Everyone knows the iconic Glass House by American modernist Philip Johnson in New Canaan, Connecticut. Perhaps lesser known is a follow-up design, located just a five-minute drive away from the 1949-built masterpiece. Completed in 1953 for Johnson’s friend, Alice Ball, the namesake home is often referred to as a “livable” version of the Glass House.
While still compact, low slung, and rectilinear with plenty of glass to go around, the Alice Ball House offers more privacy despite its proximity to the street. The 1,773-square-foot all-white residence features an airy open living and dining area surrounded by glass walls, but the kitchen and two bedrooms are more enclosed.
The property, sitting on 2.2 acres with an original guest house and Johnson-designed sculpture garden, is now on the market for $7.7 million. What’s with the eye-popping price tag? That’s because the sale would include the approved plans and construction for a new modern home, which architect and current owner Reja Bakh specifically designed to complement the Johnson structure.
The property has a bit of a complicated history. Before Bakh bought the home for $2.3 million in 2015, it had, at various points, been threatened by demolition to make room for a larger, more market-friendly home. Of course, in a town known for its midcentury modern gems, preservationists were always waiting in the wings. (These photos of the Alice Ball House date back to at least 2011.)
For Bakh, the purchase was never a real estate maneuver, but rather about collecting a piece of work by a master. This is also the guiding mentality behind the Wall House, the new three-bedroom home he designed for the site. Located behind the existing structure, the Wall House is one-story above ground, with tons of space underground, bringing the total square footage of the property to 11,000.
Influenced by Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona Pavilion, the Wall House is minimalist from the inside out, defined by planes in three dimensions and intended to put the Alice Ball House on center stage.
According to Bakh, the most important image of the Wall House is the rendering showing the open living area, where “all you see is the Johnson building.” Meanwhile, the private bedrooms are located a couple of steps up on the other side of the house.
Bakh says the lower level, currently envisioned with a 14-car garage, can be turned into a wine cellar, indoor pool, or something else the eventual buyer desires. The degree of customization will affect the final cost.
The Wall House was initially designed for Bakh’s own family, with the Alice Ball House slated to become an art gallery. While personal circumstances have changed and the property no longer makes sense as a permanent residence for the family, they’re not in a rush to sell.
Whoever does snatch it up, a team is already in place to build out the Wall House (and make small cosmetic updates to the Alice Ball House), with Bakh’s firm handling project management and quality control for the whole process. And according to Bakh, the project has the full support of the Glass House foundation and the neighbors.
The Alice Ball House is the latest midcentury house to come on the market in recent months with preservation interest. In early August, the 1953 home of legendary designer Rand Paul hit the market for $895,000 in Weston, Connecticut. And earlier this month, Frank Lloyd Wright’s David and Gladys Wright House in Phoenix, Arizona, was listed for nearly $13 million, with preservationists on high alert about the threat of demolition.