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Publication Date: 2017-11-21

Behind the Design

Reflecting on the Work of Architect Harrie T. Lindeberg

A new book examines the work of a forgotten American architect who shaped a vision of the well-appointed country life that still holds sway today.

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The garden facade of the Ruby Boyer Miller House, Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan, 1935.

With the triumph of modernism, and the popularity of mid-century style, numerous architects and designers of the second half of the 20th century have become household names. But too often their predecessors, who worked in more traditional styles, are overlooked. Now Peter Pennoyer, one of the most prominent classical architects working today, and writer Anne Walker have rediscovered an architect whose simple, symmetrical, yet richly detailed houses delighted great American families in the 1910s, '20s, and '30s. Their new book, Harrie T. Lindeberg and the American Country House (The Monacelli Press), presents 20 projects, many still standing, that convey a sense of gracious ease and restrained elegance that seems more appealing than ever.

The Eugene du Pont, Jr., estate, Greenville, Delaware, 1915-20.

Lindeberg (1880-1959) was the son of Swedish parents, and the clean lines, high rooflines, and straight-forward layouts of Scandinavian design remained a constant inspiration throughout his career. But he also trained at McKim, Mead & White, and the Beaux-Arts principles of that favorite firm of the era's wealthy also shaped his work. With the spread of train lines and the growing popularity of the automobile, country homes became more appealing to the well-to-do, and soon Lindeberg was crafting houses in the upscale surburbs and countryside around New York City, Houston, Chicago, Detroit, and Minneapolis, for families that included the du Ponts, the Havemeyers, the Doubledays, and many more.

The stair hall of the Michael van Beuren estate, Middletown, Rhode Island, 1924-26.

However, even as his houses evoked the understated grandeur of the past, he made sure that they incorporated modern conveniences, and were relaxed, approachable, and distincly American. And Lindeberg embraced charm and whimsy, building in brick and stone, using shingles to mimic thatched roofs, incorporating elements and forms of English cottages (turrets, towers, and dovecotes), and setting his houses within "rooms" created by terraces, walls, and hedges. It is that combination of rigor with an almost story-book appeal that makes his houses so compelling.

The gate into the garden at the Nelson Doubleday estate, Mill Neck, New York, 1916-19.
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