Gambel House Gardens


Recently we traveled to Pasadena to tour the famous Arts and Crafts Style Gambel House. The three-hour woodworkers' tour focused on the joinery of the house's construction, but I had my own agenda, concentrating on the views and the construction of the outdoor spaces. The distinctive Greene and Greene architectural style is instantly recognizable, as is their idiosyncratic combination of clinker bricks and local arroyo stone in the landscape.

The Gambel House's rear terrace sports a low, pierced, clinker brick wall, which is softened by a nearly 100-year old creeping fig. All of the lighting fixtures, including the magnificent copper and art glass lamp on the terrace were made specifically for this house. What are now twin ponds were originally wells built to accommodate two eucalyptus trees that were original to the property.

Visitors can only imagine what the Gambels' views of the Arroyo Seco and the San Gabriel Mountains must have been like. Today's perimeter row of homogenous trees blocks that vista, offering instead the visual exclamation point of a tall palm that draws the eye into the distance.

Following the aesthetic of the Arts and Crafts Movement of the late 1800s and early 1900s, the sitting and sleeping porches, as well as the terraces of the Gambel house demonstrate the best principles of indoor/outdoor living.

The holistic ideals of designing a house, its fixtures and furnishings, and the landscape as a unit that integrates seamlessly into its building site is pretty much a lost art in today's world. But we can, if we choose, work backward from what we have to adapt both our home and our landscape to reflect this classic concept.

If you go in mid-summer as we did, wear very lightweight clothing, since the temperature is likely to exceed 100º F.

Avid gardeners should schedule plenty of time to peruse the rows and rows of splendid gardening and architectural style books in the bookstore/gift shop, located in the former garage.

To read more about Arts and Crafts Style and Greene and Greene Gardens, see:


In Harmony With Nature: Lessons from the Arts and Crafts Garden and

Outside the Bungalow: America's Arts and Crafts Garden 

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