Modernizing Modern Design – Inspiration for Pioneering New Life

October 14, 2017

I’ve been spending a lot of time behinds the scenes updating old posts and cleaning things out as much as possible.  My digital self footprint is in much the same place as my physical self – a mess.  After 12 years in my current home and 10 years online, there is a lot of pitching and tossing that needs to be done as well as some major overhaul changes that need to be planned. I’m reminded of this when I’m whacked by the fridge door as I make morning coffee in the hallway kitchen or as I wait excruciating minutes to pull up old posts.

This post is an update of one that I originally wrote, about this garden, in 2010.  It feels quite good to freshen it and give it some new love and attention. It is one that worthy of staying – where others are finding themselves in the virtual trash bin.

Wallce K Harrison house - Modern circle garden by Terrain NYC

This is the Wallace K Harrison estate and it was an icon of modern design in the 1930’s when it was originally built.  Harrison was a NY architect that could barely afford to build the house and he used it as his place for professional experimentation.  Le Corbusier, Marc Chagall, and Nelson Rockefeller were friends and regular visitors. It started as an inexpensive prefab house that he built on to – piece by piece – as he could afford it.

By the 2000’s the estate – which is in Huntington, NY faced many structural problems and was hardly livable. But private owners who were willing to literally camp out in the failing structure, hired Schappacher White Architects and Terrain NYC to work out a plan to make the place habitable for modern life.  The renovation took place in 2009 and I wrote about it here in 2010.  Even though it has been 7 years since, I am still blown away by those huge windows, rolling green lawns, stone walls, circle pavers and that pool.

Wallce K Harrison house - Modern circle garden by Terrain NYC

Wallce K Harrison house - Modern circle garden by Terrain NYC

Wallce K harrison house - circle garden by Terrain NYC

Keeping things simple can be very hard to do.  If you don’t pay attention, attics fill with treasures that turn into trash, piecemeal additions start to come apart at the seams, and computers and websites will slow down or stop with the weight of bits and bytes of outdated gibberish.

It is worth taking a look at the project page on the Terrain website –  you can get a sense of what this place was like in another time – a before and after.  I find it so satisfying and encouraging to see how when people fall in love with a landscape and a piece of architecture – their passion can turned into something so honorable and beautiful.

Next weekend we have architects coming to begin planning a makeover and modernization of our home. My house is only slightly younger than this house (built in 1940) and has never been significantly renovated.  We love this place and hope that we can be we can be equally as successful in celebrating what it was and is.  But first we have to continue with the purge and clean out.  I firmly believe that less is more, quality over quantity and I am so eager to transform all the places where I live (both on and off line) in this way.


p.s. I found this story from 2013 in The Financial Times about how Modernism isn’t really modern anymore and how 80+ years later these icons of a design era don’t serve modern life. It features this house and garden and if you are a lover of Modernist architecture and design, it is worth a read.

images: Terrain

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  1. Wow, what an amazing garden. Definitely inspirational!

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