Banking on Beauty: Millard Sheets and Midcentury Commercial Architecture in California

Banking On Beauty

Winner, PROSE Awards, Best 2018 Book on Architecture or Urban Planning!
DOCOMOMO-US 2018 Modernism in America Awards, Citation of Merit for Inventory/Survey

Expansively researched and illustrated, this lively history recounts how the extraordinary partnership of financier Howard Ahmanson and artist Millard Sheets produced outstanding mid-century modern architecture and art for Home Savings and Loan and other commercial clients.

See the list of Home Savings art and architecture locations and Millard Sheets Studio commercial commissions.

Read my one hundred blog posts about my research in creating this book.

Other Helpful Links

Upcoming Events

Praise For Banking on Beauty

“Arenson’s research has uncovered an extensive legacy of 'every man modernism' that was largely unknown and under-appreciated, and brings attention to main street architecture with real design value and the impact of individual grassroots efforts.” - 2018 DOCOMOMO US Modernism in America Awards, Citation of Merit

Banking on Beauty invites readers to remember a time when our captains of industry cared about public spaces as much as they did the bottom line — and it also challenges us to preserve those remaining buildings that possess Sheets originals." - Gustavo Arellano, "Three Worthy Books for the California Reader," Los Angeles Times

"Once upon a time, a visit to a department store or a branch bank was a chance to be inspired by fine art. Architects incorporated custom paintings, sculpture, and stained glass into these common buildings in an era of popular luxury....Local history was a favorite subject for enormous mosaic installations on prominent corners throughout the state....This richly illustrated book finally tells their story." - Chris Nichols, "The Best Books about LA in 2018," Los Angeles Magazine

"A lavish history." - David Allen, Year in Reading, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin

"[Home Savings's buildings'] beauty can continue to delight. If you’d like to explore these yourself, you won’t find a better guide than Arenson’s Banking on Beauty." - The Objective Standard


Home Savings in Pasadena: A Turning Point for the Millard Sheets Studio’s Art and Architecture, and its Preservation,” California History Leading Edge column, Summer 2016.

Millard Sheets Art in Beverly Hills.” Beverly Hills Television. May 2014.

Happy Birthday Millard Sheets: Top Ten Public Art Projects to See in Person,” KCET Departures guest post, June 24, 2013.

Millard Sheets Mosaic Back in Beverly Hills,” KCET Departures guest post, April 16, 2013.

How midcentury mosaics were saved, weeks from the wrecking ball,” Dallas Morning News July 27, 2012.

Interview (audio), Creative Orange County by GYST Radio, May 29, 2012.

Millard Sheets: A Legacy of Art and Architecture” booklet, with the L.A. Conservancy volunteers and staff, in conjunction with Pomona Valley sites tour. March 2012.

Paying Dividends: How Home Savings & Loan Perfected the Art of Banking in Southern California,” Huntington Frontiers (Fall/Winter 2011-2012), 18-24.

The Art of Home Savings in San Fernando Valley mosaics, sculptures,” Daily News Los Angeles, October 10, 2011.

How Research Blogging Improves Urban History,” Urban History Association Newsletter(August 2011), 10-11.

Saving the Bank’s Artistic Assets,” Edge of the American West (April 24, 2009).