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Inside the Glass House | © Mark B. Schlemmer / Flickr
Inside the Glass House | © Mark B. Schlemmer / Flickr

Connecticut’s Incredible Transparent House in the Middle of the Woods

Picture of Elizabeth Nicholas
Updated: 9 February 2018

It has been said that people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones, so anyone planning a visit to the Philip Johnson Glass House should leave the rocks behind.

This incredible house, which sits on a 47-acre estate in the middle of Connecticut, near New Canaan, was designed by the famous architect Philip Johnson in 1949. Johnson created the house to serve as his primary residence.

One of the design ideas behind a house made entirely of glass is for the landscape outdoors to serve as wallpaper. (“I have very expensive wallpaper,” Johnson once said.) Standing at certain angles outside the house, you can see completely through to the other side. The scaffolding of the house is visible, charcoal-painted steel and glass, and the brick floor rises 10 inches off the ground.

The design of the house was heavily influenced by Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House, which Johnson admired. Both houses are considered important early works of modern architecture, and both were some of the first to incorporate industrial materials like glass and steel into residential constructions.

The house is not the only structure on the property. There is also a brick house (which served as a guest house) and a painting gallery built into the side of a hill. But the glass house is unquestionably the showstopper. It sits on the edge of a crest overlooking a pond on the property.

The dining, sleeping, and eating areas in the house are all in one glass-enclosed room. Johnson later moved into the brick house and used the glass house strictly for entertaining.

Johnson lived at the house for 58 years with his partner, the art critic and curator David Whitney, who helped design the landscaping (or “expensive wallpaper”) on the property. Today, the National Trust for Historic Preservation owns the house. It was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1997.

Anyone can visit the house, which is open for tours from spring through late fall. But the most special time to visit may just be during the house’s annual summer picnic when you can see the Glass House as it was meant to be seen—being used.