Completed in 1960, the Richard Neutra-designed Glen House in Stamford, Connecticut is the sibling of Neutra’s Singleton House, which he designed concurrently for a client in Los Angeles, California. Both houses beautifully demonstrate the architect’s belief that “good architecture reconciles humanity with nature in an exultant dance of interconnectedness.” To ensure that he delivered on this for the Glen family, Neutra camped out on the empty lot under a full moon. The result is a house that’s perfectly situated to take full advantage of the sun and moon at all times of year. “It’s a theatrical experience,” says current homeowner John Paolini.
When this house came on the market in 2005, it was in need of serious restoration but that didn’t stop Paolini and his husband Eric Rota. “We kept getting overbid on properties in Brooklyn, but the only way we’d leave the city was for a house with pedigree midcentury architecture,” says Paolini. They’d never heard of Stamford, but when the couple saw the property, they knew it was the house for them. “It was all I could do not to reveal my enthusiasm in front of the realtor,” says Paolini. “One of my lifelong dreams was to live in a Neutra house.”
After completing the immediate repairs needed to stabilize the house, the fun work began to restore it. Not to return it to its as-built state in 1960, but to make it the house Neutra originally designed but had to alter due to the Glen family’s budget and special requests. The most visible alteration was the exterior being clad in wood siding rather than the whitewashed brick Neutra intended to use. Paolini and Rota have started changing the exterior to whitewashed stucco, and the difference is stunning.
Inside the house, the couple was able to embrace both the old and new as they opened up the kitchen and made the space more suitable to how families live today. “It was a challenge to think about the history of the house without letting it dictate our decisions,” says Paolini. “We worked with two great architects who understood we didn’t want to live in a time capsule. That said, he [Neutra] still tells us what to do. His voice as an architect is so strong in this house that when we try to put something in a place where he didn’t specify furniture, we feel that it’s wrong. We have to submit to it and find new ways to be creative.”
Fortunately for these homeowners, living in a world created by Richard Neutra is proving to be the dream they hoped it would be, and I imagine that Neutra would be very pleased with how they’ve finally fulfilled – and even expanded upon – his vision for this very special property.