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June 2006

Sunset Idea Neighborhood

You've probably read about the Sunset Idea House - a model house showing off the newest building techniques, materials and design possibilities of recent years that the Sunset Magazine folks build at their Menlo Park campus every year since 1998. However, not every single "idea house" is in Menlo Park; in 2003, Sunset  brought us a new project: the Sunset Idea Neighborhood, a model development of two Craftsman bungalows built by Mark De Mattei and his firm De Mattei Construction. These homes sit next to each other on a hillside in Los Gatos, not far south of San Francisco and just over the mountain from Santa Cruz.

This wasn't De Mattei's first project with Sunset, either; the previous year a 66-year-old Willow Glen property that he remodeled and restored was featured in a series of articles - "Diary of a Remodel" - the first such remodel diary that Sunset published, a type of content which is now quite popular in that and many other publications. And in another touch that the always practical-minded folks at Sunset thought up, you can even buy the plans for this home online.

These won't be De Mattei's last projects with the magazine; this year, Sunset partnered with Popular Science magazine to feature not just contruction materials and techniques but building and entertainment technologies as well with the 2006 House of Innovation, also built by De Mattei. This Silicon Valley property is open to the public from early September through late November 2006.

Of course, the Idea House project is a great deal for Sunset; not only do visitors pay admission to see the current iteration of the idea house (the current/upcoming Celebration Idea House debuts at their Menlo Park campus on the May 20/21 weekend; admission is free with the $10 admission charge to the "celebration weekend" event), the house itself is for the most part a showcase of products made by the magazine's many advertisers. Maybe some Sacramento architect or designer should contact me about a possible Hewn & Hammered idea house!

Charles & Hudson

Charles & Hudson recently linked to us - I was wondering where that extra traffic was coming from! - and I'm sorry to report that I was not familiar with that house-centric do-it-yourself web magazine before visiting today. I should have been, though: it's a good, interesting read, with short notes on lots of remodeling issues - from how to select various types of moulding, to DIY tips on mixing your own concrete, installing a tile backsplash in your kitchen, installing and cleaning rain gutters, the proper use of a paint sprayer, and plenty more. This weeks' articles give tips on using wood and ceramic deck tiles; links to big directories of bathroom and kitchen remodel resources in the UK, and "DIY bathroom renovation," which sounds scary.

Classic Seattle Bungalows the new Spotted Owl?

Seattle Weekly Editor-in-Chief Knute Berger, in The 'Just Right' People (click for full article), writes on the Craftsman aesthetic and the relation of the bungalow to a true, working middle class:

Some years ago, my then-grade-school-aged daughter was trying to figure out where our family fit in the grand scheme of things. "Dad, are we rich?" she asked. No, I answered. "Are we poor?" No. Her face brightened, and she said happily, "Then we're the 'just right' people!"

That's social-class theory according to Goldilocks. In my daughter's eyes, we had attained a kind of secure just-rightness that offers comfort. That kind of value used to personify Seattle, a city that prided itself as being a middle-class, democratic, populist alternative to big Eastern metropolises or sprawling Western ones.

Rich people showed up in Seattle pretty late. The first millionaires were made by the Alaskan Gold Rush, which ushered in a rum, retail, and real-estate boom. Early labor activism added resistance to the growing influence of the robber barons, and the clash between upper and lower classes evolved a city in which there was little economic difference between union blue-collar workers and Boeing white collars.

Mission Settles

A quick survey of Mission and Prairie-styled settles:

  • Southern Joinery sells this model, pictured in tan fabric upholstery and walnut, for $2,850. They also have a nice range of spindle-sided tables and some interesting seating (check out the wide bench!) and case goods as well;
  • The Arts & Crafts Home carries a range of pieces, including a very comfortable-looking paneled settle, and several others, some slatted and some with spindles;
  • Ben Barclay Woodworking has an extremely attractive settle (scroll down to see it) that comes with any of several upholstery options for $2457 - $5043, depending on which you choose;
  • J. Austin Antiques in Amherst MA has this slat-backed settle - almost Shaker in its simplicity - for $575; it looks like a shortened version of the popular Limbert design;
  • you'd expect Warren Hile to make a beautiful settle; as with his other work, his is made from beautifully grained tank staves - white oak salvaged from wine casks - and looks sturdy as heck, for $8800 or $9800 depending on upholstery - Craftsman Home has a better picture of it here;
  • Swartzendruber Hardwood makes a very Frank Lloyd Wrightesque settle, with vertical and horizontal lines reminiscent of the Robie House, and it can be made with shelf arms and back - Oak Park Home & Hardware carries it, although no price is given;
  • One of my favorite furniture dealers, Rockridge Antiques / Rockridge Furniture in Oakland CA, carries a contemporary shelf-arm spindle-back settle for $3250;
  • El Dorado Woodworks has a terrific sectional settle ($14,192), as well as more orthodox varieties;
  • William Laberge has very nice settles and sofas (scroll down to see all of them), some paneled and some with spindle backs and arms;
  • horror of horrors! fifty years ago, the original owner of this Stickley / Quaint Furniture settle painted it a hideous pinkish red. It's big and in good shape, otherwise - although not a deal at $1895, given the amount of work it will take to strip and refinish;
  • Phil Taylor Antiques, in Ottumwa IA, has this paneled settle for $2450;
  • Richard Bissell made this high-grain slat-armed quartersawn oak settle for a client;
  • Randy of the eponymous Hardwood Floors by Randy built this attractive slat-back and -arm settle [ 1 / 2] with a nice wide rail all around;
  • Michael Wollowski built this beautiful spindle-arm and -back settle in 2002;
  • here are a few nice pictures of a slat-backed Limbert settle that recently sold;
  • Maren Dunn Antiques recently sold this simple slat-backed short settle, in oak and leather;
  • and of course, last but very definitely not least, we have one of Gustav's original settle designs, which was made of fumed oak; Stickley still makes a settle, not nothing like the original.

Know of others? Make one yourself? Send me a picture or URL!

Manufacturers on a New Mission

by Charlyne Varkonyi Schaub, Knight-Ridder Newspapers

Furniture manufacturers are betting we're so fed up with technology and mass-produced goods that we will want to put our money on the "Simple Life."

This yearning for a vanishing lifestyle has nothing to do with Nicole Richie and Paris Hilton.

It has everything to do with the Arts & Crafts Movement that made Gustav Stickley, Frank Lloyd Wright and Greene & Greene household names.

The most repeated mantra at the International Home Furnishings Market that ended here Wednesday was the simple lines and fine craftsmanship of Arts & Crafts and Mission furniture. Nearly 25 percent of the manufacturers introduced this style at the market, according to a Furniture/Today and Home Accents Today survey. Among them are Hooker's Simply American, Magnussen Home's Oak Park, Copeland's Prairie by Frank Lloyd Wright and Stickley's additions to Pasadena Bungalow and Historic Mission.

read the full article at

Greene Design Furniture

Dozachair Just got a postcard in the mail advertising Greene Design Furniture's new Doza line. Looks like a neat mix of contemporary Japanese elements and Craftsman design, with a real emphasis on the low wide lines of the Prairie movement - the seating is especially spacious. The armrests are carved from a single large piece of cherry, and then pretty dark walnut is inlaid. The cushions, however, look more mid-century modern than Craftsman, but work surprisingly well with the rest of the designs. A downloadable PDF describes the measurements of the pieces a bit better, although it doesn't look like pricing information is available yet.

Frank Lloyd Wright Designs High Point of High Point

by Christopher Murther, Boston Globe

The velvet rope - usually only employed to protect Anna Nicole Smith, Ashton Kutcher, or Sasquatch from an overzealous public -  sits imposingly in front of the moss green wall. Behind the rope and the wall lives the superstar of this year's High Point International Home Furnishings Market: The premiere home collection from a designer who passed away nearly 50 years ago.

Despite the small matter that Frank Lloyd Wright designed his Prairie collection at the turn of the last century, his pieces were some of the most innovative on display in the acres of furniture at this year's High Point Market. Wright's collection was just the beginning of the Mission-style explosion at High Point, the biannual market where the country's leading furniture makers premiered their newest offerings for buyers and journalists.

By preternatural coincidence, a half-dozen furniture makers rolled out lines this spring that incorporate elements of Arts and Crafts and Mission styles -  furniture that is marked by fine wood and simple lines. While several of the mammoth showrooms looked as if they had been assembled by followers of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, less clear was why a show that is intended as a harbinger of living rooms and bedrooms of the future was looking back 100 years at the Arts and Crafts movement.

read the rest on the Halifax Chronicle-Herald site - the Boston Globe doesn't allow free access to its archives.

Bungalow Garden Revival

Katherine Endicott, an avid gardener and Arts & Crafts aficionado, wrote the following for the San Francisco Chronicle; the full article is available on their site. The article includes some great pictures by Chronicle photographer Kat Wade.

Around the turn of the 20th century, roughly 1890 to 1930, a mania for bungalows obsessed Californians. And for good reason. The predominantly small bungalow, some costing as little as $900, offered the middle class a home designed around both simplicity and artistry. Even better for Californians, a bungalow provided a way to live close to nature. As Paul Duchscherer, a San Francisco designer who has written and lectured extensively on bungalows, puts it, "Connecting the architecture to the garden was part of the bungalow sales pitch."

Over four decades, the styles of locally built bungalows varied dramatically from Mission Revival to English Tudor. But the two styles most closely identified with the term bungalow in the Bay Area are the shingled Craftsman bungalow and the stucco California bungalow. Both styles featured front porches as a way of linking the outdoors with indoors. The master designer of this period was Gustav Stickley, whose magazine The Craftsman (1901-1916) proselytized for the Arts and Crafts philosophy. Stickley's house designs emphasized the link between the bungalow and the garden.

On Craigslist, Right Now

Bits and pieces of mostly Stickley furniture from both coasts and in between:

  • English Arts & Crafts dresser with interesting inlay, $850 (Berkeley CA)
  • Lifetime Furniture oak and glass china cabinet, $2500 (Berkeley CA)
  • Gustav Stickley rocker, $1500 (Berkeley CA)
  • Stickley upholstered settle in cherry, plus coffee table, $3750 (San Francisco CA)
  • Morris chair with red leather cushions, $1100 (Richmond CA)
  • Stickley Bros. high-back rocker, $900 (Los Angeles CA)
  • library table-styled coffee table, $800 (Los Angeles CA)
  • L & JG Stickley Handcraft armchair, $650 (Los Angeles CA)
  • contemporary Stickley coffee table, $599 (Los Angeles CA)
  • unknown maker round dining table, $800 (Pasadena CA)
  • contemporary Stickley #700 design bookcase, $1200 (Eagle Rock CA)
  • reproduction Gustav Stickley designs, various pieces (table and leaves, chair, coffee table), $4200 (Denver CO)
  • contemporary (and enormous) keyhole trestle Stickley dining table + 6 Harvey Ellis chairs, 2 w/ arms, $7000 (Hartford CT)
  • lot of old L & JG Stickley furniture catalogs and ephemera, $35 (Boston MA)
  • pretty high-grain server / sideboard, $250 (Boston MA)
  • unique writing desk with writing-top drawer, needs new finish, $125 (Minneapolis MN)
  • v. attractive Stickley paneled Prairie settle with red leather upholstery, $2450 (Westchester NY)

Craftsman Restoration in San Diego

The San Diego Union-Tribune recently ran this article - by architecture critic Ann Jarmusch - about a 10-year restoration project in Point Loma, recently finished. The article also touches on the history of the Point Loma neighborhood.

Stephanie and John Wylie, both history majors in college, wanted to live in an old house with character. It didn't need to be designed by an architect or be eligible for historic landmark status – but that's the kind of house they unwittingly bought in 1994.

Built into a slope in the La Playa area of Point Loma in 1924-25, the expansive, two-story house the Wylies purchased was slathered in new white stucco. Most of its Craftsman-style windows, originally divided into small panes with redwood mullions, had been replaced with plate glass. White paint concealed yards of what turned out to be redwood paneling, doors and woodwork in almost every room.

read the whole article on the Union-Tribune site

Duncan-Irwin House For Sale

Duncanirwin The Lippincott Group, a Prundential-affiliated realtor in Pasadena, has Greene & Greene's Duncan-Irwin House listed for sale. The Los Angeles Times has a nice article on the 7-bedroom, five-bath 6,400 square foot house and mentions that the asking price is $4.5 million; win the lottery and you, too, can own a piece of history. From the listing:

The Duncan Irwin House is named for its first two owners, and the original house was built in the 1800s and moved to the present site around 1901. Greene and Greene designed extensive additions and alterations to the original house in 1903 for Katherine Duncan and in 1906 for Theodore Irwin. The completed vision of Greene and Greene has created an organic house that seems to have grown up from the banks of the Arroyo Seco. Rustic vine-covered retaining walls and terraces of stone and clinker brick merge with the site and massive trees seem intertwined with the broad pergolas which extend from the house.

Located overlooking Brookside Park, the home is set in the neighborhood known as "Little Switzerland" with many other Greene and Greene designed neighboring homes. The house features a free-flowing floor plan with an inner courtyard which features a goldfish pond. Gorgeous wood, tile, brick, stained glass and original fixtures adorn the interiors.

Roycrofters not Luddites

The Roycrofters - or at least the Roycroft Campus Corporation - have got themselves a weblog. So far, lots of Elbert Hubbard epigrams and bits and pieces of news relating to the always-interesting events going on in that magical place. And unlike this place lately, it's more original content than links to other places (speaking of which, please do email me if you've got pictures or articles you'd like to share with our readers!).

What Do You Get for a Million Bucks?

305376_1 A selection of million dollar (plus) homes all around the country, as recently listed on Craigslist. I've tried to pull a sampling of the more A&C-ish properties, and have only included those that had photographs. It's amazing how much more you get for your money in some parts of the country, although when you get way up at the top end, it seems like quality has very little to do with the price - it's all about veneer, aesthetic, style and nothing else.

San Francisco:

elsewhere in the Bay Area:

throughout the country:

Recent Flickr Finds

Lots of great new additions to Flickr lately - there are thousands of images added every day to the immense collection here; much of it is pretty badly tagged, so who knows how many neat Arts & Crafts related photographs are really here - I can only search for those that are well-tagged. Here's what I found today:

Frank Lloyd Wright archive to show in San Francisco

One of the world's largest private collections of Frank Lloyd Wright documents and objects will be on display at San Francisco's Charles Campbell Gallery from May 20 through June 24, 2006. The archive's owner, Bill Schmidt - a retired Bay Area art teacher - sold a portion of his collection to the Getty Museum in 1985, and the more than 30 remaining pieces will be the stars of this upcoming exhibit. Items to be shown include:

  • two Frank Lloyd Wright windows, one from the Darwin D. Martin House Complex in Buffalo, New York (1904) and one from the Walser House in Chicago (1903)
  • two black ink floral drawings by Frank Lloyd Wright (dated 1897)
  • a set of 13 building specification booklets, including New York's Guggenheim Museum
  • Taliesin Loggia Section Drawing, with comments in Wright's hand
  • photos taken by Wright
  • a Wright-designed 16" x 16" concrete block used in the exterior and interior of the Ennis House in Los Angeles (1923)
  • A pair of bathroom lamps from the Arizona Biltmore (1929)