THE RICHARDSON HOUSE: One of “25 Must-See Buildings in New Jersey”
The Stuart Richardson House is a stunning midcentury home designed by America’s most celebrated architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, in his distinctive Usonian style. Just a 35-minute train ride from Manhattan, this meticulously conserved work of art has been called “a real estate gem” by Architectural Digest and “one of [New Jersey’s] better-kept secrets” by the New York Times. USA Today named it one of the “25 Must-See Buildings in New Jersey,” along with the Statue of Liberty and George Washington Bridge.
Invisible from the street and tucked into a wooded, gated half-acre plot amidst flower gardens that have also been featured in the Times, this 1,800-square-foot home feels like a retreat, complete with a stream and pond alongside its landscaped entry path as well as a heated, in-ground swimming pool sparkling in its verdant backyard. This is a true sanctuary, offering the quiet privacy of the country as well as easy access to New York City. The 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom home is located in leafy, historic Glen Ridge, just a few minutes from hip, lively Montclair’s great restaurants, abundant cultural amenities, and top-rated public schools.
THE INTERIOR: “A marvel of Mr. Wright’s creativity”
Built in 1951, the Stuart Richardson House has appeared in numerous articles and books; Frank Lloyd Wright’s Usonian Houses praised its “beautiful millwork”—as seen in its handsome cypress-plank walls— and The Frank Lloyd Wright Companion singled it out as perhaps the earliest example of the architect’s experiments with hexagonal floor patterns. Other showcase design elements include a dramatic cantilevered entryway into a spacious screened-in porch; an atrium with a window wall that opens onto a bricked-in side garden; a cozy, bookshelf-lined study; skylights throughout; a master bedroom with a commanding fireplace; and built-in desks, dressers, tables, and cabinets that are original to the home. The hexagonal rooms are warmly illuminated by the distinctive triangular recessed lights that the architect also used in the Guggenheim Museum.
The home’s piece de resistance is a triangular living room with dramatically illuminated clerestory windows and a jaw-dropping, one-of-a-kind inverted-pyramid ceiling. The room’s 14 French doors allow sunlight to pour in, and swing open onto a patio, a brick-walled terrace, and the spacious backyard, making the home perfect for indoor-outdoor entertaining. The room’s centerpiece, a triangular wood-burning fireplace, has been called “a marvel of Mr. Wright’s creativity” by the New York Times. Separating the living space from the angular galley kitchen is a built-in dining table surrounded by eye-catching chairs that Wright designed specifically for the house. The home’s heated, red-concrete floors have large hexagons etched into them throughout, true to the architect’s fascination with mystical geometry. To the delight of those tired of boxy apartments or cookie-cutter homes, the rooms are formed entirely by 60- and 120-degree angles, with no right angles in sight. This might be why Patch called the home “weirdly wonderful.”
The Stuart Richardson House was first designed in 1941; letters show that the original owners, an actuary and his wife, personally consulted Wright on their dream house while he was in New York City to work on the Guggenheim. The home was nicknamed “Scherzo” to reflect Mr. Richardson’s interest in music, and a skylit alcove off of the living room features cabinets perfect for record storage. As the home’s signature, Wright designed a motif reminiscent of musical notation; the recurring pattern is artfully carved into the perforated boards that run atop the living room and master bedroom.
ORGANIC ARCHITECTURE: “A very beautiful house”
This is a standout example of the architect’s midcentury “Usonian” style of flat-roofed, streamlined “natural houses”; a recent episode of the 99% Invisible podcast described the Usonian as a “very beautiful house designed with the American working class in mind.” Built with window walls looking onto their surroundings, the country’s 60 or so Usonians were a feat of Wright’s “organic architecture,” meant to welcome nature inside. True to form, the Richardson House makes for fantastic bird-watching and nature-spotting. One can often see foxes, deer, ducks, exotic birds, and many other adorable creatures frolicking amidst the property’s array of trees, including pine, magnolia, crab apple, dogwood, weeping cherry, and holly.
Having previously been occupied by the presidents of the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy, the home has been meticulously maintained and lovingly restored over the years, complete with a new roof, radiant heating system, hexagonal walk-in shower in the master bathroom, and a skylit kitchen featuring a tastefully hidden Miele washer and dryer, a wood-paneled Sub Zero refrigerator, and an electric Miele oven. In 2010, it won a Wright Spirit Award from the FLWBC for outstanding stewardship of a private building. Wright famously disliked garages and basements; instead, the home boasts a long gravel driveway for parking and two rustic sheds tucked behind the pool for extra storage.
THE NEIGHBORHOOD: “Eternally popular among NYC expats”
Glen Ridge is known for its gaslit streets, historic mansions, and top-rated schools, while the neighboring town of Montclair has been called “Park Slope West” for its walkable downtown, great restaurants, eclectic shops, first-rate art museum, exceptional bookstore, annual film festival boosted by local residents Stephen Colbert and Patrick Wilson, destination concert venue, progressive and culturally diverse residents, and great views of the NYC skyline from its hilltop parks. Brick Underground has called the two towns “eternally popular among NYC expats.”
Star Tavern, named the second-best pizzeria in the entire country by the Daily Meal, is less than five minutes from the home. Newark’s major sports and concert venues— as well as its celebrated Spanish, Portuguese, and Brazilian neighborhood, the Ironbound— are a 15-minute drive away, and Newark airport is just a few minutes further. Increasingly hip Jersey City and Hoboken are also nearby. The Richardson House is a 15-minute walk, 5-minute bike ride, or 3-minute drive/Uber to NJ Transit’s Montclair-Boonton line with direct service to Penn Station.
FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT: “America’s greatest architect”
Interest in Frank Lloyd Wright— who “remains America’s greatest architect,” per Dezeen magazine— is stronger than ever, as evidenced by a much-publicized 2017 retrospective at MoMA, which recently co-acquired Wright’s archives. The home’s previous sale made national headlines in 2016, and the current owners have been approached by location scouts and group tour requests. As Architectural Digest, the New York Times, and various others have noted, similar Usonian houses around the country rent for $300 to $400 per night and are routinely booked up year-round even without this one’s prime location. Don’t miss this once-in-a-lifetime chance to acquire one of Wright’s functional works of art and live in one of metropolitan NYC’s most distinctive architectural gems.