Gardner Dailey: Birth of the Modern

Gardner Dailey: Birth of the Modern

  • Geoffrey Nelson
  • 12/21/21

In the mid to late 1930s, architect Gardner Dailey broke new ground with a distinct departure from the richly ornamented European Revivals of the 1920s and early 1930s. Perhaps no other Bay Area architect had a more profound impact on transitioning beyond 1920s Period Revival into the realms of a new modern expression. Where the 1920s Revivals oozed of lyrical Spanish Colonials and hearty Tudors, Dailey innovated a modern genre of clean lines, effortless indoor/outdoor flow, and uncommonly tall windows and doors that brought the gardens inside. And the result: a true synthesis of "home as canvas," where the grandeur of a European villa met the sleek elements and functionality of a new age. My recent sale on Floribunda Avenue is a quintessential circa-1939 Dailey composition I coined “Regency Moderné, for its fluent meeting of classicism and contemporary. Here we can marvel at Dailey hallmarks of complete integration of home and garden, coupled with a crisp linear silhouette. The purity of line becomes the focus of the aesthetic, while also being the vehicle between interiors, terraces, and, gardens.

Why draw attention to an architect from nearly 90 years ago with only a small handful of remaining houses in the area? Influence. Innovation. Inspiration. Without Dailey, today’s popular Modern Farmhouse would not exist. Without Dailey’s vision, celebration of indoor/outdoor dynamics would not have evolved so elegantly within the modern vernacular. Minimalism and its application to art display, infusing light, and garden or poolside entertaining, becomes de rigeur in Dailey’s works. Sense of Arrival was another sensation Dailey incorporated to stunning effect. The Two-Story Foyer and Statement Staircase became gestures for streaming light or flowing to a garden terrace without delay. In the case of my Floribunda sale, we find the genesis of today’s “NanaWall,” decades ahead of its time, with a gracefully retracting row of glass doors defining an entire wall accessing the Pool Plaza. I must say, these doors function more smoothly than today’s models! Much like a conservatory pianist will analyze the playing of Vladimir Horowitz, designers, architects, builders, and the home dreamer will find unlimited inspiration in Dailey as a master. I have been fortunate to represent the sale of three Gardner Dailey masterpieces throughout my career, each house spinning its own story amidst the gardens.

In Hillsborough, architecture defines the lifestyle. We have been blessed with a streetscape peppered with surviving gems by the likes of Arthur Brown Jr., Willis Polk, Lewis Hobart, George Howard, Frank Lloyd Wright, and William Wurster. With Hillsborough’s drafting boards currently leaning heavily on modern and transitional, Gardner Dailey rightfully takes his place in the canon as the Birth of the Modern. 

Geoffrey Nelson Markets and Sells Hillsborough's Most Unique Estates: Contact cell/text: 650-455-3735 

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