Robert and I took a ride to Garrison, New York the weekend before last and toured Manitoga, the home and studio of the iconic 40’s and 50’s industrial designer Russel Wright. It was a real pain to find (once again, we owe that to Map Quest’s less than dreamy directions), but we made the tour in just the nick of time. And BOY, WAS IT WORTH IT! The grounds were incredible, the house and studio incredible. RUN. DON”T WALK, kids!
Of course, I knew Russel Wright for the above ceramics. In college, my friend James had an incredible collection, and that was my first introduction. But I didn’t realize he was such a nature lover too. Try to find his home in the picture below. Wright was playing “Where’s Waldo” long before there was a “Where’s Waldo” as it was really important for him to integrate his home into the grounds with the least impact on the land. Perhaps his roof was one of the first “green” roofs ever with grasses and then sedum planted on the entire, flat rooftop? His natural concerns in the 50’s and 60’s were so ahead of his time. So many of his personal design concerns from that period are in vogue right now. Pretty cool.
He “encouraged” moss gardens (below). I didn’t know anything so yummy was growing in the northeast.
A couple of years back, I had been obsessed with moss patches. Note our moss “wall,” created for an event for the Turner Networks (below).
The house itself (below) was kind of like a cross between Falling Water and perhaps the Eames home in California. He brought the outside inside and the glass walls blurred those boundaries. Natural boulders, tree trunks, bark covered doors, stone door knobs, and other sensitive surprises were juxtaposed to the iconic and mass produced furniture of the times from companies like Herman Miller. Of course, Russel Wright’s tableware graced the kitchen.
The below screen of butterflies, pressed between a filmy plexi created a pocket door to the bathroom in the house (right). Doorknobs were surprising moments. A carved face here, an actual stone from the woods there, become tactile experiences, not just utilitarian features (left).
Wright’s studio (below) was in a separate wing of the house. The male guests stayed here. The female guests stayed in the “Harem Wing” of the main house. (wink!)
You need to make a reservation to tour the house. It is well worth it. Without a reservation, you can hike the grounds of the property. I believe there are 60 or 80 miles of trails. But if you go there, it would be a shame to not peek inside Wright’s sanctuary and mind. You know what I mean?