In 1942, the industrial designer Russel Wright and his wife, Mary Small Einstein, purchased a 75-acre abandoned stone quarry in Garrison, New York, on the eastern side of the Hudson River. The wooded site has a spectacular view down to the river, and Wright lived on the property until his death in 1976. He chose a dramatic spot above and adjacent to the deep stone quarry to build a home he called Dragon Rock, and spent the rest of his life refining and redesigning the terrain. For example, he redirected a stream to fill the quarry with water, creating an idyllic swimming pond.
The entrance to Manitoga features this intricate carving of the Vietnamese fairy Âu Cơ displayed on a rough, hand-plastered wall. The object was acquired on an official government-consulting visit to Asia, but more importantly it suggests the strong influence that Asian domestic aesthetics had on American house design in the mid 20th century. (Whitney Cox)
This hallway of contrasting wood grains also features a selection of Wright’s walking sticks made into decorative wall elements. The Honeywell Regulator Company light fixtures were custom-installed by Wright. (Whitney Cox)
The house is a constant play of materials and textures. Wright considered the design of the house and its siting “organic,” and he often used found materials on the property, like the iron door fixture in the background. The conservators of the house believe this was an implement used by the stone carvers in the quarry. The birch bark covering this door is one example of Wright’s attempts to utilize a natural material as a tactile surface veneer. It has been replaced once by the Russel Wright Design Center staff. (Whitney Cox)
The house itself, designed by the architect David L. Leavitt, is a straightforward midcentury-modern glass-and-wood-frame structure tucked into the steep stone hillside with an early green roof, but it is in its details, surfaces, and wall treatments that one can sense Wright’s creative genius as a designer. He found iron tools and large stones in the quarry and used them as door handles. The house has a distinctive Japanese sensibility in its handcrafted details and choice of materials. We examine nine of Wright’s handmade details in order to better understand the famous designer. The house, now called Manitoga, The Russel Wright Design Center, is open for public tours May 18 to November 12.
Wright created unique door handles and fixtures for every room of the house. This rock handle, like all other natural materials in the house, comes from the grounds. He carefully fitted the rock to work with an off-the-shelf brass fitting and key lock.(Whitney Cox)
The large windows and homogenous stone flooring blurs the lines between the indoors and outside. (Whitney Cox)
Check visitmanitoga.org for details.