Located in East Rock, an upscale neighborhood of New Haven, Connecticut, within walking distance of Yale’s campus, this Neo-Tudor home from 1913 looks like the antithesis of a modern architect’s home. But inside the traditional interior, the home’s clean, crisp lines provide a clue to its famous former owner and one-time renovator, Eero Saarinen.
Current owner Dr. Dorothy Lewis, a Yale psychiatry professor, who purchased the home in 1979, appreciated the more defined, modern interior when she first toured the home, though when she moved in with her late husband, Melvin, also a psychiatrist, they needed to make a few adjustments. Previous owners had decorated the dining room with paisley wallpaper, and painted the ceiling royal blue.
She can’t say with certainty the exact changes made in the house—when she asked for blueprints from the firm of Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates, which was formerly Saarinen’s practice, they had just handed them over to Yale for archiving.
"I never saw the original drawings, but was told the kitchen has a Saarinen pedestal table with Tulip chairs," says Lewis.
Known for creating some of the the country’s most iconic midcentury buildings, Saarinen purchased the home in 1960, after Yale offered him a teaching position (the university, which previously owned the building, supposedly sold at a discount as a further incentive). Saarinen, who would transform the campus with his notable designs, such as the Ingalls Rink and Morse and Ezra Stiles Residential Colleges, set about redesigning the interior of his home. Tragically, Saarinen would die of a heart attack in September 1961, was unable to move in and finish the renovations himself, which called for removing decorative moldings and painting the walls white. He would leave instructions to his wife Aline, who along with their son Eames, would live in the home briefly before selling it back to Yale.
Lewis’s son, Eric, loved growing up in the house, with its funky details, such as the radiator bench in the entryway, and as a teen, moved up into the Gothic suite on the third floor. While the current furniture and artwork is all their own (they bought some second-hand Saarinen pieces in homage), he imagines some of the built-ins may be Saarinen designs.
"I love the simple, rectilinear lines about the home," he says.
The family plans on putting the home on the market soon, and may do so via a private sale. While nothing has been finalized, it seems like they may favor a buyer who wants to preserve the interior as close to Saarinen's intentions as possible.
"This was one of the last projects he designed," says Eric. "We’ve been very conscious of keeping things as original as possible."