Homes of the Arts and Crafts Movement

The Homes of the Arts and Crafts Movement

I have always been drawn to the simple yet sturdy design of Homes of the Arts and Crafts period of the late 19th and early 20thcenturies, without realizing what it was called or knowing much about its history. I just knew I liked the way the buildings looked and was naturally attracted to the earth tones and simple elements of wood and stone whenever I saw them. Eventually I learned that these beautiful structures were homes of the Arts and Crafts Movement.

Famous Arts and Crafts Homes

For my most recent birthday, we drove down coastal Highway 1, from Santa Cruz to Pismo Beach. Our main objective (other than to relax and soak up fantastic scenery!) was to visit San Simeon for a tour of the famous Hearst Castle. This was my second visit to San Simeon. If you haven’t yet visited “La Casa Encantada,” you really should take the time to visit. There is nothing else quite like it.

The Castle at San Simeon (c. 1919-1937) – Julia Morgan, architect

At our visit, I learned that Hearst Castle was designed by a famous architect, Julia Morgan. Even though she was first denied entrance to the Beaux Arts Institute in Paris in the early 1900s because she was a woman, Ms. Morgan had become a well-known architect in her own right, with offices based in San Francisco, when William Randolph Hearst called upon her to build his dream home in the hills overlooking San Simeon Harbor.
Hearst San Simeon Arts and Crafts Movement MyLifeBanquet
View from Hearst San Simeon (Photo by author)
The Perfect Location

The spot William Randolph Hearst chose was quite a distance inland from the coast, on land bequeathed him by his mother, Phoebe Apperson Hearst, and the original site of the family ranch and campsite established by his father, George Hearst, a miner who had struck it rich with the discovery of silver at the Ophir mine on the famous “Comstock Lode.”


Plaza of San Simeon-Hearst Castle overlooking San Simeon Harbor Arts and Crafts Movement
Plaza of San Simeon-Hearst Castle overlooking San Simeon Harbor (photo by author)

Julia Morgan worked for nearly 20 years with W.R. Hearst to help him design and build his home, using her special reinforced concrete technique to provide stability in a region of high seismic activity. In addition, she incorporated elements of European design, from Moorish, French, and Venetian influences. According to the history, W.R. Hearst and his mother Phoebe had taken the “Grand Tour” of European palaces and castles when he was a young child, and thus Hearst’s dream was to come to fruition in his own castle on a hill with Ms. Morgan’s steadfast dedication and skill.

When he received his inheritance at the age of 57, along with his own fortune from the Hearst Newspaper empire, Hearst could finally afford to begin construction.
San Simeon-Hearst Castle Arts and Crafts Movement
San Simeon-Hearst Castle


San Simeon-Hearst Castle trefoil motif Arts and Crafts Movement
San Simeon-Hearst Castle quatrefoil motif (photo by author)


Julia Morgan’s other notable works include the former St. John Presbyterian Church in Berkeley, California, as well as the Asilomar Conference Center in Carmel. These structures seem to me more typical of the Arts & Crafts Movement than is Hearst Castle.


St. John Presbyterian Church, Berkeley, CA Julia Morgan architect Arts and Crafts Movement
St. John Presbyterian Church, Berkeley, CA Julia Morgan architect
Asilomar Conference Center by Julia Morgan Arts and Crafts Movement
Asilomar Conference Center ( Creative Commons)

The D.L. James House in Carmel Highlands (c. 1919) – Greene & Greene, architects

While we were driving slowly down Highway 1 through Carmel Highlands, enjoying the cool air and aquamarine color of the surf below, my husband called my attention to the long stone fence running for some length along the edge of the road. As he is an architect, he recognized the stone fence as the hallmark of the famous Greene & Greene House of Carmel Highlands. We pulled off the road and walked back to get a better look. Sure enough, it was the Greene & Greene House, constructed almost entirely of the same native rock from which the cliff was composed. To my eye, I saw elements of a J.R.R. Tolkien “hobbit house” but in stone rather than earth, and distinct Mission-style touches in the bell tower and unique curving red Spanish tile roof.

D.L. James House, Greene and Greene architects Arts and Crafts Movement

The architects were brothers, Charles (1868-1957) and Henry (1870-1954) Greene, both of whom were prominent in the American Arts & Crafts Movement of the early 1900s. Their other most well known project is the Gamble House in Pasadena, California, built for Procter & Gamble magnate, David Gamble, and his wife, Mary.
gamble house greene and green architects arts and crafts movement
David B. Gamble House, Pasadena, CA, Greene & Greene architects


Charles and Henry Greene also utilized elements of Arts & Crafts in furniture and lighting in accordance with their architectural designs. Both the Gamble House and the Robert Blacker House, also in Pasadena, contained a wealth of furnishings and fixtures designed by the Greenes.
Japanese inspired Greene and Greene chandelier Arts and Crafts Movement
Japanese inspired Greene and Greene chandelier


The Swedenborgian Church, San Francisco

Bernard Maybeck (draftsman); A. C. Schweinfurth & A. Page Brown, architects

Before knowing anything about the Arts & Crafts Movement, I already knew what I liked. As a teenager growing up in Marin County, I made myself at home among the quiet redwoods and natural beauty that surrounded me in places like Mill Valley and Larkspur. There were waterfalls, ferns, and natural redwood forests interspersed with homes made of wood and glass that seemed to blend right into the natural habitat. I was particularly fond of homes that incorporated hewn stone, heavy timbers, and stained glass.

When I was looking for a place to have my wedding back in the 70s, a friend suggested the Swedenborgian Church near the Presidio Wall district in San Francisco. It was perfect!


Swedenborgian church brides chamber, 1976 Arts and Crafts Movement MyLifeBanquet
Swedenborgian church brides chamber, 1976
I saw an unassuming building at the corner of Washington and Lyon Streets, built of heavy concrete with brick archways enclosing a quiet above-street-level garden. The chapel itself draws from rustic natural influences, with a large fireplace taking center stage at the back of the nave, dark ceilings with rough-hewn timber logs meeting overhead to form the apex of the roof, nature murals, and stained glass inserts in the windows. For me, the Swedenborgian church was absolutely heavenly and definitely “me”!

I recently went back and visited the Swedenborgian Church, and discovered that a very well-known architect of the Arts & Crafts Movement, Bernard Maybeck, had been involved in designing the building. He is now one of my favorite architects—I’d feel at home in every building I’ve seen that he has designed!

Swedenborgian church interior Arts and Crafts Movement mylifebanquet
Swedenborgian church interior (Photo: Eric Luse, SF Chronicle)
Swedenborgian church exterior Arts and Crafts Movement mylifebanquet
Swedenborgian church exterior, photographer unknown

Bernard Maybeck

Bernard Maybeck is well known in the San Francisco Bay Area.  His other buildings of note include the First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Berkeley, California, considered a prime example of Arts & Crafts architecture. Probably his best-known work, however, is the Palace of Fine Arts, which he conceived for the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition.
First Church of Christ Scientist Berkeley Bernard Maybeck Arts and Crafts Movement mylifebanquet
First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Berkeley, California



Also designed by Bernard Maybeck, the Roos House in the Pacific Heights district of San Francisco, which demonstrates such distinctive Arts and Crafts features as the quatrefoil (four-pointed star).

Roos House Bernard Maybeck Arts and Crafts Movement MyLifeBanquet
Leon L. Roos House, San Francisco, Bernard Maybeck 1909

Bernard Maybeck was born in 1862 and was a graduate of the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris. He was an early mentor of Julia Morgan, and taught at the University of California at Berkeley. Many homes designed by Maybeck or his protegees can be found in North Berkeley. Unfortunately, in the fire of 1923, many historic homes in this neighborhood were destroyed.

The Arts and Crafts Movement on Amazon

Bernard MaybeckThe Arts and Crafts MovementJulia Morgan: Architect of BeautyGreene & Greene: Developing A California ArchitectureGustav Stickley’s Craftsman Homes and BungalowsPrairie Style: Houses and Gardens by Frank Lloyd Wright and the Prairie School



Featured Image: Sheep fountain, Hearst Castle, San Simeon, CA (Photo by author)

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2 thoughts on “Homes of the Arts and Crafts Movement

  • March 22, 2013 at 3:27 am

    Awesome photos and blog post Janet! My cousins had a memorial for their Mom, My Aunt Joyce, at the Swedenborgian Church. Lovely church.

    • August 31, 2013 at 3:55 pm

      Thank you, Lacerose. It is a beautiful and serene place. I’m glad you enjoyed my blog.

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