• 63 Chestnut Hill Place
  • Glen Ridge, NJ

THE PRIVATE SPACES

The study. Despite its compact size (1800 square feet), the Richardson house has a generous arrangement of spaces: three bedrooms, two full bathrooms, and a study, plus the “loggia” or atrium that was previously mentioned. Immediately to the left of the entrance is the study, with a built-in desk, bookshelves and a bench tucked in under the windows for reading in the morning sunlight. A distinctive feature of this room is its double door entry, which throws the space into the entrance hall and makes it an extension of the living area both for everyday use and to accommodate large numbers of guests. The room can be closed off, however, and when the two doors come together, they meet in a beveled join that perfectly matches the hexagonal unit on the floor.

 

In the study, and throughout the house, narrower cypress boards were used than those specified by Wright – a reflection of the greater scarcity of cypress in the period after the War. The boards are separated by narrow battens.   Ideally, the bookshelves should be aligned with the battens. When we purchased the house in 1996, they were not, but rather were placed randomly, and were supported by unsightly metal L-brackets. Tarantino Architect and Wordsmiths repositioned all the bookshelves throughout the house, adding concealed vertical stiffeners to support the weight of the books and eliminating the metal L-brackets.

 

Loggia/atrium. It was Wright’s idea that the homeowners’ limited Usonian budget should be concentrated in the public part of the house, leaving the bedroom wing somewhat smaller and more sparsely fitted out, if necessary. Perhaps because of the hexagonal module, however, the Richardson house has this lovely circulation space that organizes two bedrooms, a bathroom, and a generous three-door opening to the walled garden. Entry to the hall leading to the master bedroom is also from the loggia.

 

Bathroom. The central feature of this room is its skylight, as a result of which this entirely private room is flooded with daylight from morning to dusk. The fixtures, with the exception of the sink, are original, although the plumbing is new. The wall-hung toilet is a common feature in Wright-designed Usonians, chosen to make floor cleaning easier. The vanity was probably covered in linoleum initially. That was later replaced with polished marble, and replaced again by us with the same Fireslate material used in the kitchen. A bathroom closet provides ample storage for the room.

 

Bedrooms. The two bedrooms, occupied initially by the Richardsons’ two girls, best exemplify the sparseness of the private rooms in a Usonian house. They are comfortable and pleasant to use – the right-hand one, as you look in, has a very nice arrangement of windows that catches the morning sun – but they are hardly showy. In the left-hand bedroom, pull one of the top drawers open, so you can see how they conform to the hexagonal module that prevails throughout the house. A bedside table, attached to the wall of that bedroom, has been removed, combined with an identical one found elsewhere, and installed in the master bedroom. The unit can be removed to permit the use of a larger bed.

 

The master bedroom suite. A narrow hall lined with closets, leading from the loggia, permits entry to a dressing area and bathroom, to the right, and to the master bedroom, which is located straight ahead. The bedroom faces due east, so that it receives generous morning sun. The ceiling in this room is special. Originally, in keeping with his Usonian philosophy, Wright specified plain plywood ceilings, but the Richardsons opted to build with the same ship-lapped cypress used in the living room. Here, the boards follow the outline of the five-sided room, resolving the pattern down to a flat point that echoes the three-dimensional point in the living room. An additional air conditioning unit, punched through the perforated boards of the master bedroom has also been removed, and the perforations have been restored. The bedroom contains a massive fireplace. However, as the smoke patterns indicate, it has rarely been used and most likely smokes.

 

The bathroom was restored when that the house’s heating system was replaced. At that time, Tarantino Architect designed a hexagonal walk-in shower with adjoining shelving to replace a tub that had fallen from its moorings on the wall. The toilet is original, the plumbing, sink and vanity surface are new.