I was recently discussing the late Philip Johnson with my friend, Keith. He was fortunate enough to have visited Johnson's Glass House when it first opened to public, while I hope to make the pilgrimage this year. The conversation reminded me of a May, 1934 House & Garden article which profiled the Manhattan duplex of Johnson. According to the article, the duplex (which, by the way, he shared with his sister) was comprised of the two upper floors of a townhouse located on East 49th Street.
When Johnson bought the apartment, the lower floor was divided into a two story studio living room, a reception hall, another small room, and a kitchen. The bedrooms were located on the upper floor. Johnson tore out the walls between each room on the lower floor (with the exception of the kitchen), effectively creating one large room. Where the walls once stood, though, Johnson installed curtains that helped to delineate the spaces. What's interesting is that Johnson chose different colored fabric for each set of curtains. Johnson typically left the curtains half drawn so as to give "a vista the entire length of the apartment." If he were to entertain large groups, the curtains were left wide open. In the photo above, you can see how the apartment's lower floor looked when all of the curtains were open.
Pale ecru linoleum was used throughout the apartment to create a sense of continuity. Johnson chose a dull white plaster finish for all of the walls and ceilings so as to give the appearance of lightness. The furniture included now classic pieces like the Barcelona daybed, chairs, and ottoman by Mies van der Rohe.
On a Philip Johnson related note, Birch Cooper of Birch Books has recently written a book profiling Johnson's library at the Glass House. The book includes photographs of 100 different volumes found in Johnson's library as well as a complete inventory of the titles located at the Glass House. All proceeds from the book will go towards conservation efforts of Johnson's library at the Glass House. For more information on Cooper's book, please click here.
The two-story living area that was at one end of the open space.
When drawn, blue serge curtains between the reception hall and the living area created privacy for dining.
The view from the study, looking towards the reception hall and then to the living area beyond. Curtains were also hung along the exterior walls to cover the floor to ceiling windows.
All photos from House & Garden, May 1934.