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The Alice Ball House
Designed by Mid-Century Modern American Architect, Philip Johnson — Interior Design by Victoria Lyon
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In the same town as his famous Glass House lies this wonderful house, commissioned by the architect's friend, Alice Ball. Philip Johnson fondly referred to this house as "his little jewel". After several years of neglect, it was recently renovated, and brought back to life through a special exhibition designed by interior designer Victoria Lyon. In this photo the elegant simplicity of it's rectangular form is highlighted against the silhouettes of the surrounding trees at dusk. Matthias Alfen's 13 ft. long Seated Nude draws attention from the street towards the house, it's sensuous curves offering a pleasing counter-balance to the strong linear forms of the house.

House by Philip Johnson. Design by VIctoria Lyon. Sculpture by Matthias Alfen.

The back wall of the living room looks out on an open courtyard and to the woods beyond in the back yard of the house. The Standing Nude sculpture draws the eye out to the landscape as well as providing a coutner-part to the much larger Seated Nude by Matthias Alfen in the front of the house. The glass wall, as well as Philip Johnson's device of extending the floor plane outside, firmly tie the house to the landscape. The gray sofas echo the color of the stone flooring and the color of the gravel, stone wall and tree trunks outside, while the green accessories link to the greenery outside.

Sculpture by Matthias Alfen, furnishings courtesy of Room & Board and The Conran Shop.

Here the designer has provided an eclectic but well balanced grouping to occupy an awkward corner between two glass window walls with doors. The use of raw wood in the console table and sculptures, as well as colors in the painting and the bronze leaf reference the architect's interest bringing the outdoors in. (The vintage lizard encased in Lucite is the interior designer's tongue-in-cheek reference to the current famous artist Damien Hirst.) The strong rectilinear shapes of the architecture, echoed in the console table and painting, are off set by the curvilinear qualities of the sculptures.

Painting over console table by Bart Gulley, contemporary Brazilian wood console table, courtesy of Espasso, Wooden Chain, Totem, and Bronze Leaf sculptures by Bryan Nash Gill, Seated Nude sculpture outside by Matthias Alfen, lamps courtesy of The Conran Shop.

Paintings line the walls of the studio building and provide a visual link to the landscape beyond.

Paintings by Janet Slom. Console table by Gregory Clarke of Artifact Design Group.

The architecture of Philip Johnson was designed around the concept of bringing the outdoors in, especially through the use of large walls of glass, and the use of natural stone on the floor, which is carried on the same plane both inside and out. Here the designer emphasized the concept of bringing nature indoors through the use of wood in many of the furnishings. The clean lines of the sofas and tables echo those of the architecture, while the paintings and sculpture add a layer of richness and meaning, as well as referencing the architects love of modern art.

Painting over the fireplace by Robert Natkin, Wood Tray, Tall Vases and Console Table by contemporary Brazilian artists, courtesy of Espasso, Wooden Chair by Hans Wegner, Painting over Console Table by Bart Gulley, Wooden Chain, Totem, and Bronze Leaf sculptures by Bryan Nash Gill, additional furnishings courtesy of Room&Board and The Conran Shop.

The front and back doors centered on the glass walls of the house provide the only separation between the living and dining areas, giving a more expansive sense of space. The dining table, custom designed for the space, brings nature indoors through it's use of materials. The live-edge slab of wood floats on glass slab legs, which continue the play of light offered by the glass walls.. Philipe Starck's transparent "Mr. Impossible" chairs continue the theme, while the cantilever chairs reference the wood table, as well as the art of George Nakashima. The mesmerizing color filed paintings by George Chaplin offer a play on two dimensionality versus three-dimesnionality, a concept also embraced by the architects and artists of Philip Johnson's time.

Table and chairs by Johnny Geraghty of grain of Thought, paintings by George Chaplin, courtesy of art+interiors.

The architect designed this sleek white kitchen with the greatest efficiency in mind. The designer's addition of the abstract painting, gives the sense of added space, as though looking through a round window to the sky beyond. The curved black steel legs on the stool echo the forms of the painting, and offers a place for a visitor to rest and chat while dinner is being prepared.

Painting by Mary Manning. Stool by Gregory Clarke of Artifact Design Group. White vases above cabinets by Ceramic Matters.

Sunlight pours into the adjacent guest room through the large window wall which also connects to the private walled courtyard. In a smaller house like this, it is important that spaces serve multiple functions. In this case, the room serves as a room for reading and watching TV when not occupied by the occasional guest. Gregory Clarke's elegant TV easel references the art collection displayed in the house, while also serving a useful function. The abstract painting on the wall provides a visual link between the sculptural forms of the easel and the rectilinear forms of the house, while the white sculptural vases in the courtyard, and the large plaster foot doorstop echo Matthias Alfen's large Seated Nude sculpture in the front yard of the house.

Painting by Bart Gulley, TV Easel by Gregory Clarke of Artifact Design Group, tall fiberglass vases and plaster foot door-stop courtesy of The Conran Shop, chair courtesy of Room & Board.

On the other side of the sunny guest room, a daybed beckons. Here is a place to read and relax, or take a nap. The Zig-zag side table serves a dual function as side table and book-shelf. The artwork brings warmth and color to the space.

Paintings by Ashley Andrews and Liz Dexheimer. Furniture courtesy of Room& Board and The Conran Shop.

The mid-century modern desk by Arne Jacobsen provides a large work-surface, as well as storage with it's foldable cubbies. The Brazilian stools and the Cherner chair are also vintage, while the modular Brazilian credenza is contemporary. The large abstract paintings add drama to the space. the delicate, rod-thin floor lamp casts a silhouette of a nesting bird on the back wall, which moves gently with the slightest bit of a breeze, adding a connection to the landscape outside, despite fewer glass walls in this building. The large rubber buckets are made of recycled tires.

Paintings by Janet Slom. Desk courtesy of Mondo Cane. Stools and credenza courtesy of Espasso. Lamps, chair and buckets courtesey of The Conran Shop.

The master bedroom overlooks a private garden set within a walled courtyard. The glass wall gives a sense of the room and the garden being connected. The stunning Macassar ebony bed and side tables were custom designed for the space. The headboard of the bed features individually dimmable reading lights encased in lucite speckled with silvery money plant leaves. The horizontal lines of the bedside table lamps, as well as the headboard lights de-empahsize the vertical nature of the space. The art work lends a bright note to the otherwise neutral, quiet space.

Bed, tables and bench designed by Gregory Clarke of Artifact Design Group. Artwork courtesy of art+interiors.

The private walled courtyard offers a glimpse into the two bedrooms of the main house. The grey steel table with it's sculpted rubber tablecloth provides a pleasant spot for morning coffee, or a cocktail at sunset.

Tables, chairs and fiberglass vases courtesy of The Conran Shop.

Victoria Lyon Interiors   •  By Appointment: 16 Jada Lane, Greenwich CT 06830  Phone: (203) 540-5350   •  victoria@victorialyonInteriors.com