The Gamble House - Pasadena, California

When I last lived in Southern California, about 7 years ago, I had the opportunity to go on a tour of The Gamble House in Pasadena. My father is a woodworker and, growing up, the smell of fresh cut lumber and verathane were common. Today, a whiff of either can transport me instantly back to my childhood

Having grown up like I did - with woodworking and handmade furniture all around me - I developed a true appreciation for the American Arts and Crafts style of construction. And the Gamble House is a stellar example of that style. It has been a while since I toured the house and it remains at the top of my list of things to do when I go back to visit though my visits rarely leave time to actually do so.

The house was designed in the early 1900s by architects Charles and Henry Greene as a retirement residence for David and Mary Gamble of Ohio. The huose remained in the Gamble family until 1966 when it was deeded to the city of Pasadena in a joint agreement with the school of architecture at the University of Southern California. It is designated as a national historic landmark and is the only one of the Greene and Greene houses to be open to the public and it is the only one to contain all of the original furniture designed by Greene and Greene for the house.

The first thing I remember about the tour was the feeling I got simply walking up the walkway. The home itself is warm and inviting on the inside and that feeling is so pervasive that you feel it outside as well. I remember feeling like I was home. The outside lines are clean and symmetry is everywhere which appeals to my sense of style. The different colors and types of wood used on the exterior are amazing. And they all blend together as if God Himself had planned them for use in this home.

The front door of the house is remarkable in and of itself. Within the panes of glass set inside the front door, there is a picture of a tree called "The Tree of Life" that pays hommage to the materials used to construct the house. The leaded glass work on the front door is simply awe inspiring and really lends itself to the stunning natural beauty that radiates from the house. Many of the light fixtures within the house mimic the design on the front door as well as the decorative frieze in the living room.

There is a design element that is pervasive throughout the house yet completely unobtrusive in its nature. The "stepped" design that you see in the handrailing, the window designs, and other elements within the house unify the entire structure without being overwhelming. You can see that design in the windows in the dining room. Even the rugs in each of the rooms played into the symmetry of the house itself. It was so subtle that you probably would not have noticed had the docent not pointed it out.

Every piece of furniture in the house was designed by Greene and Green specifically for THAT house. The attention to detail is amazing and surprising - little details that would have NEVER crossed my mind are like hidden treasures throughout the house...just waiting to be discovered.

Even the dining table - one of the most utilitarian pieces of furniture in a house - exhibits Greene and Greene's incredible attention to detail. Look at the joinery and detail of that table and it's base! I literally walked around with my lower jaw just hanging from my face. I wanted to touch everything. I wanted to run my hand over every piece of wood in the house and feel its smoothness.

The attention to detail was carried out everywhere. The same quality of craftsmanship that was put into the house itself was also poured into each and every piece of furniture on the property. And recurring themes abound. In this picture, you can see the inlay in the doors and that inlay was repeated in several other pieces of furniture, including a fall-front writing desk, eight-drawer dresser, and bedframe.

This house is incredible and I regret the fact that I lived in Southern California for so long and yet only discovered this treasure in my last year there. If you ever have a chance to take a tour, I would highly recommend it. We took the 1-hour guided tour but I plan to do the "Behind the Velvet Ropes 2-1/2 hour tour" the next time I am in town. What a wonderful hidden treasure!


- hfs

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