Window Grates by Cliff May

One of the key features of Cliff May’s houses in the 1930s is the use of one or two wooden window grates on the front facade—indeed, I consider them a key defining characteristic for his houses and one of the ways to verify that you’re looking at a Cliff May design.   Although wooden window grates appear on other houses of the period, what makes Cliff May’s distinctive are the use of a frame composed of 2″ x 2″ lumber whose edges are rustically carved and joined by bolts at the corners, always filled with smaller vertical posts, and occasionally horizontal rails.   In addition, he often adds one or two small framed openings, a feature that seems to have no apparent precedent nor was used by other designers.   Early photos show flower pots placed in the openings, however, this seems to be a precarious spot to rest a heavy clay pot (and perhaps why they’re all now empty!).  Below are a sampling of window grates from San Diego to give you a sense of the variety and similarities.