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How Designer Russel Wright and His Midcentury Estate Forecasted the American Home

When you step into the secret room Russel Wright carved out for himself at Manitoga, the industrial designer's midcentury estate in Garrison, New York, the vision he had for the site comes into focus. Carefully sculpted from a former granite quarry in the Hudson Valley, it's a home that not only reflects nature, but resides in it. You can admire views of the large, day lily-lined quarry pool, fed by a waterfall Wright specifically designed with 15 cascades for its aesthetic and acoustic properties. If the breeze is strong enough, you can marvel at the movements of the "Martha Graham Girls," a grove of landscaped grey birch trees that move like modern dancers in the wind. And you can view the entire residence, a low-slung, Japanese-style, glass-encased home and studio that seem to organically rise out of the rock.

In 1962, LIFE Magazine featured the property, dubbed "A Wonderful House to Live In," as the first private home ever published in the magazine. Russel Wright was so prolific for his time that Herman Miller mastermind George Nelson once said he was the designer most responsible for the shift to modern design in the 1930s. He worked out of his home studio, but would retire to the "secret room" he designed as part of the landscape, accessible via a hidden path among plants and overgrowth.

"It's such a spiritual, recuperative space, and a comprehensive vision." >>