belonged to her mother.
One of the many things I love about the Greenes’ work is their dedication to beautiful detail. For example, they regularly used exposed finger joints like the ones at the top corners of this image to the left, and the one below.
They also used small decorative plugs, usually made out of ebony. I hand carved mine from mahogany, along with the small round pulls for the sliding doors.
If you are interested in learning more about the Greenes’ design elements from a woodworker’s perspective, here’s a link to an article in American Woodworker. Another of my other favorite sources is Randell Makinson’s Greene & Greene: The Passion and the Legacy (2002).
If you want to see more examples of Greene & Greene jointery, here's an illustrated piece on the subject from Popular Woodworking, and a video taken at the William Ng School in Anaheim, CA. I also highly recommend the Greene & Greene Virtual Archive. Craftsmen will appreciate Robert Lang’s Shop Drawings for Greene & Green Furniture: 23 American Arts and Crafts Masterpieces (2006), as well as Darrell Peart’s In the Greene & Greene Style: Projects and Details for the Woodworker (2013), Greene & Greene: Design Elements for the Workshop (2006), and “Greene and Greene Furniture Details,” an article in Fine Woodworking.
As I said, they are two of my favorite designers!
Desk: 78"x 78”W x 30”D x 84”H overall.
Storage Cabinet: 36"W x 14"D x 80"H.
Printer Cart: 22"W x 16"D x 36"H.
Cherry veneer plywood, cherry hardwood, mahogany drawer pulls.