Recently I wrote about a few books that I’ve come across that I’ll be reading and reviewing on this site. The first book is Greene & Greene Furniture: Poems of Wood and Light by David Mathias. Don’t let the title fool you. This book is about much more than just the rich furniture commissioned by Greene & Greene clients. But first, about the author (taken in part from wood-and-light.com):
“David Mathias is an author and photographer with a background in computer science. He was educated at the University of Delaware (B.S.) and Washington University in St. Louis (M.S., D.Sc.). He was a college instructor for fourteen years before abandoning computer science, academia and a paycheck for the full-time pursuit of writing.”
David begins the book by giving us a sweeping overview of the Greene & Greene style of architecture, furniture, their attention to detail and the overall unifying themes expressed throughout their work. He then moves on to offer a history of how Greene & Greene came to be.
Thomas Greene, the patriarch of the Greene family, determined that his sons, Charles and Henry, should have a proper profession. Charles and Henry therefore attended the Manual Training School at Washington University in St. Louis beginning in 1884 and subsequently completed their architectural training at MIT in 1891. Just two years later, after moving to Pasadena, California, Charles and Henry formed Greene & Greene Architecture and secured their first commission that same year.
David moves us through a brief history and exploration of the Greenes’ architectural works that define their unique style. He goes into more detail about how each client led to the next and created a sort of “family tree” of clients that all aided in and encouraged the development of what would become one of the most amazing architectural styles of the 20th century. And as the title suggests, we also get a deep and detailed look at the custom furniture and fixtures the Greene’s designed for their clients – everything from side tables, dining sets, built in cabinetry and seating to light fixtures, stained glass, doors and windows.
In short, Greene & Greene Furniture: Poems of Wood and Light is an amazing journey through the growth and development of two of the most influential residential architects in American History (this may just be my own personal opinion, but I stand by the statement nonetheless). Anyone with a passion for, or just a passing interest in, furniture and architecture needs to have this book on the shelf as a reference guide for quality craftsmanship and obsessive attention to detail.