A Mid-Century House Renovation Inspired by Japanese Home Design

William Landsberg built this house in 1951. Located in Port Washington, on Long Island, NY, it is really characteristic of the architect’s ability to distil modernist style into a simple, yet incredibly beautiful mid-century home design.

Landsberg studied architecture at Harvard, under such early modernist luminaries as Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer (and later worked for Breuer in New York City, becoming his director of design). He was consequently very influenced by the Bauhaus style. This is very evident in the present house, which Landsberg built for his family, living there until his death in 2013.

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The aspect of this house we were first drawn to is its remarkably consistent colour palette. In this vein, what first caught our eye was the wood that runs throughout the house, all stained in dark brown polish.

Most pleasingly, this dark brown wood comes in both big and small doses: big, with the wood floor which covers the entire space, and the panels of the cabinetry; and small, with the handles of the kitchen cupboards.

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These kitchen cupboards display the second colour in the palette: orange. While it isn’t present anywhere else, it dominates the kitchen, and acts as a vital disruption of the muted quality of the overall palette, which is comprised of the aforementioned brown, and the third major colour, white, with clean white surfaces prevailing in much of the rest of the home.

With the orange of the kitchen, the colouring is still not that out of keeping with traditional mid-century modern home designs. However, something about the sheer consistency of dark brown and white seems to suggest a more contemporary interior design vision, perhaps it’s the fact that contemporary design tends to be more open to embrace the strictures of minimalist aesthetic.

When the mid-century house passed its new Japanese-American owners, Stephen Moser was brought into initiate a sensitive renovation of the house, which had, unsurprisingly, not been changed a great deal in the over half a century in which Landsberg had lived there. One of the main elements they discuss in their description of the renovation is the need to introduce a Japanese element to certain areas of the design, since the family were just returning from a decade living in Japan.

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This goes a lot of the way to explaining the subtle introduction of contemporary and minimal aesthetics to Landsberg’s design. Indeed, as Moser “details: “the clients’ design sensibilities included a teppanyaki-cooking island in a kitchen that opened to the living room; a narrow engawa-like deck along the back of the house; a master bathroom with a deep ofuro-type soaking tub; a tatami guest room; and a patio big enough to play ping pong.

It’s these touches, along with a host of upgrades to the home’s efficiency, which really take it into the 21st century. It’s all the better for it!

Eichler house in San Mateo Highlands - Klopf architecture - living room

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Photos by Michael Biondo

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