Rare Irving Gill furniture on display
Redwood furniture designed a century ago by Irving J. Gill, San Diego's foremost modernist architect, is on public view together for the first time at the Marston House Museum and Gardens in Balboa Park.
A simple bed, a dining room server, three chairs with cowhide upholstery and an occasional table that the architect designed for the 1907 Wheeler J. Bailey House in La Jolla are on loan from the Bailey family to Save Our Heritage Organisation, the operator of the historic Marston House Museum. SOHO recently reopened the House, which has been furnished in the Arts and Crafts style. The exhibit occupies a newly restored bedroom that was previously closed to public view.
Gill's rare, rudimentary furniture reflects the Arts and Crafts spirit of the home, but contrasts with the polished craftsmanship of the Marston House's redwood- and oak-paneled interior, which the architect designed as a partner in Hebbard & Gill in 1904 for the prominent George White and Anna Gunn Marston family. However, the unvarnished, nailed-together furniture suited the rustic character of the Bailey House and can be seen in many published period photographs of that redwood home, which overlooks the ocean.
"Unlike Pasadena-based architects Greene and Greene, who designed homes complete with all the furnishings, Gill did not design the total environment for his clients," said Erik Hanson, a SOHO board member and Gill expert. "He designed this furniture to match the Bailey House in a style not readily available," Hanson said. "The wood is thick and well chosen, but Gill used house-building technology in nailing the pieces together."
In addition, a redwood chest of drawers with leather straps for pulls designed by San Diego architects Richard Requa and Frank Mead for Hopi House, a Pueblo Revival home near the Bailey House, is also on view. A carved bench by William Templeton Johnson that was commissioned by the Marstons for their garden and is a part of the museum's permanent collection completes the exhibit of early 20th-century architect-designed furniture.
Gill (1870-1936) designed the six-bedroom, seven-bath Marston House early in his San Diego career. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the house is the finest remaining example of Hebbard & Gill's residential work. A grand house used often for indoor-outdoor entertaining, it also includes such design innovations as raised thresholds to keep rooms cleaner, solar heating, built-in furniture, and interior windows that bring light and fresh air into closets.
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