A SoCal Excursion to the Gamble House


Trust members gathered in Southern California this fall for an enriching day exploring Pasadena’s decorative arts scene. The day included an excursion to the Gamble House, an iconic American Arts & Crafts site in addition to a nearby private collection. At the Gamble House, we were greeted by Ted Bosely, who has served as director for 28 years. The home was designed in 1908 by the architectural firm of Charles and Henry Greene for Mary and David B. Gamble of the Procter & Gamble company in Cincinnati, OH. 

Often referred to as “America’s Arts & Crafts Masterpiece,” the Gamble House was the family’s winter home. Today visitors witness the appeal of this stunning retreat, which displays a remarkable amount of the original furnishings. Trust participants received an in-depth look at the Gamble’s hands-on approach to working with Charles and Henry on the design of the house. The team endeavored for nature to inform the design. A variety of woods were incorporated throughout the five-bedroom, three-story dwelling, including teak, maple, oak, Port Orford cedar, and mahogany. Money was certainly no object in the construction, as we observed through the rich materials, expert craftsmanship, and sheer scale of the home.

The house was created with the Southern California climate and the surrounding natural beauty in mind. On the second story, there are sleeping porches to take advantage of the cool evenings. Stunning transition spaces connect the interior to exterior terraces, a lovely pond, and a garden filled with native plants, which all complement the striking design of the house.

No detail was spared. From the picture frames to the door hinges, each element was purposefully crafted to fit perfectly in its intended space. Ted made this connection through a story of an exterior lantern that was stolen from the property in the 1970s and appeared on ebay in the early 2000s. Because the Greenes designed everything specifically for the Gamble House, there was no doubt where it belonged. The lantern was soon returned to its rightful home.

David and Mary Gamble continued to visit their Pasadena residence every winter until their deaths in 1923 and 1929, respectively. The house then passed on to their son, Cecil Huggins Gamble and his wife, Louise Gibbs Gamble. The pair contemplated selling the residence but instead negotiated an agreement with the University of Southern California (USC) School of Architecture in 1966 after they heard of a prospective buyer’s intention to paint the interior woodwork white. To this day, two lucky USC graduate students have the opportunity to live in the house rent-free for a year while working on their studies.

Trust members were grateful for the enjoyable and informative tour at the Gamble House, and we are already planning activities in Southern California for 2020. 

A print version of this article was published in The Magazine of the Decorative Arts Trust, one of our most popular member benefits. Join today!


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