“Betty, could you please go make Don an Old Fashioned while we have a look around?”
This swinging 1960s pad in southern New Jersey has it all in the retro-cool stakes: butterfly roof, check; slate entry, check; sunken living room, massive stone fireplace, and walls of windows that bring the outside in — check, check, check.
More commonly associated with sunnier climes, such as southern California, where architect William Krisel topped topped thousands of tract homes with the bold design in the 1960s and ’70s, the butterfly roof, which is upside down to a traditional gabled roof, is rare on the East Coast. Though Krisel popularized it, the roots of the now-iconic design go all the way back to modernist mandarin Le Corbusier, who designed a butterfly roof in France in 1930. Then, in 1945, Marcel Breuer used a butterfly roof on his Geller House in on New York’s Long Island. (Don’t look for the Geller House; the groundbreaking architectural landmark was demolished in December 2021.)
About 15 miles east of downtown Philadelphia, and set on a generous and wooded 1.44 acre plot, this rare butterfly-roofed residence is available for $675,000 via Vickie Sewell at Coldwell Banker Realty. There are three bedrooms and two and a half baths in close to 3,000 square feet, and modern touches out back include lots of decking — it likely would have been a concrete patio in 1960, along with a built-in gas grill and bar, along with outdoor TV. (Pretty sure the Drapers would have approved of the exterior bar, at least!)
The entrance gallery is paved with random slate flags, a very practical midcentury touch, and sports one of those slightly wacky built-in floor planters that were only popular, it seems, for a brief moment in architecture. The requisite white pebbles still adorn it, too.
Beyond, multi-level open-plan living areas are airy and look mostly original, although the Southwestern decorating touches are out definitely of synch with the original vibe. Still, the faux-Nakashima coffee table, the built-in sofas, the planters next to the steps, the open-tread staircase, the original paneling and funky wall tiling are all very swell indeed. The dining room looks to be untouched, and the kitchen is updated with granite counters, a copper sink, and outdated lighted ceiling panels that are definitely not original.
It’s not known who designed this house but surely they would be glad to know it’s mostly intact and functional 60 years later. Maybe they’d even like to swing by for an Old Fashioned with the new owners!