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Pasadena's Gamble House opens up servants quarters to public (Photos)

by Take Two

Anne Mallek, curator for the Gamble House, prepared the upstairs-downstairs tour. Grant Slater/KPCC

The Gamble House in Pasadena is known worldwide as an exemplar of the Craftsman style. It's an unpretentious bungalow designed by architect brothers Greene & Greene for the Gamble family of Proctor & Gamble fame. 

Thousands of visitors walk through each year, but there's always been a part of the house that's been shut off to them: the servants' quarters. Until now. 

The Gamble House is opening the doors to its servants' hall and rooms for the first time in its history, as other rooms undergo renovation.

The servants quarters are usually not on display because they're inhabited by two USC School of Architecture students most of the year. The students usually vacate in August, and this year with renovations closing part of the house, curators decided it was a perfect time to let the public into this exclusive area. 

But those thinking the Gamble House servants lived like those in PBS's hit show "Downton Abbey" will learn otherwise. 

"The service spaces were designed as much for use as for beauty," said Gamble House curator Anne Mallek. "There was a real detail in the servants space as there is in the rest of the house. The materials change, but they're still attentive to how the space was being used by the servants."

For instance, the Greene Brothers designed the house using different kinds of wood for the daily areas and that of the servants. The family rooms had more expensive materials like white cedar, mahogany and teak, while the servants quarters were built with maple and sugarpine. 

"It's coding, so these are social codes in a way, but their rooms as well are very functional," said said Mallek. "There's enough space for a bed and a chest of drawers and there are windows for light and ventilation."

The original owners of the house, Mary and David Gamble, came to Pasadena in the early 1900s, as many midwestern and easterners did, to escape the harsh winters. They decided to commission a vacation house in 1907 and employ local architects Charles and Henry Greene, who had already done a number of houses in the area. 

"The Gamble House is really one of the great works of the Greene brothers," said Mallek.  

The Upstairs Downstairs Gamble House tour runs through August 18. Get tickets here

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