We're always searching for the perfect design day trips from New York City. So, when a friend mentioned that we should check out the Philip Johnson Glass House, just about an hour outside of the city in New Canaan, CT, we jumped at the chance. Sitting on a pastoral 49-acre tract of land, this iconic modernist home and its adjacent structures (housing Johnson's library and art collection) makes for the perfect getaway on a crisp fall day.
The entire experience is clearly well-considered. The Glass House first appears as a sliver peeking out over a crest beyond a stone wall, before being delivered in its full grandeur as you follow a meandering path. Philip Johnson, whose storied career as an architect includes New York landmarks like the Seagram Building, 550 Madison Avenue, and the Museum of Modern Art Sculpture Garden, designed the Glass House to be his weekend retreat, and he lived there along with his partner, David Whitney until his death in 2005.
We took a two-hour guided tour of the home, discovering the kind of fascinating tid-bits that bring a place to life. Perfectly illustrating just how important the Glass House is to contemporary culture, we learned that it acted as the setting for the now-forgotten 1967 "Country Happening" event, where New York's art community, including frequent Glass House guest, Andy Warhol and scores of others descended on the grounds for a bucolic day out featuring performances from the Merce Cunningham Dance Company and a live concert from a young Lou Reed, with his burgeoning art-rock band, The Velvet Underground (though we're told no photographic evidence of the latter performance exists.)
Our photo essay below, gives a strong sense of what it's like to live in a structure where all four walls are made entirely of glass - taking the Frank Lloyd Wright "bring the outside in" mantra to an almost illogical extreme. And, the interior decor (can we call it that?), left intact exactly as Johnson and Whitney had devised, includes original pieces like the now iconic Mies van der Rohe 'Barcelona Chair,' wire chairs by Harry Bertoia, and more.