Reviving Monterey-Style Furniture

From Spain and Mexico to Hollywood, Monterey style’s short history lives on in Los Angeles homes

I am a design junkie. If something looks cool, I like it and want to know about it. I also have an affinity for certain vintage styles. Some years ago, I was in an antique store displaying Monterey furniture and immediately knew I had to have some for myself. It captivated me with its rustic, easy-going looks and charming paint details.

Spanish Colonial Revival style inspires Monterey-style furniture

Monterey Furniture grew out of a very specific time and place. As the heyday of the Craftsman style in California was coming to an end, the 1915 Panama-California International Exposition took place in Balboa Park in San Diego, CA.

The Exposition focused the nation’s attention on the majestic new Spanish Colonial Revival buildings in Balboa Park. These buildings sparked a renewed interest in Spanish and Mexican architecture, which led to a wave of Spanish Colonial-inspired building and furnishing production throughout the country.

Spanish Colonial Revival style Balboa Park, San Diego 1915
Spanish Colonial Revival style Balboa Park, San Diego 1915

Generic European Mediterranean-style furniture was being manufactured for the new Spanish Colonial Revival style of buildings, both commercial and residential, but no one had tried to develop a new look in furniture.

spanish revival style 1927
Spanish Revival Style 1927

Monterey style is born in Los Angeles

In the late 1920s, Barker Brothers, a Los Angeles furniture store, proposed a new line of furniture designed especially to suit the vast new neighborhoods of modest Mediterranean-style stucco bungalows popping up everywhere in Southern California.

Barker Brothers approached local furniture makers Frank and George Mason, with a promotional movie poster for the film “In Old Arizona.” The Masons agreed to design and manufacture a line of furniture based on the furnishings in the movie.

Monterey club chair 1930
Monterey club chair 1930

Within a year, the Masons created a 24-piece line of carved and painted faux-rustic furniture in the Barker Brothers store, which they named “Monterey.” The Monterey line was a hit with the public. Hollywood bought into the look and soon Monterey furniture found its way to the homes of movie stars like Clark Gable, Bela Lugosi, Gene Autry and Will Rogers.

Monterey cabinet 1930
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hot and fast, and was done by 1942. Manufacturing lasted only 14 years, but produced a very Southern California-looking collection. As I examined the Monterey artifacts made by the Masons, I realized that the selection of lighting fixtures was sparse. It consisted of a few table and floor lamps with a Mexican/Wild West folk art look, and wall sconces and chandeliers in a generic wrought-iron style. I knew I had to do something about that.

My own little Monterey corner of the world

Since I live in a 1920s Spanish Colonial Revival-style stucco bungalow, what better place to start than my own house? I had a few rooms that could use new ceiling fixtures, so I designed and fabricated some Monterey pieces for myself.

Jeff Grainger Monterey-style ceiling fixture
Jeff Grainger Monterey-style ceiling fixture

[caption id="attachment_715" align="alignnone" width="300"]Jeff Grainger Monterey-style ceiling fixture detail Jeff Grainger Monterey-style ceiling fixture detail

I love working in the Greene & Greene Arts and Crafts style; it is serious furniture. Not pretentious, but serious. Beautiful and serious.

However, I’m a cheerful guy and am drawn to the playfulness and whimsy of the Monterey style. A little extra paint in the wrong place, or an extra gouge of texture only adds to the charm.

Email or call me at 626-221-5244 to create custom Monterey style lighting and furniture for your Los Angeles home.