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

  • Bill Moses renovated the neglected home's exterior using composite roof shingles, recycled-denim insulation and salvaged-glass windows.
    Michael Shopenn
  • The Moses family: Eliza, baby Alex, Will and Bill.
    Michael Shopenn
  • In 2002, Bill added the Craftsman-style yoga studio as a place where family and community could gather. Used mainly for yoga and meditation, Bill says he throws down a carpet for dancing or social gatherings.
    Michael Shopenn
  • The Greenes' interest in Japanese architecture is clear in the design of the back veranda. Bill Moses purchased the table and chairs, made by Arts and Crafts designers Gustav Stickley and Chrles Limbert, from the famed Ahwahnee Hotel in California's Yosemite Valley.
    Michael Shopenn
  • The Greene and Greene design window in the Anahata room is accented with a small Tiffany lamp on a Gustav Stickley spindle desk.
    Michael Shopenn
  • With glass doors and windows on both sides, the great room is where the family spends time together, especially in winter. "Sitting in the great room is like sitting in a treehouse," Bill says.
    Michael Shopenn
  • In 1998, Bill Moses remodeled the Casa Barranca kitchen after studying the Gamble house, another Greene & Greene bungalow in Pasadena. The kitchen had originally been remodeled in the 1950s with red Formica countertops and painted cabinetry.
    Michael Shopenn
  • Most bedrooms in the house have a screened sleeping porch and deck. This one, attached to the Kinder Room, is for Bill's son and the estate's young visitors.
    Michael Shopenn
  • Bill takes his morning calls and coffee at a small table in the warm kitchen overlooking the organic orchard and Ojai Valley below.
    Michael Shopenn

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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