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July 03, 2013

Exploring Russel Wright's Manitoga.

Overlooking the quarry.

In 1942, the industrial designer Russel Wright purchased 75 acres next to an abandoned quarry in Garrison, New York. In addition to building his home and studio there, he also thinned trees, created paths, built moss-carpeted outdoor "rooms," moved boulders and diverted a stream to make a waterfall ... all for the purpose of creating what he called a "living theater."

The entryway in the house.

We were recently treated to a tour of Manitoga, including the studio and residence, the latter of which was christened Dragon Rock by Wright's daughter.

Walking from the entrance toward the bedrooms and bath.


The dining area is next to a wall of boulders and the trunk of a cedar tree, which serves as the building’s primary vertical support post. (Notice anything odd about those dining chairs?)


In addition to bark-covered doors at Manitoga, no two doorknobs are the same.


Russel Wright's studio.


The living roof thrives on the studio.


Wright was such a master with the landscape that even when you know he made changes, it still feels random and natural. Navigating these uneven steps on a path near the quarry – which I think he made difficult on purpose, in order to slow you down and make you enjoy the landscape – it feels as if the rocks shifted here on their own.

Tours of the Wright home and studio are available May-October. Four miles of hiking trails through the landscape can be explored year-round. To schedule a tour, go to


One of the most beautiful places to live that I've ever seen.

"Breathtaking" is the only word that even comes close to describing what I felt as I looked over the pictures of Russell Wright's studio. The genius is in Wright's ability to take the given, natural surroundings and to transform them into a masterpiece of design. He understood, as few others do, the beautiful, implicit tools nature has offered to assist us in our creative endeavors. I look forward to seeing this gem of industrial design in person.

This is such a wonderful house that I hope to visit soon, and yes, I noticed the legs on the dining chairs. Please explain.

To make the Tulip Chair (designed by Eero Saarinen) more stable on the rock floor, Wright replaced the pedestal base with four legs. Unfortunately, the results weren't much better, and the chairs are still a bit rocky on that rock floor. -DWR

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