Thorsen Side Table Challenge…Who were the Greene’s? …. A short history lesson on these men and the h

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Blog entry by Dusty posted 03-22-2007 12:35 AM 2532 reads 1 time favorited 31 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Many of the Lumberjocks are talking part in the Thorsen Side Table Challenge in partnership with Popular Woodworking.

This project was the result of Michael, Karson and Mark. Of course Martin played a large role, which goes with out saying.

In addition to a woodworker and stained glass craftsman, I am a student of history.

I find it makes me a better student of woodworking and my other crafts when it comes to all styles of furniture regardless if I build them or embrace that style or period.

I would like to give a brief history lesson for those who may not be aware of the Greene’s brothers background it may help you to understand and appreciate the Thorsen piece a little more.

Charles Summer Green (1868-1957) and Henry Mather Greene (1870-1954) have designed some of the most sought after and memorable houses in Pasadena, California the brothers are well known for there fine custom furniture line which is sought after and collected today.

They were born in the Midwest but studied woodworking, metalworking, and toolmaking at Washington University in St. Louis. They studied architecture at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

They worked as apprentices for various architects, but always yearned to be out on there own.

There influence is said to come from a trip out west they were taking, when they stopped at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago. This was there first exposure to Japanese architecture. This became a turning point in there future furniture designs. They incorporated a heavy dose of Asian influence in almost all of all of there houses and furniture.

They were well known for there use of teak and mahogany, instead of quarter-sawn white oak. This was very different from the Arts and Crafts works of Stickley, and the Roycrofters.

There most famous design is the Gamble house in Pasadena. This was commissioned by David Berry Gamble in 1908 (of the Procter and Gamble family and business fame).

This house was once sold and was slated to have all the stunning mahogany and teak painted white. After the furniture went out of style most of it was sold in a garage sale in 1947 for pennies on the dollar. In 1985 another famous house they designed (Robert R. Blacker) was purchased and striped of its lights, stained glass windows, and doors. These were sold piece by piece to various collectors around the world. A number of the original pieces have not been accounted for today.

Strong efforts have been made, with mixed success, to locate these pieces so the can be purchased and returned to the original Gamble house. The Gamble house is now operated as a museum.

-- Dusty

31 comments so far

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 4187 days

#1 posted 03-22-2007 12:54 AM

oh my goodness. Isn’t that quite the history!
(I’m picturing my mother painting all the wood.. aigh yah yah… but I guess plain wood was a simple of poverty and paint was “rich”.) Oh how thing change.

Thank you for the history lesson. I never liked history in school but that has changed and the story you have painted here really adds another level to that little plant stand.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

View Greg3G's profile


815 posts in 4112 days

#2 posted 03-22-2007 01:00 AM

Dusty, Great overview. I too am a History lover. Of all the past designers they are in my top 3. Simplicy and elegant. Too bad much of the orginial furnishings of the Gamble house are missing. I know they are working to carefully reproduce some of the peices. I can’t wait to see the entries and get a look at other’s interpretations and visions.

-- Greg - Charles Town, WV

View Dusty's profile


785 posts in 4182 days

#3 posted 03-22-2007 01:30 AM

Coincidentally I happen to be working in a reproduction of a Greene @ Greene bench.

This is my first attempt at building this bench. I readily admit its not my favorite piece however it has grown on me over the duration of the project.

I found it be be more of a challenge than I had expected. I built it out of spalted maple. I have only hand apply my first coat of a natural stain stain process I use for maple and light hardwoods.

I took several liberties when building this reproduction. I did however remain loyal to all the defining characteristics of this Greene and Greene piece.

I wish I had the time to build the Thorsen piece. I have found some variations that I think would really add to the over all piece with out compromising the original design intent.

-- Dusty

View Karson's profile


35125 posts in 4427 days

#4 posted 03-22-2007 01:31 AM

Thanks Dusty For the review of history.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware soon moving to Virginia †

View Mark A. DeCou's profile

Mark A. DeCou

2009 posts in 4432 days

#5 posted 03-22-2007 01:38 AM

Thanks Dusty. I am not to be credited with this Thorsen Challenge concept. Karson called me and asked about the concept and bounced the idea off of me, and I got pretty excited about the posibilities. This idea is all Karson’s and Obi’s. I just added gasoline to the fire already blazing.

thanks guys, look forward to seeing your Table Dusty.

-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan -

View scottb's profile


3648 posts in 4353 days

#6 posted 03-22-2007 01:40 AM

Thank you for the overview behind the G&G brothers.

Nice bench too.., Sometimes it’s nice to do something outside of what you’d normally do, the results can be surprising. In college I had to do a collage copy of a cubist painting. I did the best I could, I liked my subject, but not the style or how it was coming along. Working up close, I just concentrated on getting each part done. Once complete, I stood it up on my desk and left for a few hours and upon returning (with fresh eyes) I really really liked it.

-- I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it. - Van Gogh -- --

View Dusty's profile


785 posts in 4182 days

#7 posted 03-22-2007 01:46 AM


Thanks for clairfying your role.

I wasn’t sure and didn’t want to leave anyone left out. I know it was OBI who started it as a challenge with Karson. A lot of hard work was done by Karson and if it hadn’t been for the fun prodding and cheer leading of Obi I don’t think it would of been as popular as it has become.

I think its great.

I wish I had the time to build the Thorsen Table. However I have a full plate and wouldn’t dare take anything else on at this point.

-- Dusty

View Dusty's profile


785 posts in 4182 days

#8 posted 03-22-2007 01:50 AM


Its funny how that works isn’t it. I have had these two pieces in my shop for a while now. As time has gone on they have grown on me.

I learned a lot from building them also.

It certainly took me out of my comfort zone and area that I have some expertize.

This is a good thing.

I will never stop learning nor do I want to.

-- Dusty

View dennis mitchell's profile

dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 4341 days

#9 posted 03-22-2007 02:34 AM

Check this out!

View Dusty's profile


785 posts in 4182 days

#10 posted 03-22-2007 02:38 AM

Thanks Dennis, very impressive. Thanks for the nice addition to my library I had not run across this one yet.

-- Dusty

View dennis mitchell's profile

dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 4341 days

#11 posted 03-22-2007 02:41 AM

I’d like to see a view like that of your house!

View Dusty's profile


785 posts in 4182 days

#12 posted 03-22-2007 02:44 AM

patience buddy I am working on something…:)

I will be posting two more chapters to my blog This Old Crack House” in the next couple days… finally I am getting to the story of the rehab….only 25 chapters later ….sigh

-- Dusty

View Obi's profile


2213 posts in 4263 days

#13 posted 03-22-2007 02:50 AM

I HATE Paint. I HATE people who paint. I especially hate people who paint fine furniture… almost as much as I hate pedophiles and rapists. It’s the greatest sin imaginable to a fine piece of wood. I don’t much care for MDF, chip board (OSB) or particle board either.

How could someone… anyone paint over Teak and Mahogany? Have they been dropped on their heads … repeatedly?

I better go take some kind of sedative… this really gets my goat. You can, however, paint the goat, the exterior of the house and the car.

View Dusty's profile


785 posts in 4182 days

#14 posted 03-22-2007 02:56 AM

I agree with you Obi.

I don’t even like paint in my shop. let alone paint a fine hardwood. I get ill just thinking about it. I can’t count how many projects i have turned down that someone wanted me to paint hardwood.

Its just no part of my makeup I guess.

I thought it was a shame to and one of the reasons I added it to the history lesson.

-- Dusty

View Obi's profile


2213 posts in 4263 days

#15 posted 03-22-2007 03:00 AM

I’ve turned down three Cabinet Jobs because they want paint. Do it to Home Depot, they have no conscience, but you “WILL NOT GET ME TO PAINT

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