Etched in many of our minds is the inside of New York City’s Time-Life building; albeit, few of us have ever set foot there. All that glass, all that light, the dark wood desks, and swivel chairs – we know it if we’ve seen AMC’s “Mad Men,” where the show was set. The architect and furniture designer responsible for those iconic interiors is Gerald Luss.
Maureen Flaherty and her husband Rick own the Gerald Luss House, Luss’s first residential home, in Ossining, New York. He was 25 years old when it was built (in 1952), and he filled it with original pieces that he designed, including the Time-Life twelve-foot couch and coffee table.
The home has remained mostly original, all while Maureen and Ricky raised their four children there. In June, they began to offer the home as a vacation rental on BoutiqueHomes.
We were delighted to speak with Maureen about the home, her life, and their enduring, endearing, and evolving relationship with the now 94-year-old Gerald Luss.
HOW DID YOU LAND IN OSSINING, NEW YORK?
Maureen Flaherty: “I am from Rhode Island originally and my husband is too. We met at Rhode Island School of Design; he studied graphic design and I was in apparel. After college, we both moved to New York City. We moved to Westchester when I was pregnant with our third son, because we were all squished in, living in London Terrace [apartments] in Chelsea.
“And we just rented a car and drove up the West Side Highway. We randomly got off in Tarrytown and rented a small house in Irvington for a couple of years. I was working as a designer at The Gap and my husband was a graphic designer. He also got into acting and was on the HBO show, Oz. Eventually, we were in a place where we could think about buying and I found [The Gerald Luss House] online. And I said, ‘Rick, we have to go see this house’.”
WHAT WAS IT LIKE THE FIRST TIME YOU SAW IT?
MF: “The previous owner had added a garage to the front of the house so the curb appeal wasn’t great. And I don’t think people had really hooked onto the whole midcentury modern thing as much yet. But we walked in and I thought, ‘Oh, wow, this is where I want to live’. I got chills. It was such a special place. And now we’ve been here for 22 years.”
WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT GERALD LUSS?
MF: “He only lived here for a few years. His wife at the time became lonely so they moved to Long Island to be closer to her family.
“We met him by total chance… it was meant to be. We were having a Christmas party about six years ago and the caterer said to us, ‘Can I bring my husband over to see the house? He’s an architect. And I feel like he would love it’. We said, ‘Of course.’ My husband had books in which his work was published, but we didn’t know that much about him then. He came over for lunch, walked through the door, and became emotional. He hadn’t been back to the house in over 60 years.
“Today, he is a dear friend of ours. We see him and his wife Susan often; they now live in The Dakota in New York City. He still works as an architect and has a studio where he designs and builds clocks. He surprised us this year with a clock for our living room. Gerald is incredibly inspiring and has had such a meaningful impact on all of us.”
WHAT KIND OF IMPACT?
MF: “Living in the house had such a positive impact on my kids, who are now 26, 24, 22, and 19. They are all super interested in architecture. They’re all creative in one way or the other. There is some sort of creative spirit here that just gets into your bones.
“My husband is currently working on a documentary about Gerald. He took a break from acting shortly after Oz ended and went into filmmaking. He had a documentary at Tribeca Film Festival – The Trials of Constance Baker Motley. He’s been filming Gerald in the house for a couple of years in his home and ours. Gerald is an amazing person to talk with because he’s got such a wealth of experience, but he’s very humble and private.”
HOW TRUE IS THE HOME TO THE ORIGINAL DESIGN?
MF: “Luckily, the previous owners didn’t change anything in the interior of the house. We took down the added-on garage and some of the patio walls to be able to expose the incredible surrounding nature. The cabinetry and built-ins throughout the house remain original.”
WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO RENT THE GERALD LUSS HOUSE?
MF: “Our kids are no longer in the Ossining school system and we realized we had more flexibility. We own a home in Newport, Rhode Island, and we have been traveling back and forth… enjoying the best of both worlds.
“We’ve had some wonderful guests, mostly people in art and design. For the most part, it’s people who are interested in mid-century architecture and want to experience being in nature. Much of the feedback we’ve gotten so far has been ‘We love that you’ve kept it so original.'”
ARE THERE ANY FAVORITE LITTLE CORNERS OF THE HOUSE?
MF: “The sun that comes through the skylight in the main entrance forming a heart in the afternoon… symbolic to me of all the love and special energy in the home.
“Also, sitting in the living room is my favorite place just because it’s all glass. So if you’re in the middle of mid-May, it’s beautiful when everything just gets very green, and then you go into fall and you’re sitting amongst the trees and it’s all these colors – gold and yellow and oranges. And then on a snowy day in the winter, I mean… the living room is a very magical place.”
To book a stay at the Gerald Luss House, click here.