Glass House, Farmhouse

Glass House, Farmhouse

Harf Zimmermann

“I believe that change is a great thing. In fact, it’s the only real absolute in the world,” said Philip Johnson. In the five-plus decades that Philip Johnson and his companion David Whitney resided in the Glass House and on its 49-acre campus in New Canaan, change was, indeed, an essential part of their day-to-day routine and tenure. Johnson’s iconic one-story Glass House, perched on an elevated point, with sweeping views of the woods and pond below, was the first to be designed on the property. Over the next 50 years, Johnson and Whitney built or purchased 13 other buildings, including the enclosed Brick House, the Lake Pavilion, the Painting Gallery, the Sculpture Gallery, the Library/Study, Da Monsta, Ghost House, Calluna Farm, and the Grainger. While the architect’s celebrated glass-paneled and steel structure, characteristic of his own International Style, was his primary residence, it became one of many dwellings on the rambling property where the pair spent their time, with frequent movement between houses.

Calluna Farm.
Courtesy Glass House

Beginning this May when the Glass House reopens, two more houses, the Grainger and Calluna Farms, will be open to the public. This will be the first time that visitors will have the opportunity to step inside the Grainger, the 18th century home acquired by Whitney in 1990 (his middle name is Grainger), where the two men lived on the weekends, spending much of their time cooking, watching films, reading, and gardening. Whitney removed additions to the house—including bathrooms and septic system in the early 1990s—but kept the original floorboards and beams. A window etching created as a site-specific work by artist Michael Heizer is a prominent and contrasting feature of the house. Christa Carr, communications director of the Glass House, explained that these sandblasted glass windows are intended to be Heizer’s interpretation of the petroglyphs.

The Grainger.
Irene Shum Allen

Inside, a Johnson-designed table is sandwiched between Mies van der Rohe and Lilly Reich’s padded leather and steel Tugendhat chairs, which were originally made for the Tugendhat House in Czechoslovakia. A year after purchasing the house, Whitney planted a peony garden, consisting of 41 peonies and 25 irises, and in which he was the only one permitted to work. A bronze sculpture, Nature Amassment #4, by Alessandro Twombly (Cy Twombly’s son) stands in the garden.

Before the Grainger became part of the compound, Johnson purchased Calluna Farms for Whitney in 1981. Numerous renovations ensued on the early 20th century home. The kitchen became a focal point in the house, which includes Johnson’s own custom-designed kitchen table, and is where Whitney did much of his cooking. Outside sits his own succulent garden inspired by Kasimir Malevich’s Suprematist Composition.