Less IS more. Really.

I DON'T EXACTLY REMEMBER THE FIRST TIME I SAW THE LESCAZE TOWNHOME FROM THE OUTSIDE, but I will never forget the first time I saw the inside. It was truly unforgettable. Stuff! There was so much stuff inside-- I couldn’t see anything but the STUFF. Moving some furniture I began to see the bones of the house. Beneath piles of clutter, god-aweful drapes, and the many layers of paint and wallpaper, there was a spectacularly designed and built home with more potential than you could shake a paint brush and a garbage can at! The lines were gorgeous.  And, the best part was that it had NEVER been renovated…an International Style townhouse virtually untouched since it was designed in 1935. All of the original built-ins were there, the beautifully-considered floorplans, the curved staircase and glass walls. My challenge was to rediscover the wonder of the place. Remove all of the excess stuff, reclaim its original intent, and bask in the glory of an amazing creation that we would call home. So it began....
       I immediately knew that the architect was extraordinary because before this house, I'd never met a floorplan I didn't want to change. But I didn't know the name Lescaze. When I began to research him, I could find very little information. So, Frank and I drove to Syracuse University School of Architecture to go through the 28 linear feet of documents about our new home. Pouring over original drawings, notes, and Architectural Record pages from 1935-37, I fell even more in love with the house and Lescaze's ideas for it: the deceptive simplicity, use of the newest technology and construction to open the home to light, and, contrary to my nature, the lack of extraneous ornament.
     This last concept would become my biggest challenge to date. My idea of a neutral room includes strong accents, textures, bold art. (Just see THE PARLOUR for evidence!) But I had to respect Lescaze's intention, and the movement that art and lighting and texture bring was inherently there already. The design held everything!

PHOTO: LESCAZE, 1934

We know that man must be pulled
out of chaos
, that order can be created
by planning the use and conservation
of resources, by planned and designed
construction—order which alone will
re-establish the balanced performance
of work indispensable to his happiness,
his security, his freedom.
William Lescaze


Original drawings of THE CURVED STAIRCASE, a central design element connecting all four floors.
Lescaze's design filtered all the way down to the tabletop. His SALT & PEPPER SHAKERS are part of the MOMA PERMANENT DESIGN COLLECTION.
Lescaze even went so far as to design a MONOGRAM FOR THE ORIGINAL OWNERS, his friends, Mr & Mrs. Raymond C Kramer.
Like Le Corbusier and Eileen Gray, Lescaze designed FURNITURE as well as the architecture. CURVED ELEMENTS in walls, fireplaces and furniture offset the hard lines of the building.
<span style="font-size: 14px; line-height: 20px;">Sometimes decluttering is the most powerful tool a designer can use</span>.<br />
<br />
Less IS more. Really.
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Sometimes decluttering is the most powerful tool a designer can use.



What Lescaze intended (left) and what it had become (right).<br />
What Lies Beneath?
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The Library

What Lescaze intended (left) and what it had become (right).


The original intention: a quiet space with light and air and room to live.
What Lies Beneath?
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The Living Room, in 1937

The original intention: a quiet space with light and air and room to live.

PHOTO : Architectural Record
The top floor was designed as living rooms, to benefit from unubstructed light. The street-facing side of floor-to-ceiling glass block  captured the light while preserving privacy and insulating street noise. The rear side <em>(shown here)</em> also featured glass â clear windows and a glass door which opened to a rear conservatory and private balcony. <em>Heaven!</em>
What Lies Beneath?
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The Living Room, in 1937

The top floor was designed as living rooms, to benefit from unubstructed light. The street-facing side of floor-to-ceiling glass block  captured the light while preserving privacy and insulating street noise. The rear side (shown here) also featured glass — clear windows and a glass door which opened to a rear conservatory and private balcony. Heaven!

PHOTO : Architectural Record
My favorite details in the Master Suite: a gently curved wall of windows to catch the light of the rising sun, the sculptural fireplace, and a built-in vanity, positioned to take advantage of flattering natural light.<br />
What Lies Beneath?
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The Bedroom, in 1937

My favorite details in the Master Suite: a gently curved wall of windows to catch the light of the rising sun, the sculptural fireplace, and a built-in vanity, positioned to take advantage of flattering natural light.


PHOTO : Architectural Record
Clutter, curtains, and too much of everything interupted the flow of the home and darkened the incredible luminosity of the glass walls.
What Lies Beneath?
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The Living Room, in 2006

Clutter, curtains, and too much of everything interupted the flow of the home and darkened the incredible luminosity of the glass walls.

Original intention restored. The Townhouse in its pure unadorned form, right before we sold it and said farewell.<br />
What Lies Beneath?
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The Townhouse, in 2008

Original intention restored. The Townhouse in its pure unadorned form, right before we sold it and said farewell.


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AT THE SAME TIME THAT I WAS RESTORING THE HOUSE, I had another project developing:
I became pregnant with my daughter Olivia. Lescaze pioneered air conditioning in homes in NYC, but for some reason (budget or taste of the original owners?) this one didn't get it. I was pregnant, it was summer in NYC, Frank was working in Asia, and I was living in a construction zone with no AC. And there was nothing to decorate!

I am always looking for ways to improve things, whether it's myself or an interior space, and with this project, there was no room for improvement. There was intention and space, which just needed to be reclaimed. Once I got past my struggle to adorn this home, and settled into it, I realized it was exactly where I needed to be at that moment. By being complete in its design, it freed me to be a new mother, without other distractions. And that was the biggest gift ever.

And the house? It could breathe again. It had life again. It was able to shine again.
And, after all, isn’t that all that any of us want?

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[+] The Life of the Townhouse of 32 East 74th Street