Listing of the Day
Location: Bedford, New York
Price: $1 million
When Matt Damora moved into this Philip Johnson-designed Bedford, New York house, he was just an infant, brought home from the hospital to its floor-to-ceiling glass walls and open footprint.
“It is the only family home base I have ever known,” he said, “and I didn’t know anything about the house’s position as the predecessor to the entire New Canaan modern community… until I researched the matter seven or eight years ago.”
His parents, Robert and Sirkka Damora (both architects, and Robert, a photographer as well), rented, and subsequently bought the house in 1955 from Richard and Olga Booth, the couple that commissioned the build from then-relatively unknown architect Philip Johnson (he’d go on to win the first Pritzker Prize and become best known for The Glass House in New Canaan).
“My dad felt that Mr. Booth was quite eccentric: a small hunchbacked man who suspended a hammock in the narrow pantry of the original house to sleep in because normal beds were not comfortable for him,” Mr. Damora said. “I am unclear how many tenants occupied the house before my parents leased it, but when they arrived they found much of the interior painted in purple and green. Given their modern aesthetic sensibilities they quickly whitewashed the place.”
The new owners would keep the original footprint, replacing some ill-advised design choices by the hands of the Booths, and adding a subterranean level that would make the home more family friendly.
They did not want to alter Johnson’s intrinsic design by adding a second floor to what was intended to be a low-lying structure, so they went down rather than up,“ Mr. Damora said.
Now, after nearly six decades with the home, the Damoras are selling, and their son, who isn’t a broker but is handling the sale, wants to make sure it lands in the hands of a buyer who will appreciate its history and architectural significance.
The home features 2,320 square feet of living space, with two bedrooms, two full baths, and two half baths. There is one additional building on the property. "In the early ’60s my parents built a separate 800-square-foot heated studio with 10-foot ceilings,” Mr. Damora said. “It is constructed of similar materials as the house and is in harmony with it. The entire north wall is floor-to-ceiling glass and there is a full building width north-facing skylight. Around the same time, they also created a yard behind the main house by excavating a hillside and retaining it with a wall of timbers and stone.”
Modern houses like this one are a rarity in the Bedford area, which is mostly a Colonial Revival town with a wave of more recent McMansion-style homes. “I keep track of the sales of modern homes by notable architects, and these tend to occur in New Canaan, just over the state line into Connecticut, where many genuine mid-century modern were built,” Mr. Damora said.
“Houses designed by Philip Johnson have a history for selling at a level significantly higher than comparable generic properties, or even ones designed by less famous known modern architects. A Philip Johnson property that might be considered a $4million-to-$5 million value by normal appraisal criteria, is presently on the market in New Canaan for $12 million,” he added.
The Booth House “is a simple post-war modern—and possibly the first—of very clean Miesian lines,” he said. “This is Johnson at his best channeling [famous 20th century German-American architect] Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. As my mother wrote—she’s a former editor at House & Garden magazine in the heyday of the midcentury modern period—‘The Mies hallmark of reductive rectilinear design with minimal interruption in the flow of space within a building and out to the exterior landscape was clearly evident in Johnson’s architecture of the period.’”
“Growing up, the town was a sleepy bedroom community for New York City executives in some corners, very independent blue-collar working class in others,” Mr. Damora said.
“The town has always been more laid-back than its counterparts across the Connecticut state line. There is significant wealth in town, but it is typically enjoyed in a less conspicuous and private manner than nearby communities,” he said.
But in the last several decades it has become a haven for celebrities and well-known business people like George Soros, Ralph Lauren, and Martha Stewart, who all have compounds there. “There are Kennedys in town, and Richard Gere, Glenn Close, and a younger generation of Hollywood personalities like Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds call Bedford home,” he said.
Agent: Matt Demora is selling the home directly and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 718-230-8858.
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