Stepping inside Philip Johnson’s library.

Photo: Gwendolyn Horton

Architect Philip Johnson had his 384-square-foot Library-Study painted white with a red door when it was completed in 1980. However, Johnson later changed the color specifically to a nameless brown because, in his words, “It’s an emotion, not a color.”

Note the Ghost House in the distance. Photo: Gwendolyn Horton

Rarely open to the public, this one-room workspace stands alone on the 49-acre, 14-structure Glass House property that Johnson designed for himself in New Canaan, Connecticut. In Johnson’s day, there was no path to the Library-Study, so guests had to find their own way through tall grass and wetlands. “It keeps the uninteresting people out,” he explained.


Inside, you’ll find a table, two Cross Check Armchairs by Frank Gehry (one of which is the original prototype) and books – lots of books. Arranged by architect, by style and by location, the books celebrate the extent of Johnson’s interests, from The Mosques of Egypt to The Sense of Unity to The Royal Palaces of India. Books you won’t find amid these are the ones about Johnson himself; those were stored elsewhere.


The Library-Study has no restroom because Johnson wanted his “monk’s cell” to be a space without distractions, but it does have a fireplace that Johnson used year-round. There’s but a single window, facing away from the Glass House and overlooking the Ghost House, or “anti-deer” house, which rests on the old foundation of a cow barn. This small window “allows one to observe the weather and Nature,” wrote Johnson, who capitalized “Nature” because Frank Lloyd Wright always did.


Looking up at the skylight over Johnson's desk. Photo: Gwendolyn Horton

There’s a balanced energy in this space – a quiet calm that I imagine has something to do with the pulling in of sunlight from the skylight and the letting go of heat and smoke from the fire.

Built on a reduced scale, the Pavilion interiors measure 5 feet tall. Photo: Gwendolyn Horton

Something many people don’t know: There are two libraries on the Johnson property. The other one is in the Pavilion, an arched precast concrete “playhouse” built on the pond in 1962. It’s divided into four sections that Johnson named the dressing room, the living room, the library and the bedroom. When asked how to tell which was which, Johnson replied, “It’s very clear when you’re in there.”

To schedule a tour of the Glass House, go to

"You cannot not know history." from The Glass House on Vimeo.