Greene & Greene Virtual Archives
D.L. James House
Carmel Highlands, California, 1918-22
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D. L. James House
Carmel Highlands, California

In 1918, just as Charles Greene believed he would abandon architectural practice, he was offered a commission he could not refuse. It became one of his master works and a commission whose design tenets would signal his ultimate retreat from architecture into a period of self-observation and spiritual reflection. Mr. D. L. James, an amateur writer and wealthy Kansas City china, silver, and crystal retailer had a breathtaking cliff-top parcel of land over looking the Pacific Ocean. Charles used the opportunity to design and build a vacation house where he was free to act as artist, architect, and contractor without the customary cost or time constraints. The house was conceived as a rocky citadel, and golden granite of varying thickness were brought by horse cart from a quarry near Yankee Point for the foundations and walls. Muted terra-cotta colors were chosen for the roof tiles and each exposed tile end was chipped by hand to give it a timeworn appearance. Doors and windows are “Siam” teak and window and doorsills are of white Vermont marble. The house, “Seaward,” is approached from the highway along a meandering pathway that gives occasional glimpses of the ocean and that passes through a ceremonial arch into the inward-facing-V-shaped courtyard. Unlike the rambling exterior walls, the interior floor plan is orderly. The front entry gives a clean line of sight though the arched partition wall in the library to the gardens outside. Bedrooms lead off the entry, and a thirty-two feet by twenty feet “great room” is located down a short flight of stairs from the entrance level. The interior surfaces are smooth and sculptural with evidence of hand finishing and symbolic architectural details throughout. Charles designed a library addition in the basement space under the service wing in 1936, but because of his slow work pace and problems with the stone carver, it was not completed until 1950s, well after the death of D. L. James.

The Octagon Museum, The Museum of the American Architectural Foundation, houses a collection of Greene & Greene architectural drawings for the D.L. James House.

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