This is a mod, mod world
It’s not often that the work of the fictional sitcom architect Mike Brady comes to mind, but when Bruce Glickman and Wilson Henley stumbled upon a ranch house overlooking rolling hills in rural Connecticut, all it took was opening the front door. “It looked a bit like The Brady Bunch house inside,” recalls Glickman with a laugh. The structure, built in 1954, had good lines, a flat roof, and a panoramic setting, but previous owners had given it a country vibe straight out of central casting, right down to the brick floors and walls of barn siding.
Instead of channeling Brady when planning their renovation, the couple called upon the ghost of Richard Neutra. Owners of the Tribeca gallery/store Duane, which specializes in midcentury design, Glickman and Henley fancifully imagined that it was actually one of Neutra’s masterpieces—and in desperate need of restoration. As Henley says, “We rebuilt the house as if it had been built this way to begin with.”
The parklike grounds suggested some stellar DNA, and soon the men discovered that the property was the work of Charles Middeleer, a landscape architect who worked on the Guggenheim Museum. It had moments of greatness, such as a high stone wall that bisects a glass wall by the front door and links the exterior and interior, an enormous fireplace framed by granite slabs, and breathtaking views. Unfortunately, low doors, smaller-than-desired windows, and rustic finishes were also part of the bargain.
The couple had previously restored a 1740s farmhouse nearby as a weekend home, but they realized that renovating something modern is a much more painstaking experience. “With an antique house, you can slap on molding, but here, every seam had to be perfect,” Glickman says. “You can’t be off by more than an eighth of an inch.” Getting everything absolutely right took much longer than expected, so the couple camped out in the poolhouse in the meantime. This extended on-site exile gave them the opportunity to thoroughly consider every piece of furniture they had to buy.
“Our former place was very layered and very country, and none of that furniture would work,” explains Henley. This time out, they decided to give in to unadulterated swank. Into the living room went a low-slung Florence Knoll sofa upholstered in earthy velvet, Robsjohn-Gibbings chairs covered in nubby bouclé, and a Karl Springer games table with a hot-pink backgammon board hidden inside. And since, as Henley says, “It’s getting almost impossible to find good vintage furniture at reasonable prices,” the men also brought in Hollywood-style slipper chairs from their Duane Modern collection of midcentury-inspired designs.
Although the attitude here is crisp and clean, it also manages to be sexy and cozy. “There is nothing hard-edged,” Glickman explains. “We used grass cloth on the master bedroom walls and carpeting on the floor. A true modernist house would have white paint and bare floors.” In the living room, diaphanous wool sheers are drawn at night to cover the new floor-to-ceiling, commercial-grade sliding glass doors. (During the day, the sheers, which are ingeniously hung on a track recessed into the ceiling, disappear into a wall pocket.) Many of the paintings seem to date to the Eisenhower era too, but they are in fact contemporary works by Jean-Marc Louis, a Belgian artist who references the masters of abstract painting.
The two modest additions constructed at either end of the house—one contains a breakfast room, the other an enlarged master bedroom—merge seamlessly with the original structure. So does the new cantilevered concrete hearth in the library. The board-and-batten exterior was replaced with Dryvit for a sleek appearance that recalls the Guggenheim Museum’s painted-concrete skin. “The house told us what to do,” says Glickman. “It’s not unlike the way New Englanders have always added on to farmhouses.”
But few farmhouses can be called cool. The couple have pulled off a difficult balancing act: A countryside getaway that’s simply glamorous. Everybody’s noticed the distinction, by the way. When Glickman and Henley give cocktail parties and dinners, friends tend to dress up despite the rural setting. “Straight guys say they feel like Dean Martin in this house,” Glickman says proudly. “It’s Palm Springs in Connecticut.”