Two Men, an Icon, and a Cause
How an award-winning 1950s contemporary escaped the wrecking ball and was restored to its original glory.
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The floors throughout the bedroom wing are padded with wall-to-wall striped Missoni carpet in whites, greens, and blues, and, as in every other part of the house, rooms sport Bird Chairs, Herman Miller, Eames, and the like: the type of furniture you’d find at Design Within Reach, though, Goddard asserts, their collection is all original with original fabrics.
Innovative details make this house a prime example of modernist forward thinking: globes in the ceiling diffuse natural illumination from skylights during the day; at night electricity kicks in, a very eco-friendly feature. Drainage pipes are incorporated into interior bookcases and walls in place of roof gutters, and white plaster hallway walls exhibit a half-inch “reveal”—the black negative space near the floor and ceiling where molding typically goes—creating a crisp, pinstripe appearance.
Even the bathrooms, small by current luxury-home standards, display an attention to detail unmatched by many of today’s upscale designers. Every element in a pint-sized ultra-white hall bathroom—right down to the shower drain, faucets, and sink—is square. And if you’re at all afraid of heights, stay out of the master bath where one outside wall, fabricated in Ireland of ribbed frosted glass, pivots open to the outside and a 12-foot drop, mirroring a similar feature on the opposite end of the house in the living room.
In the living room, one easily can imagine trendy suburbanites sipping after-work martinis, cigarettes between their fingers, taking in the views of surrounding woods from this cantilevered perch. As an architect who sought to integrate nature into his designs wherever he could, Witthoefft inexplicably chose to design a window for his own house that opened onto…nothing—an unobstructed 10-foot drop—to maximize the cross breezes and the sound of water gurgling over the rocky brook below. “In all these years, they only lost one child,” Goddard winks, obviously joking. While growing up, Witthoefft’s daughters often would change into bikinis, slide the window open, and suntan inside the living room.
The home’s saving grace—the four-sided, travertine-paneled fireplace—floats in the heart of the living room. “Arthur’s wife, Ellie, who was an interior designer, picked up the stone herself in her station wagon,” Goddard says. “This house truly was a labor of love.” Aqua-colored leather slipper chairs and other trophies of modern design pin down a white Flokati rug. Goddard pointed out two large abstract cityscape paintings; one on the wall, the other on an easel. “These were in Frank Sinatra’s office,” he says, opening a book that was placed conveniently on the Noguchi table: Frank Sinatra, My Father by Nancy Sinatra. There was a photo of The Chairman of the Board himself holding court near the two oils.
After the restoration was completed last year, Goddard and Mandolene invited Witthoefft, now 91, back to see the home. It was a sentimental reunion. “When he saw what had happened to his masterpiece back in 2007, he cried out of sadness," says Goddard. "But after we finished restoring it, he was so happy, he had tears in his eyes. He told us, ‘You guys really put the icing on the cake.’”
Malerie Yolen-Cohen, daughter of a Westchester modern architect, was thrilled to document this architectural "rescue" for Westchester Home.
Photography by Rob Mandolene