Thorsen House #1: Summer of 74

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Blog entry by dennis mitchell posted 03-20-2007 12:49 AM 1511 reads 0 times favorited 23 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Thorsen House series Part 2: The details are a little rustic »

I remember the day. One of the first outings with my girlfriend’s family. Her dad was one of those very smart people. He intimidated me. Heck Peggy intimidated me. How did this very bright, talented, and beautiful girl end up with me. I’m felt pretty much like a geek. Yet here I was. He pointed to this beautiful wood/stone/stained glass house, that was designed by Greene and Greene. Usually I can hide my ignorance by just keeping my mouth shut, but not today. “Who are they?” I asked.

Peggy opened a whole new world for this Idaho kid who found himself in the big city. She showed me a world of art and beauty. My families idea of art was the poker playing dogs. (Yes my grandfather had those hung up in his shop.) Somehow I found some art talent, but you should have seen her work. This was a world class draftsman. I was just humbled. After the days outing, and some bagels on Telegraph Ave., he brought out a book on the works of Greene and Greene. I was hooked.

You can guess it was the Thorsen house. Berkeley is full of beautiful, funky houses. The whole Bay Area is a treasure trove of Arts and Crafts style building. I decided when I grew up I’d be an architect. I even started college, but my path was run over by the real world. Because of my insecurities we ended up breaking up. I have no idea where she ended up, but I went down the wrong path. Dropped out of college, a bunch of dead ends and thirty years later I get to relive some of the best parts of my life just because some lumberjock wants to build a table.

If I had it to do over again I’d try my darnedest to marry that girl and live the rest of our lives happily ever after. Instead I get to build a side table. Lumberjocks has always been more to me that just woodworking. I find the bond here to be about how woodworking connects us in a world I find often dehumanizing. One little table brings back a memory of a beautiful person. The person who first directed me to this path of art and beauty. Part of me wants to do a simple reproduction. Another is willing to give it that rustic flare. What ever I end up doing If will be done with a lot of introspection and maybe a few tears. A lot of gratitude and maybe some sorrow. A firm knowledge that woodworking is more then sticking boards together…maybe some how it helps stick us together.

23 comments so far

View scottb's profile


3648 posts in 4325 days

#1 posted 03-20-2007 01:12 AM

What a great story. Thanks for sharing. It’s funny how important themes/moments in our lives keep showing up out of the blue.

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

View Jeff's profile


1010 posts in 4092 days

#2 posted 03-20-2007 01:18 AM

Thanks for the story, Dennis. I hope it is both cathardic and fulfilling for you.

-- Jeff, St. Paul, MN

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 4159 days

#3 posted 03-20-2007 01:46 AM

tears again..

Your words are not only inspirational re: the woodworking but also as a healing—with your expression of joys and pains, memories for me are also triggered.

A wonderful story. Thank you.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

View Karson's profile


35120 posts in 4399 days

#4 posted 03-20-2007 01:54 AM

So you’ve seen the table Dennis, Unfair advantage. Disqualify.

Good story Dennis.

I was expecting you to go Rustic. But what I expect doesn’t mean anything in this contest.

Except the expectations for me.

-- 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 Dusty's profile


785 posts in 4154 days

#5 posted 03-20-2007 01:57 AM

Bravo….... Dennis

Lumberjocks are so much more than just woodworkers. That is merely a reason or excuse for a lot of very talented people who are very decent human beings to gather and share there lives and experiences.

What binds us is love of the craft; of woodworking.

The glue of this site is the humanity of its members.

-- Dusty

View Shawn's profile


225 posts in 4152 days

#6 posted 03-20-2007 01:58 AM

SOmething about this site is right, I usually hate forums, never last very long, but the people here, the stories, you guys make this place great, thanks for sharing Dennis, I cant wait until I see your table

-- Cheers

View BassBully's profile


261 posts in 4095 days

#7 posted 03-20-2007 03:49 AM

Thanks for the story Dennis. Maybe you could send your finished table to your old girlfriend, signed: From a Secret Admirer!

-- There are three types of people in the world, those who can count and those who can't!

View Ethan Sincox's profile

Ethan Sincox

767 posts in 4172 days

#8 posted 03-20-2007 05:32 AM

Or maybe just “an old friend”...

-- Ethan,

View Mark A. DeCou's profile

Mark A. DeCou

2009 posts in 4404 days

#9 posted 03-20-2007 06:03 AM

this is a great story Dennis. I am anxious to see how your roots, and experience play itself out in a small table inspired by the Thorsen House. Glad you ended up here, whatever path it has taken.

your KS buddy,

-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan -

View Dick, & Barb Cain's profile

Dick, & Barb Cain

8693 posts in 4298 days

#10 posted 03-20-2007 06:18 AM

Great story Dennis
I have to confess, I never heard of Greene, & Geene until I joined Lumberjocks. I may have seen some of their work, but never paid attention.

So this Old Dog learns new tricks just about everyday on Lumberjocks.

-- -** You are never to old to set another goal or to dream a new dream ****************** Dick, & Barb Cain, Hibbing, MN.

View Don's profile


2603 posts in 4175 days

#11 posted 03-20-2007 08:11 AM

Denis – you hit it in one! Yes, we all want to do good work. We all want to make a statement with every piece we craft, but the real joy of woodworking is way it connects us to real people.

-- CanuckDon "I just love small wooden boxes!"

View frank's profile


1492 posts in 4204 days

#12 posted 03-20-2007 12:24 PM

Hi Dennis;
—-all I can say is great story….I really hear you loud and clear!

-- --frank, NH,

View BassBully's profile


261 posts in 4095 days

#13 posted 03-20-2007 03:17 PM


Good point. I was thinking about my comment last night after posting it and thought it would be better to have it from an “old friend”.

-- There are three types of people in the world, those who can count and those who can't!

View Bill's profile


2579 posts in 4160 days

#14 posted 03-20-2007 05:45 PM

A touching story Dennis. I bet after it is all said and done, you are glad it worked out the way it did.

-- Bill, Turlock California,

View dennis mitchell's profile

dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 4313 days

#15 posted 03-21-2007 03:52 AM

I have no reason to complain. The universe has always taken care of this lost kid…even leading me home.

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