I will be teaching a class in building this cabinet on August 26 & 27, 2017 at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking. Click Here for details.
Along with an appreciation for good design, I’m also fond of the stories that go along with pieces of furniture. The cabinet in the photo at right is a reproduction of a medicine cabinet I saw in the chauffeur’s bathroom in the garage at the Gamble House. The house itself is a masterpiece, the design is by California architects Charles and Henry Greene, and the execution is the work of Peter and John Hall. The house is the only Greene & Greene house open to the public, and if you like Greene & Greene furniture you will be blown away when you see it in its original setting. The public tours are great, the “Behind the Velvet Ropes” tours are better, but if you’re a woodworker you
want need to plan ahead and take the “Details & Joinery” tour conducted by one of my woodworking heroes, Jim Ipekjian.
Back in 2005, I needed to go to California to spend some time with original Greene & Greene pieces as research for my book “Shop Drawings for Greene & Greene Furniture”. As part of my day job I was in Las Vegas for the AWFS show. Instead of getting on a plane back to Cincinnati I rented a car and headed west across Death Valley. I had appointments set up for the following week to take a close look at existing pieces, but decided to spend Saturday at the Gamble House and Sunday at the Scott Gallery at the Huntington Library.
I’m not a fan of Las Vegas, especially in July when the temperature averaged over 100 degrees. Weather reports that include “an overnight low of 98” don’t cheer me up, so I left as early as I could on Saturday morning and arrived in Pasadena shortly before noon, when the first tour started. Driving across the desert made me thirsty, especially after I saw the signs at the rest areas that strongly recommended I get back in the air-conditioned car as soon as possible so that I wouldn’t die. I drank plenty of water on the way, and on my arrival I needed to find a men’s room.
Today the garage at the Gamble house is the bookstore/gift shop/place to buy your tour ticket. It’s one of the nicest garages ever made; it matches the style and details of the house and was built with accommodations for the chauffeur, including a rest room. Anxious as I was to absorb Greene & Greene details, my immediate concern was draining the excess fluids that had carried me across Death Valley. When the clerk at the store said “welcome to the Gamble House”, I asked to use the restroom and was kindly directed to the back of the garage.
As I completed my mission, I turned to leave and saw the original medicine cabinet pictured at the left. In Greene and Greene houses almost everything was designed specifically for its place. In the non-public areas the woods are less expensive and pieces aren’t embellished, but the designs are in keeping with the style and quality of the house itself. So I paused for a little while and decided that one day I would make a reproduction of this little cabinet. A few years later I used the last little bit of a stash of birds-eye cherry I had been hoarding for a long time and made the cabinet for a magazine project. If I hadn’t needed to pee, I would have missed this.
In a couple of weeks I will be back at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking in Franklin, Indiana teaching a weekend workshop on making this cabinet. There are still a couple of spots available if you care to join me. Click Here for Class Info from MASW.