The Russel Wright Home
Hudson River Valley
by Dawn Woolcott
In the Hudson River Valley, the man whose name is synonymous with mid-century modern design, built himself the ultimate home in an unlikely place. He purchased an abandoned quarry, and set about to restore what man had laid to waste. His respect for the symbiotic relationship between environment, nature, and design came together in one of the most perfectly situated homes you can find.
Set on a 75 acre woodland garden, Russel Wright named his home “Manitoga” meaning Place of Great Spirit in honor of the native Wappinger peoples. This 20th century modern home was the studio to the iconic designer of furniture, pottery, and home furnishings. At his peak working in the 1940s through his death in 1976, Russel Wright shunned the overly decorated, busy designs commonly found in the early 20th century, for a more streamlined design, usually in solid colors in muted tones that became wildly popular in the 50s and 60s. He designed his home integrating the natural elements of stone and water as part of the overall design. Wide expanses of glass windows overlook a 30 foot waterfall set among a canopy of forest leaves.
His designs are on display inside the house and studio which are only open by guided tour. The woodland trails are free to the public to enjoy and wander.
The home built in 1961 is now a National Historic Landmark and does not sit empty in slow decay. It is lovingly maintained, and has received recent upgrades including a more environmentally friendly roof and improved windows that will help it last for many decades still to come. His design philosophy is just as relevant today, if not more so. His sleek, minimalist designs influenced a whole new generation of designers, and examples of his influence can be found in many of today’s modern tastes. His design style is timeless.
The grounds also are timeless – just as he planned. He created a garden that is tamed, but as close to nature as possible. The remnants of the old quarry are hard to find as he took what was an ugly sore on the landscape and creatively repaired it to be beautiful once again. The grounds also actively host art shows and musical performances to honor Russel’s creative spirit and promote artisans of all kinds. Located just an hour north of New York City, and not far from Hudson River, the Russel Wright home would make an excellent side trip on any tour of the Hudson River Valley.