Restoring Breuer's House in Garden

written by:
February 20, 2011

Kykuit, the Rockefeller estate in Pocantico Hills, New York, hearkens from the days of robber barons and captains of industry. Acres of manicured lawns, a six-story stone-clad mansion, carriage house, golf course, and sculpture garden have an unlikely neighbor: a modest home intended for America’s everyman—America’s everyman with good taste, that is.

Read Full Article
  • 
  The restoration of Marcel Breuer's House in a Museum Garden is an exercise in balancing the Bauhaus architect's original intent with the realities of everyday living. Photograph by Diana Budds.
    The restoration of Marcel Breuer's House in a Museum Garden is an exercise in balancing the Bauhaus architect's original intent with the realities of everyday living. Photograph by Diana Budds.
  • 
  A defining characteristic of Breuer’s design is the butterfly roof: the exact opposite of the high-pitched roof line that characterizes the Cape Cod vernacular style. Photo by Diana Budds.
    A defining characteristic of Breuer’s design is the butterfly roof: the exact opposite of the high-pitched roof line that characterizes the Cape Cod vernacular style. Photo by Diana Budds.
  • 
  Fashioned out of steel, the delicate exterior staircase—one of Breuer's specialties—leads up to the master bedroom on the second level. Photo by Diana Budds.
    Fashioned out of steel, the delicate exterior staircase—one of Breuer's specialties—leads up to the master bedroom on the second level. Photo by Diana Budds.
  • 
  Here is a photograph of the living room prior to the restoration. Note the height of the kitchen partition and the carpeted floor. “When the house was moved here in 1950, they put it on a concrete slab foundation. It had blue stone flagging in the exhibition, and that obviously was not moved here,” says Kimberly Miller, Staff Architect for the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. “They put down cork tile and then carpeting." Photo courtesy of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.
    Here is a photograph of the living room prior to the restoration. Note the height of the kitchen partition and the carpeted floor. “When the house was moved here in 1950, they put it on a concrete slab foundation. It had blue stone flagging in the exhibition, and that obviously was not moved here,” says Kimberly Miller, Staff Architect for the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. “They put down cork tile and then carpeting." Photo courtesy of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.
  • 
  Another view of the living room, pre-restoration. When the house was moved in 1950, the fireplace was reconstructed in a slightly different pattern from the exhibition. Photo courtesy of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.
    Another view of the living room, pre-restoration. When the house was moved in 1950, the fireplace was reconstructed in a slightly different pattern from the exhibition. Photo courtesy of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.
  • 
  The main living space after a healthy amount of restorative work, both structural and in the furnishings. "There wasn’t enough room to put blue stone flagging down," says Miller. "As an interim solution, we put down slate. We’re not sure how we’re going to resolve that—or if we’re ever going to be able to—but at least the floor slate matches the slate on the patio outside.” Photo courtesy of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.
    The main living space after a healthy amount of restorative work, both structural and in the furnishings. "There wasn’t enough room to put blue stone flagging down," says Miller. "As an interim solution, we put down slate. We’re not sure how we’re going to resolve that—or if we’re ever going to be able to—but at least the floor slate matches the slate on the patio outside.” Photo courtesy of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.
  • 
  The master bedroom suite located on the second level overlooking the living room acts as an “apartment” separate from the rest of the home—a feature of Breuer's “bi-nuclear” design. An innovative feature of Breuer’s design is its adaptability. As a family grew, so could the house. The pocket doors are housed in the chimney and are on a track in line with the blue wall. Also, note the "tension cable" in the background. Photo courtesy of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.
    The master bedroom suite located on the second level overlooking the living room acts as an “apartment” separate from the rest of the home—a feature of Breuer's “bi-nuclear” design. An innovative feature of Breuer’s design is its adaptability. As a family grew, so could the house. The pocket doors are housed in the chimney and are on a track in line with the blue wall. Also, note the "tension cable" in the background. Photo courtesy of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.
  • 
  These Saarinen Grasshopper chairs were recently reupholstered with Knoll fabrics. The bent plywood nesting table between the chairs was designed by Breuer in 1935, is currently produced by Isokon in London, and was the first furnishing purchased for the restoration. "We used Ezra Stoller's period photography and the registrar's list from MoMA to see what was originally in the house," says Cynthia Altman, Kykuit's Senior Curator. "Luckily because mid-century has become so popular these days pieces are being reissued." Photo by Diana Budds.
    These Saarinen Grasshopper chairs were recently reupholstered with Knoll fabrics. The bent plywood nesting table between the chairs was designed by Breuer in 1935, is currently produced by Isokon in London, and was the first furnishing purchased for the restoration. "We used Ezra Stoller's period photography and the registrar's list from MoMA to see what was originally in the house," says Cynthia Altman, Kykuit's Senior Curator. "Luckily because mid-century has become so popular these days pieces are being reissued." Photo by Diana Budds.
  • 
  “When we inherited the house it had an orange sofa with a metal frame,” says Altman. “We heard about an auction at Wright in Chicago that had a beige Knoll sofa, and we bought it and had it shipped out here. I think the one in the exhibit house was referred to as a “two-tone beige” sofa—and we haven’t found a two-tone one—but at least we have the wooden framed beige sofa now." Photo by Diana Budds.
    “When we inherited the house it had an orange sofa with a metal frame,” says Altman. “We heard about an auction at Wright in Chicago that had a beige Knoll sofa, and we bought it and had it shipped out here. I think the one in the exhibit house was referred to as a “two-tone beige” sofa—and we haven’t found a two-tone one—but at least we have the wooden framed beige sofa now." Photo by Diana Budds.
  • 
  One of the major changes to the house when it was rebuilt in 1950 was the raised height of the kitchen wall. “Extending the wall up disguised the line of the butterfly ceiling,” says Altman. Here, a team of craftsmen commissioned by the RBF works on deconstructing the upper portion of a non-lode bearing wall separating the kitchen from the living room. Photo courtesy of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.
    One of the major changes to the house when it was rebuilt in 1950 was the raised height of the kitchen wall. “Extending the wall up disguised the line of the butterfly ceiling,” says Altman. Here, a team of craftsmen commissioned by the RBF works on deconstructing the upper portion of a non-lode bearing wall separating the kitchen from the living room. Photo courtesy of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.
  • 
  The sloping ceiling helped achieve an extraordinary feeling of spaciousness in the relatively small house. Interior partitions rarely met the roof line and the larger space is generally conspicuous from the smaller rooms. “We thought [the extension] got in the way of Breuer’s original intent. Things didn’t flow as they do now between the kitchen, the living room and the master bedroom,” says Miller. The glassware and Heath Ceramics cups, saucers, and mugs on the shelves are designs contemporaneous with the house, though Miller and Altman had to take a stab at the color. Photo courtesy of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.
    The sloping ceiling helped achieve an extraordinary feeling of spaciousness in the relatively small house. Interior partitions rarely met the roof line and the larger space is generally conspicuous from the smaller rooms. “We thought [the extension] got in the way of Breuer’s original intent. Things didn’t flow as they do now between the kitchen, the living room and the master bedroom,” says Miller. The glassware and Heath Ceramics cups, saucers, and mugs on the shelves are designs contemporaneous with the house, though Miller and Altman had to take a stab at the color. Photo courtesy of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.
  • 
  The kitchen is one of the most unified spaces in the house, thanks to the appliances. “Within a week of each other, we found the 1949 GE stove on E-Bay that matched the fridge,” says Miller. “They were the same model of appliances that were used in the exhibition house; they matched the pictures exactly. The owner even had the original instruction booklet and the appliances were in pristine condition. It was an amazing discovery.” Photo by Diana Budds.
    The kitchen is one of the most unified spaces in the house, thanks to the appliances. “Within a week of each other, we found the 1949 GE stove on E-Bay that matched the fridge,” says Miller. “They were the same model of appliances that were used in the exhibition house; they matched the pictures exactly. The owner even had the original instruction booklet and the appliances were in pristine condition. It was an amazing discovery.” Photo by Diana Budds.
  • 
  The rear facade of the house showing the slope of the butterfly roof. Photo by Diana Budds.
    The rear facade of the house showing the slope of the butterfly roof. Photo by Diana Budds.
  • 
  A dining table and chairs in the what was originally the playroom. The striped drapes were specially made for the house. "We commissioned fabrics for the draperies and there was a color photograph, but it was still hard to interpret,” says Altman. “It was still difficult to determine the right proportion of the stripes and the right tone of the fabric, but I think we got fairly close. We were really trying to recreate its feel.” Photo by Diana Budds.
    A dining table and chairs in the what was originally the playroom. The striped drapes were specially made for the house. "We commissioned fabrics for the draperies and there was a color photograph, but it was still hard to interpret,” says Altman. “It was still difficult to determine the right proportion of the stripes and the right tone of the fabric, but I think we got fairly close. We were really trying to recreate its feel.” Photo by Diana Budds.
  • 
  The new iteration of the bathroom features Carrara glass tile, though the original was plywood. Photo courtesy of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.
    The new iteration of the bathroom features Carrara glass tile, though the original was plywood. Photo courtesy of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.
  • 
  Another retro bathroom in the house. Photo by Diana Budds.
    Another retro bathroom in the house. Photo by Diana Budds.
  • 
  Homes in San Francisco's Sunset District, where this is located, are almost all two-story houses in which the first floor is a deep garage and the second floor is the living space. "We'd seen renovations in this area before and they always ended up as cave-like spaces," Pare-Mayer says. "We knew we had to do this renovation in a smart way." But first they had to get into the space.
    Homes in San Francisco's Sunset District, where this is located, are almost all two-story houses in which the first floor is a deep garage and the second floor is the living space. "We'd seen renovations in this area before and they always ended up as cave-like spaces," Pare-Mayer says. "We knew we had to do this renovation in a smart way." But first they had to get into the space.
  • 
  The garage, post-restoration. Photo courtesy of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.
    The garage, post-restoration. Photo courtesy of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.
  • 
  The Annex was built in 1952 and originally served as staff bedrooms. When I went to Kykuit, some of my fellow visitors remarked that the annex "distracts" from Breuer's original design, as it obscures an in-the-round view of the main house. Photo by Diana Budds.
    The Annex was built in 1952 and originally served as staff bedrooms. When I went to Kykuit, some of my fellow visitors remarked that the annex "distracts" from Breuer's original design, as it obscures an in-the-round view of the main house. Photo by Diana Budds.

@current / @total

Read Full Article

Join the Discussion

Loading comments...