Philip Gefter on the magic of living in a glass house

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“The Glass House just reflected my sensibility and also my husband's. We're not married for no reason … it just had so many dimensions and we loved living in it. It was magical, just completely magical.” Photo credit: Bill Jacobson

Writer and historian Philip Gefter has explored cultural shifts that seem to happen overnight. He is known for his works What Becomes a Legend Most, the biography of Richard Avedon, and Wagstaff: Before and After Mapplethorpe, for which he received the 2014 national award for arts writing, known as the Marfield Prize. His latest project is the book Cocktails with George and Martha: Movies, Marriage, and The Making of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? — it offers a behind-the-scenes view into the making of the 1966 film, based on Edward Albee’s landmark play. 

More: Author Philip Gefter examines the institution of marriage in Cocktails with George and Martha (The Treatment, 2024)

For his Treat, Gefter recounts how seeing a picture of a glass house in a book when he was 10 years old sparked a lifelong interest in architecture. Decades later, it inspired him and his husband to build their own. The glass house, which shares features with architecturally distinct structures by Philip Johnson and Mies Van der Rohe, took four challenging years to construct. Gefter admits that, though the house reflected both their sensibilities and architectural tastes, he and his husband didn't fully appreciate its beauty right away. Eventually, they came to love the magical experience of living in it.

This segment has been edited and condensed for clarity. 

I was 10 years old, looking through a book in my parent's house, and I saw a picture of a glass house. I'd never seen a glass house before and I thought at that moment, 'this is what houses should look like. Why don't houses look like this?'

It stayed with me, and I became very interested in architecture. When I was in my late 40s/early 50s, my husband and I decided we were going to build a house, and we built a glass house. It's a serious piece of architecture. People talk about it in terms of being close to The Glass House, which was by Philip Johnson — that was the house I had seen [in the book] — and also [Ludwig] Mies van der Rohe's Farnsworth House.

It took four years to build; it was like a really difficult birth. So by the time it was finished, I think we were so relieved to be in it [that] it took us a little while to actually recognize the beauty of it.

Of course, it was on enough acreage so that it wasn't visible from the road and people weren't just walking by. So, it does require a little bit of privacy around so you don't feel like you're being exposed everywhere all the time. We are only exposed to the animals.

The glass house just reflected my sensibility and also my husband's. We're not married for no reason … Walking through those rooms that were all glass — and it was kind of a U-shaped house and so it just had so many dimensions, and we loved living in it. It was magical, just completely magical. 




Rebecca Mooney