Greene (& Green): An American Craftsman Home Gets a Green Renovation

Historic Craftsman homes are built to respond to climate and site. This California renovation marries this traditional wisdom with modern technology.

| March/April 2007

It may have been kismet that brought Wall Street-investment-banker-turned-entrepreneur Bill Moses and his historic, naturally sustainable Ojai, California, home together more than 10 years ago. Bill fell in love with sleepy Ojai when he visited friends there in 1993. A collector of Craftsman-style furniture and art, Bill found his personal Shangri-La in Casa Barranca, a neglected American Craftsman masterpiece on 52 acres in the Ojai Valley—a place that Indian philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti called “the most beautiful place on earth.” Committed to preserving the house’s history as well as its connectedness with nature, Bill was the perfect candidate to renovate the California classic.

Casa Barranca has an important place in California’s architectural history. Standard Oil baron Charles Pratt commissioned the house in 1907 and Pasadena-based architects Charles and Henry Greene designed it. Registered as a National Historic Landmark, the estate is one of five remaining distinguished Craftsman bungalows the Greenes designed.

“In the spring of 1908, the Greenes were asked to develop a series of sketches for a winter residence in the resort town of Nordhoff, in the idyllic Ojai Valley,” writes Edward Bosley in Greene and Greene (Phaidon Press, 2000). Bosley is the curator of the Gamble House, another famed Greene and Greene Craftsman bungalow in Pasadena.  “The principal defining characteristic of the property was a steep ravine, or barranca, that runs from the foot of the Topa Topa Mountains to the valley below, and gave the house its name.”

“I had heard of the Greene and Greene bungalows, but I had never seen one until I walked onto the property,” Bill says. “The integration of the house with the land around it initially captured my attention. The house overlooks the Ojai Valley and wraps around an old oak tree and a boulder where Chumash Native American artifacts rest.”

The home’s finely crafted interior bewitched Bill as well. “Being in this house with its wood and attention to detail is uplifting,” he says. “When the light comes through, my wife, Eliza, and I can see all the devotion that went into creating this house 100 years ago.”

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