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California Bungalow : The Arts and Crafts Movement Revival Hits Home

August 25, 1990|EVAN CUMMINGS | Evan Cummings is a regular contributor to Home Design.

Who says you can't live in the past? Patrick Sheridan does, and he loves every minute of it.

The Laguna Beach designer is enthralled by architecture and furniture created during the turn-of-the-century American Arts and Crafts movement. Works embraced simple, straightforward designs made of quality material with enduring construction techniques. They were conceived as a reaction to an underlying distrust of the Industrial Age.

In today's high-tech, high-pressure, complicated world, the simple designs made famous by Louis C. Tiffany, Ernest A. Batchelder, Frank Lloyd Wright, Gustav Stickley Morris, and Charles and Henry Greene seem like a breath of fresh air.

If it's true that imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, then the late great champions of the American craftsman ideal would indeed be gratified to know that Sheridan is keeping their contribution to American architecture alive.

Sheridan is not alone.

There is a renewed national interest in the functional stylings of the period. In December, 1988, Barbra Streisand paid $363,000 at Christie's, the New York auction house, for a Stickley sideboard. Last year, L. and J.G. Stickley Co. resuscitated its Arts and Crafts line, making 50 different reissues available.

Arts and Crafts pieces were created with the spirit that everything should work together, a well-made object fitting perfectly into a well-made universe.

In the humble California Craftsman bungalow--a rebellious response to the rococo stylings of the Victorian Era--exposed wood beams, natural stone piers and earth-toned finishes embrace casual living, comfort, warmth and simplicity.

Nature is integral to the design. Rows of casement windows let in the sunshine, sleeping porches welcome the breeze, broad eaves provide shade and gardens extend the house outdoors.

When Sheridan was hired by physicians Lee Sandler and Kathleen Farinacci to remodel their Three Arch Bay beach house built in 1930, the couple had two priorities: to eliminate the steep driveway and enlarge the master bathroom.

"In the end, we rebuilt the whole house," Sheridan says, "demolishing everything but two exterior walls and one-third of the existing roof."

Eliminating the steep driveway required that the garage be moved to the street level and a second floor added. In so doing, Sheridan created entry space on both levels, expanding the floor space from 1,450 square feet to 2,774 square feet.

"Although we remodeled the whole house, this two-story entry and the pool area at the base of it were the focal points of the project," Sheridan says.

Sandler, a diving enthusiast, wanted a pool. A courtyard with a panoramic ocean view at the rear of the house was already in place, so Sheridan decided to build a 10-foot lagoon-style swimming pool, pond and waterfall in the front yard.

In the tradition of the brothers Greene and Greene, who designed with river rock, 60 tons of river rock was used, selected from one quarry for uniformity. Larger stones weighing a ton or more were set with a crane.

High-tech and ecological elements were blended with the "functional, direct and durable" design, Sheridan says. The house is equipped with a different solar water-heating system for the house, the hot tub and the pool.

"Charles Greene said it best," Sheridan says, " 'The idea is to eliminate everything unnecessary to make the whole as direct and simple as possible, but always with the beautiful in mind as the final goal.' "

The movement's clean-line approach is evident upon crossing the threshold of the Laguna Beach home and facing the entry staircase. It is finger-jointed to the risers and patterned after the one in Greene and Greene's Gamble House, built in Pasadena in 1908. Finger-jointing also appears in the outside baseboard corners, fireplace mantel and exterior trim.

The staircase and its hidden sliding storage panel, exterior doors, windows and interior doors are fashioned from Honduras mahogany. "In restoring the house, we almost put mahogany on the endangered-species list," Sheridan says.

Quarter-sawn oak flooring was used throughout, exhibiting its "tiger-tail" patterns inherent in the wood. "We ran the floors at 45-degree angles to the walls," Sheridan explains, "on a bias, like in the Gamble House."

The result is a chevron pattern that directs the eye to points of interest throughout the home.

Another Greene and Greene hallmark, the "cloud-lift" detail, which is a line that is offset, like a camshaft or railroad siding, was used extensively on upstairs handrails, interior and exterior doors, the garage door and on windows.

Sheridan incorporated an additional Craftsman wood-joining detail, a Z-splice, in the ridge beam. It is visible under the skylight in the upstairs hallway. Combined with other woodworking details, it gives a jigsaw-puzzle appearance.

Exterior and interior light fixtures were re-created in the Craftsman style. Four copper lanterns with glass inserts hang throughout the property. One bears the house number and graces the front of the garage.

In the tradition of the movement's philosophy that the entire house be harmonious, Sheridan designed and built bookcases, lamp tables, desk and hanging wooden lamps--"the all-important details," he calls them--for the home. Carpets, table settings, picture frames and hardware designed in the Craftsman style are readily available due to the movement's revival.

Quipped the designer's chief detail carpenter, David Hansen, as they neared the end of the 10-month remodeling project: "It's getting Greener and Greener."

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