Russel Wright's renovated Manitoga shines with hand-crafted details. Many of Wright’s personal designs in the house utilize off-the-shelf industrial materials and are hand-operated. This intimate but open family room welcomes dappled light through curtains Wright fashioned from fireplace screens. The wooden-leg table is also a Wright design. He placed a sliding burlap cover for the florescent light fixtures above it, while the day sofa hides storage. (Whitney Cox)
The house's exterior is clad in blackened timber and features large windows, exposing the surrounding woodlands. (Whitney Cox)
Manitoga sits over a manmade swimming pond, created by diverting a stream into an empty quarry. (Whitney Cox)
This handmade pin supports large pocket windows in Wright’s studio. When the pin is disengaged, the window entirely disappears down into the wall, and the room becomes an open-air studio. The Cedar Green coffee pot is a classic Wright piece manufactured by Steubenville. (Whitney Cox)
Like in many modern houses of the 1950s and 1960s, seating is close to the floor, a Japanese influence. The stones on the floor come from the site and emphasize the house’s easy transition from inside to outside. In this case a natural deck platform leads down to the quarry swimming pond. (Whitney Cox)
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 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.