Distinctive wood detailing, tile work, stained glass, and carving in a California living room.
Synopsis: A description of a project in Berkeley, California, that reflects careful craftsmanship and the area’s historic bond with Arts and Crafts-era building. The emphasis is on exposed-timber roof framing and a richly detailed staircase.
Berkeley, California at the turn of the century was a carpenter’s dream come true. An American hybrid design, the Craftsman style,had evolved, and hundreds of practitioners (affectionately dubbed “carpitects”) took to the hills to fashion a community of peak-roofed houses out of seemingly limitless first-growth redwood and fir. Innovators like Bernard Maybeck and the Greene brothers in Southern California turned away from ornate Victorian designs, finding inspiration in such diverse styles as Japanese farmhouses and Swiss chalets. Houses became showcases for the warm and rustic tones of natural materials—stone, brick, tile, and most of all, wood. Each project was a chance for artisans to display their talents. Woodworkers fashioned carefully detailed elements, from beams to staircases. Masons built massive fireplaces of stone, brick, or concrete. Stained-glass studios turned out leaded windows, and original lighting fixtures were created for the finest homes.
Today, the few empty home sites scattered about this rich architectural landscape offer a first-rate aesthetic challenge to designers and builders. My partner, Ed Hazzard, and I found such a site and on it built a modern home in the Craftsman tradition, employing talented artisans in a cooperative work atmosphere. Because the home was a speculative venture on a difficult site, artistic considerations had to be tempered with practicality. The cheap land, labor and materials of the past that had allowed vast rooms and high ceilings no longer exist. To retain the sense of spaciousness found in earlier houses, we designed a soaring living room as a focal point. In the Craftsman spirit, simple, elegant detailing would distinguish this room.