Adamson House

Adamson House

Like a sample book sprung to three-dimensional and very colorful life, the Adamson House, a historic property on the beach in Malibu, California, demonstrates the wonders that can be worked with tile, specifically tile made by the Malibu Potteries (1926–1932). And every bit as rich as the tile work, and perfectly in keeping with the Spanish Colonial Revival style of the house, is the ironwork. Architect Stiles O. Clements of Morgan, Walls & Clements, the firm better known for the commission for William Randolph Hearst’s San Simeon, completed the house for Rhoda Rindge Adamson, daughter of the Potteries’ founder, and her husband, in 1930. All the exterior lighting fixtures are fashioned of iron, and in designing them, Clements factored in an element that is often overlooked: how they function during the day. On the second story terrace, for instance, above a tile “warming” bench built into a wall shared with the chimney, is an oversize light of filigreed wrought iron. It is supported by a lyrical bracket set in the midst of an expanse of white stucco. Clements recognized the value of white space as a quiet pause amid the jingling of lively tile patterns and as an important participant in shadow play. By day, the spiky fixture, aided by the brilliant California sun, casts an exaggerated cactus-like shadow. Come nightfall, electrical illumination alters the silhouette and the mood. A second example: Lining the perimeter of the terrace is a parade of crook-like bishop’s stanchions. At night, the hooks provide support for individual lanterns or a string of lights. Clements could have designed them to be only temporary fittings, to be installed for festive occasions. By making them permanent he expanded their role, transforming them into decorative elements that add rhythm and a flourish to the parapet.