The Gropius House & 14 More Mid Century Modern Homes You Can Tour
1. Gropius House
68 Baker Bridge Road, Lincoln, MA 01773
For more information visit www.historicnewengland.org
Walter Gropius, the founder of the highly influential Bauhaus School, designed this striking home in 1938 after moving from Germany to Massachusetts to teach at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. Combining traditional elements of New England architecture, including wood, brick, and fieldstone, with innovative materials such as glass block, acoustical plaster, and chrome banisters, the Gropius House was one of the most shockingly modern and progressive homes ever created in the United States. Modest in scale, the Gropius House adhered to the Bauhaus’ design philosophy, which emphasized simplicity as well as efficiency. The house, which is owned by Historic New England, still contains the Gropius family’s possessions, including a significant collection of furniture designed by Marcel Breuer and fabricated in the Bauhaus workshops. The Gropius House is open for public tours year round.
In the mid-1960s, Walter Annenberg, an American diplomat, and his wife, Leonore, hired A. Quincy Jones, a Los Angeles-based architect and dean of the School of Architecture at the University of Southern California, to create a purely Modernist estate. A master at integrating houses into the surrounding landscape, Jones outfitted the Annenberg’s home with expansive walls of glass as well as cactus and rose gardens, seamlessly blending Sunnylands’ indoor spaces with the outside world. The spacious interiors, designed by William Haines and Ted Graber, flow into each other with the same openness as the surrounding landscape and the home features one of Jones’ signature roofs -- a pink pyramid meant to match Rancho Mirage’s glowing sunsets. Today, in addition to hosting a variety of civic-minded meetings and events, Sunnylands is open for public tours. Guests can visit the historic Sunnylands estate, which includes the Annenbergs incredible collections of Impressionist and post-Impressionist paintings, Chinese porcelain, Meissen vases, Chinese cloisonné objects and furniture, Tang Dynasty funerary sculpture, Flora Danica china, Steuben glass, and English silver-gilt objects.
3. Georgia O'Keeffe's Home & Studio
County Road 164, Abiquiu, NM 87510
For more information visit www.okeeffemuseum.org
Georgia O’Keeffe purchased her 5,000-square-foot Spanish Colonial-era Abiquiu home in 1945, when the residence was in ruins. The Modernist master enlisted her friend, Maria Chabot, to help with a considerable restoration, which involved rehabilitating the original adobe structure. While many of the historic features remained, the influence of the modern aesthetic is beautifully apparent -- the interiors are clean and utilitarian, thick adobe walls are broken up by large expanses of fixed glass, and O’Keeffe’s spare studio features white-stained, elegantly-curved vigas. O’Keeffe moved from New York to New Mexico in 1949 and split her time between Abiquiu and her Ghost Ranch houses until 1984, when she moved to Santa Fe. The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum owns and operates O’Keeffe’s Abiquiu Home & Studio, which was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1998. In addition to touring O’Keeffe’s personal residence and workspace, visitors can take in the stunning, meditative landscape that provided endless inspiration to one of history’s most influential artists.
The Kugel/Gips House was designed by the Cape Cod-based Modernist architect Charlie Zehnder in 1970. Commissioned by Peter Kugel, a retired Boston College professor, and his wife, Judy, the dean of students at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, the secluded retreat was abandoned for eleven years before the Cape Cod Modern House Trust took over the lease in 2009. After a comprehensive restoration, the three-bedroom home, which is a short walk from the ocean and features cantilevered decks and eaves, expansive glass walls, and period-appropriate furniture and art, opened to the public. The Kugel/Gips House, along with nearby Modernist structures, the Hatch Cottage and the Weidlinger House, are available to rent between April and September -- the rest of the year they are used for artist and scholar residencies. For more information, check out Cape Cod Modern: Midcentury Architecture and Community on the Outer Cape by the Cape Cod Modern House Trust’s Founding Director Peter McMahon and writer Christine Cipriani, which tells the fascinating story of the cosmopolitan group of designers who settled in Wellfleet and Truro between the 1930s and 1970s, and the experimental architectural legacy that they left behind.
Designed in 1921 by Rudolph M. Schindler, the Schindler House was conceived as an experiment in communal living. Schindler and his wife Pauline shared the groundbreaking home with Clyde and Marian Chace. Boasting four rooms, one for each person to “express his or her individuality,” the Schindler House also includes communal gathering areas in the garden, a shared kitchen, outdoor sleeping porches, and a guest apartment with its own kitchen and bath. A pioneer of California modern architecture, Schindler used industrial materials to construct the house and his design is noted for its deft integration of the outside environment and efficiently organized living space. The Schindler House is open to the public year round, from Wednesday through Sunday.
6. The Guest House at Field Farm
554 Sloan Road, Williamstown, MA 01267
For more information visit www.thetrustees.org/field-farm
This modern marvel is nestled in the bucolic Berkshires and offers stunning views of Mt. Greylock, the highest peak in Massachusetts. Designed in 1948 by Edwin Goodell, Jr. for avid modern art and furniture collectors Lawrence and Eleanor Bloedel, the Bauhaus-inspired home is now a chic-as-they-get bed and breakfast. All six guest rooms are outfitted with a well-curated selection of modern art and furnishings, including pieces by such design luminaries as Vladimir Kagan and Isamu Noguchi. Patrons of the Guest House can take guided tours of another Modernist gem on the property -- The Folly, a three-bedroom, pinwheel-shaped shingled guest cottage designed in 1965 by the Brutalist architect Ulrich Franzen. The organically shaped structure still contains furnishings designed by Franzen and is complemented by a sculpture garden with modern works by Richard M. Miller and Herbert Ferber.
7. Saarinen House
Cranbrook Art Museum, 39221 Woodward Avenue, Bloomfield Hills, MI 48303-0801
For more information visit www.cranbrookart.edu
Designed by the highly influential architect Eliel Saarinen in the 1920s, this Art Deco masterpiece sits on the campus of the Cranbrook Art Museum. From 1930 through 1950, the structure served as the home and studio of Saarinen, Cranbrook’s first resident architect and the Cranbrook Academy of Art’s inaugural president and head of the Architecture Department, and his wife Loja, the first head of the Academy’s Weaving Department. Today, museum visitors can take staff-guided tours (offered May through October) of the residence, which features impeccably restored interiors outfitted with the Saarinens’ original furnishings, including Eliel’s delicately-veneered furniture and Loja’s magnificent textiles as well as early furniture designs by their son Eero Saarinen.
8. Frelinghuysen Morris House and Studio
92 Hawthorne Street, Lenox, MA 01240
For more information visit www.frelinghuysen.org
George L. K. Morris and Suzy Frelinghuysen, well-known abstract artists, collectors, and intellectuals, created this Berkshire residence to reflect their aesthetically-minded lives. After a stint in Paris spent studying with Fernand Leger and Amedee Ozenfant in Ozenfants's Le Corbusier-designed studio, Morris returned to the United States with the idea of duplicating the chic Parisian workspace. In 1930, Morris enlisted the Boston-based architect George Sanderson to help him bring his vision to fruition. Later, after marrying Frelinghuysen, Morris had local architect John Butler Swann integrate a home into the existing studio. Inspired by indigenous structures in New Mexico and Arizona, Sanderson created a decidedly modern, two-story stucco and glass block house. Morris adorned the living room with frescoes, while Frelinghuysen created her designs in the dining room. The couple decorated their striking home with furniture by Paul Frankl, Donald Deskey, and Alvar Aalto, creating an atmosphere that harmoniously blended art, architecture and design. Visitors can tour the Frelinghuysen Morris House and Studio, which includes all of its original furnishings as well as artworks by Morris, Frelinghuysen, Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Fernand Leger, and Juan Gris.
9. The Glass House
199 Elm Street, New Canaan, CT 06840
For more information visit www.theglasshouse.org
The Glass House, Philip Johnson's icon of modern architecture, is situated on nearly fifty acres of pastoral land in New Canaan, Connecticut. The site is comprised of fourteen structures, including the Glass House, and features a permanent collection of 20th-century painting and sculpture, along with temporary exhibitions. Completed in 1949, Johnson lived in the Glass House with his partner, David Whitney, until his death in 2005. When it was originally constructed, the home helped integrate the International Style, which emphasized form and aesthetics, into residential American architecture. Most of the furniture in the Glass House came from Johnson’s Mies van der Rohe-designed New York City apartment. Notable artworks include a seventeenth-century painting by the French artist Nicolas Poussin and a work by the modernist sculptor Elie Nadelman. Now a National Trust Historic Site, visitors can tour the Glass House between May and November of each year.
10. Twin Palms Frank Sinatra Estate
1148 East Alejo Road, Palm Springs, CA 92262
For more information visit www.sinatrahouse.com
Frank Sinatra enlisted E. Stewart Williams to design this legendary estate in the 1940s after signing a lucrative contract with MGM. The iconic crooner originally envisioned a palatial Georgian-style mansion, but after seeing Williams’ renderings of a stunningly Modern and more desert appropriate home, Sinatra agreed to a more progressive structure. Once a sleepy desert town, Palm Springs became the go-to getaway for the movie industry’s elite after Sinatra moved in, setting the tone for postwar Hollywood luxury. The elegant Desert Modern house because a star in its right, making appearances in Joan Crawford’s The Damned Don’t Cry and Julius Shulman’s celebrated architectural photographs. The sleek estate, which features period furnishings and a piano-shaped swimming pool, is available to rent for a variety of events including private vacations, corporate retreats, and dinner parties.
Taliesin, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Wisconsin residence, ultimately grants visitors an intimate glimpse inside the creative process of one of the twentieth century’s most influential architects. Built in 1911, Taliesin served as the springboard for the ideas, concepts, and techniques that came to define Wright’s exceptional structures, which harmonize architecture, art, culture and the land. The longest on-going project of Wright’s career, Taliesin is set on a sprawling 600-acre estate and is a stunning example of Wright’s “Prairie” style, which is defined by its organic horizontality. Taliesin Preservation, Inc. and the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation are dedicated to preserving Taliesin as well as sharing Wright’s incomparable vision with the public. A variety of tours of the Taliesin Estate are available from May through October.
Richard Neutra, one of the most important and influential Modernist architects, built the sleek and efficient Neutra VDL House in 1932 to accommodate his office and family. In 1940, as his family expanded, Neutra added a small garden house to the striking glass home, which was named after the residence’s first benefactor, the Dutch philanthropist Dr. CH Van Der Leeuw. In the 1960s, a devastating fire claimed much of the house and Neutra and his son and partner, Dion, redesigned the main residence. The new structure, which features two floors and a penthouse solarium on the original prefabricated basement structure, went on to serve as the birthplace of hundreds of groundbreaking Neutra projects. Today, the austere yet inviting VDL House is owned by Cal Poly Pomona College of Environmental Design and is on the National Register of Historic Places. The main house, which has been preserved and restored in historically-accurate detail, is open for tours every Saturday.
13. The Alden B. Dow Home & Studio
315 Post Street, Midland, MI 48640
For more information visit www.abdow.org
By 1939, the twentieth-century architect Alden B. Dow had designed over twenty unique homes in the small town of Midland, Michigan. In 1941, construction on a Modernist abode of his own drew to a close. A student of Frank Lloyd Wright, Dow’s designs were dictated by a desire to create balance between the built environment and the natural world. Thank to its flowing spaces, light-filled rooms, soaring ceilings, vast windows, and sweeping views of a terraced garden, the 20,000-square-foot Alden B. Dow House exemplifies the architect’s organic style. The home, which features a stunning collection of mid-century modern design, including furniture by Harry Bertoia, Arne Jacobsen, and Ray and Charles Eames as well as American pottery and Scandinavian glass, also boasts delightful mix of colors, textures, patterns, and shapes that reflect Dow’s playful spirit. Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1989, the Alden B. Dow Home & Studio is open year round for public and private tours.
14. The Eames House
203 North Chautauqua Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90272
For more information visit www.eamesfoundation.org
The Eames House stands as a monument to the genius of Ray and Charles Eames, the legendary husband-and-wife team responsible for some of the modern era’s most iconic designs. The simple yet stylish home was one of roughly two dozen residences built as part of The Case Study House Program, an experimental design program that explored functionality and efficiency in modern American residential architecture. The Eameses designed the home, which is located in Los Angeles’ affluent Pacific Palisades neighborhood, with an older, creative couple, much like themselves, in mind. The goal was to create a space that required little upkeep, nurtured the creative process, and stood in harmony with the natural world. The Eameses moved into their dream home in 1949 and spent the rest of their lives there. The house, which has remained virtually unchanged over the years, is open for self-guided exterior tours as well as guided tours of the home’s incredibly inviting interiors.
15. The Zimmerman House
The Currier Museum of Art, 223 Heather Street, Manchester, NH 03104
For more information visit www.currier.org/collections/zimmerman-house
Built in 1950, the Isadore J. and Lucille Zimmerman House is the only Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home open to the public in New England. The Modernist masterpiece, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979, was donated to the Currier Museum of Art by the Zimmermans in 1988. The single-story structure is an example of a Usonian home, which Wright began designing in 1936. The houses, which erred on the smaller side, were made with middle-income families in mind and featured a strong visual connection between exterior and interior spaces. Wright designed the Zimmerman House in its entirety, including all interiors, furniture, and gardens. The architectural gem, which includes the Zimmermans’ personal collection of modern art, pottery, and sculpture, is open and available for guided tours through the Currier Museum.