Q&A with Textile Designer Jack Lenor Larsen

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September 5, 2013
Originally published in City Living
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Jack Lenor Larsen
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  The textile designer at home at LongHouse Reserve, the Long Island estate he had designed by Charles Forberg, whom Larsen calls “an architect’s architect.” One of the most notable features of the house—inspired in equal parts by Japanese Shinto shrines and Larsen’s old New York City loft—is the 65-foot-long glass ceiling embedded along the spine of the peaked roof.

    The textile designer at home at LongHouse Reserve, the Long Island estate he had designed by Charles Forberg, whom Larsen calls “an architect’s architect.” One of the most notable features of the house—inspired in equal parts by Japanese Shinto shrines and Larsen’s old New York City loft—is the 65-foot-long glass ceiling embedded along the spine of the peaked roof.

  • 
  Living room highlights include a carved chestnut archway by Wharton Esherick, a 1949 Edward Wormley sofa for Dunbar, and a Norfolk pine tree.

    Living room highlights include a carved chestnut archway by Wharton Esherick, a 1949 Edward Wormley sofa for Dunbar, and a Norfolk pine tree.

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  The ground-floor guest room sports built-in beds and a hanging sculpture by Robert Clark.

    The ground-floor guest room sports built-in beds and a hanging sculpture by Robert Clark.

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  While Larsen’s home remains private, LongHouse Reserve’s 16 acres of carefully plotted gardens are open to the public from April through October. For Larsen, planting is a serious industry: “I figured out I could go away on weekends and garden without facing up to leisure.” Flora includes wisteria around the front door.

    While Larsen’s home remains private, LongHouse Reserve’s 16 acres of carefully plotted gardens are open to the public from April through October. For Larsen, planting is a serious industry: “I figured out I could go away on weekends and garden without facing up to leisure.” Flora includes wisteria around the front door.

  • 
  Site-specific installations dot the landscape, like a Sol LeWitt—one of the last he made before his death in 2007.

    Site-specific installations dot the landscape, like a Sol LeWitt—one of the last he made before his death in 2007.

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  The ground floor of the house opens up to a three-story atrium and hosts a few pieces from Larsen’s wide-ranging collections, like a rope sculpture by Mariyo Yagi.

    The ground floor of the house opens up to a three-story atrium and hosts a few pieces from Larsen’s wide-ranging collections, like a rope sculpture by Mariyo Yagi.

  • 
  An installation by Dale Chihuly rests in the pond.

    An installation by Dale Chihuly rests in the pond.

  • 
  The Charles Forberg-designed LongHouse, Larsen’s estate in East Hampton, was inspired in equal parts by Japanese Shinto shrines and Larsen’s old New York City loft. A glass ceiling is embedded along the spine of the peaked roof, and allows for such remarkable rooms as the entryway-turned-greenhouse. Larsen says, “It’s remarkable that there aren’t more glass-ceilinged rooms. It didn’t cost more than a real ceiling, and it doesn’t lose or gain more heat, but if you can’t be outdoors, it’s very pleasant and the plants like it.” The beams and trusswork were made from Douglas fir in Minnesota.
    The Charles Forberg-designed LongHouse, Larsen’s estate in East Hampton, was inspired in equal parts by Japanese Shinto shrines and Larsen’s old New York City loft. A glass ceiling is embedded along the spine of the peaked roof, and allows for such remarkable rooms as the entryway-turned-greenhouse. Larsen says, “It’s remarkable that there aren’t more glass-ceilinged rooms. It didn’t cost more than a real ceiling, and it doesn’t lose or gain more heat, but if you can’t be outdoors, it’s very pleasant and the plants like it.” The beams and trusswork were made from Douglas fir in Minnesota.
  • 
  The grounds of LongHouse are a remarkable example of landscape design—Larsen took a bare lot and filled it in with a pond, hills, trees, and plantings, all arranged in a carefully plotted but seemingly wild horizon line.
    The grounds of LongHouse are a remarkable example of landscape design—Larsen took a bare lot and filled it in with a pond, hills, trees, and plantings, all arranged in a carefully plotted but seemingly wild horizon line.
  • 
  Larsen says he learned to garden at age two-and-a-half, when he was given vegetables to plant: “The first confidence I ever had in my life was growing those radish seeds.” And despite its appearance as a hobby, gardening for Larsen is serious industry: “I figured out I could go away on weekends and garden without facing up to leisure.”
    Larsen says he learned to garden at age two-and-a-half, when he was given vegetables to plant: “The first confidence I ever had in my life was growing those radish seeds.” And despite its appearance as a hobby, gardening for Larsen is serious industry: “I figured out I could go away on weekends and garden without facing up to leisure.”
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  On the second lawn at LongHouse Reserve sits Fly's Eye Dome, fabricated out of fiberglass in 1998 designed by John Kuhtik from a Buckminster Fuller design.
    On the second lawn at LongHouse Reserve sits Fly's Eye Dome, fabricated out of fiberglass in 1998 designed by John Kuhtik from a Buckminster Fuller design.
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  Cobalt glass spears by Seattle artist Dale Chihuly reside in the pond beside the main house. Larsen is both friend and patron to Chihuly, and the two were introduced when the latter was studying interior architecture and weaving. Larsen recalls in his memoir, "When we met, [Chihuly] was heating strips of glass sufficiently to bend them over and under to form an interlaced plane. I suggested he learn glassblowing with Harvey Littleton, the father of modern glass, who had been a prolific potter when I was at Cranbrook." Chihuly then went to Madison, Wisconsin, to study under Littleton, and he then started a school in the Northwest with $2,000 in prize money—now Pilchuck Glass School.
    Cobalt glass spears by Seattle artist Dale Chihuly reside in the pond beside the main house. Larsen is both friend and patron to Chihuly, and the two were introduced when the latter was studying interior architecture and weaving. Larsen recalls in his memoir, "When we met, [Chihuly] was heating strips of glass sufficiently to bend them over and under to form an interlaced plane. I suggested he learn glassblowing with Harvey Littleton, the father of modern glass, who had been a prolific potter when I was at Cranbrook." Chihuly then went to Madison, Wisconsin, to study under Littleton, and he then started a school in the Northwest with $2,000 in prize money—now Pilchuck Glass School.
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