Barbara Mayer

Senior Gardener

Some of My Works

American Design History
"Mindful of detail but never boring. . guides the reader through the Arts and Crafts Movement." -
-Home & Garden Magazine
American Cultural History
"Mayer demonstrates a talent for bringing to life the people who built Reynolda"
-Winston-Salem Journal
A sampling of work by the author

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In the Arts & Crafts Style

From Chapter Two

Imagine for a moment that the year is 1899 and you have been invited for dinner at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Frank Lloyd Wright in the Oak Park suburb of Chicago. He is an up and coming young architect who is reputed to be somewhat unconventional.

As you enter the dining room, you know at once you are in a room utterly different from any other room you have ever seen.

You notice first that almost an entire wall is composed of continuous uncurtained art glass windows in a delicate geometric design that appears to be inspired by the lotus flower. The other walls are paneled horizontally in oak and recessed drawers which must hold table linens and silverware are unobtrusively built in. You see, too, that unlike your own dining room, there is no rug on the highly polished floor of small red tiles and that the same material is used to face the fireplace on the wall opposite the windows.

Next you notice the massive but unornamented golden oak dining table and around it a set of tall, imposing chairs whose backs composed of crisp vertical slats are unusually high.

The most extraordinary feature of the room, however, is the luminescent ceiling softly glowing behind a wooden grille composed of circles and squares which form a complex pattern, through the agency of electricity. The electric bulbs are shielded from sight by a thin translucent sheet which you later learn is paper.

Move ahead now to 1909 in the resort town of Pasadena, California. You have spent the night as the guest of Mr. and Mrs. David Gamble whose new home designed by the architectural firm of Greene and Greene has just been completed. Awakening early a little after sunrise, you venture forth in search of a cup of coffee. In the living room, you stand transfixed as the sun pours through the Tiffany glass panel in the entrance door and fills the living room with a green and golden light, which warms the wood, paneled interior and reflects onto the floor. For a brief time, the room appears to be transformed into Aladdin's cave or a sacred grove and once again you experience the shock of the new.

Wright's home in Oak Park and the Gamble house in Pasadena are both museums now. Although the likelihood of a meal or a sleepover is remote at either place, it is possible to visit both of these remarkable landmarks of the Arts and Crafts style and through an imaginative leap to comprehend how they must have enthralled those who saw them in their own time.

The Oak Park dining room which Wright added to his own home in 1895 was the architect's first attempt at a total environment in which architecture, furniture lighting and ornament were unified. That richly detailed room, deceptively simple at first glance, must have been even more startling to those used to the typical cluttered rooms of the period than it is today. Likewise, the Gamble house by Charles Sumner and Henry Mather Greene, which is a masterpiece of the Arts and Crafts style.

If genius includes the ability to take infinite pains with every detail and to integrate each detail into a masterful whole, then Arts and Crafts designers such as the Greenes and Wright were incomparable geniuses. They focused their attention on every aspect of architecture and decor in the homes they designed for clients who shared their point of view. . . .