By Margie Lavender

Another day, another scintillating exploration of the Hudson Valley, this time to Manitoga, Russel Wright’s home and studio built on the rock ledge of an old quarry. 

View of the Hudson from nearby Cold Spring. Reminds me of a Japanese wood block print.

Russel Wright was one of the best known designers of the 1930's through 1950's, famously known for the organically shaped and richly colored stove-to-table dinnerware and the book, The Guide to Easier Living, both collaborations with his wife and fellow designer, Mary. 

Pitchers from Russel and Mary Wright’s American Modern dinnerware (Photo from Manitoga website)

In 1942, the pair purchased a 75-acre abandoned quarry and logging site in Garrison and began the process of repairing and transforming the landscape and planning their home. Sadly, Mary died in 1952, she would never see the completed project that Russel continued to develop over the next 3 decades, a thoroughly modern, experimental home with a theatrical landscape that feels at once carefully designed, and a part of nature. 

Exterior of the house on Dragon Rock overlooking the Quarry Pond.

Navigating the old quarry topography- Our guide liked to remind us of Russel’s aversion to handrails. (Map and illustration by David McAlpin Architect, and Ron Barrett)

Architect David Leavitt designed the exterior of the home and the studio. The interiors, full of custom details, were designed by Russel and integrated nature in a unique way, blending the divide between inside and out.

View into studio from above. Wright insisted on a green roof long before this was done. It has since been restored with a new green roof system.

Peek into the Studio

The Studio 

Burlap back-lit ceiling at Studio

Pine needles embedded in the paint of the studio bed area ceiling illustrate Wright’s creative experimentation with natural materials.

Beamed ceiling in Main House

In Russel Wright's approach to living, one would change out interior features with each new season. Wall paneling, dishes, textiles, and even artwork would be swapped out for summer, spring, winter and fall. Cooling whites and blues for summer, and warm tones of red and orange in the colder months. How nice that would be – something we should all aspire to!

Dining Area in Main House (note the summer dishware and again the lack of handrails on the open boulder stair).

Summer - Winter - Interchangeable decorative panels (repurposed insulation material). 

View from outside the studio looking down to the Main house. 

The next time you find yourself with a free day in the lovely Hudson Valley, seek out this gem that captured Russel Wright's attention and inspiration for over thirty years. Its full of surprises and still changing with the seasons.