1966 Richard Meier House (with two swimming pools) in New Jersey


In the early ’90s, after about a decade in a brownstone in Carroll Gardens, Alex Vella, founder of an advertising agency, and his wife, Ann Marie, decided to look for a new home for their growing family. They had spent a few years interviewing modernist architectural firms like Gwathmey Siegel, but starting from scratch, they soon realized, was going to be too much work. Fortunately, they later stumbled upon a ready-made design of the same ilk just an hour out of town: a 1966 house in glass and white stucco designed by fellow New York Five architect Richard Meier. They bought it for $ 650,000, packed their things (by Vella, “All the Modernist Furniture You Can Imagine”), and stayed for the next 30 years.

The house, located atop a hill on five acres of New Jersey Equestrian Country, is one of Meier’s first private residences. Originally built as a summer home for the family of major New York alcohol importer Harold Renfield, the roughly VS– the shaped house is large (7,370 square feet), relatively flat (except for an extra-tall fireplace and a semi-cylindrical tower that channels light into the dining room) and evenly wrapped in Portland Cement Company competition white stucco for the best use of its product).

Photo: Connie Zhou

Inside, you won’t find the slender columns and beams and exposed staircases that tend to mark Meier’s later homes – instead, the place has a simpler, more organic feel. Sculptural curved walls gently separate the living spaces. Much of the flooring is mud brick that is easy to maintain. Public spaces are anchored by minimalist built-in furniture, like the extremely orthogonal white stucco built-in seating (surrounding a black fireplace with a skylight above) in the living room and a large round dining table with a built-in lazy Susan.

Photo: Connie Zhou

Recently, the Vellas realized that their two pools (one indoor, one outdoor) likely contain tributes to painter Frank Stella (who has a six-decade friendship with Meier; the two even shared a studio downtown early on) . “If you look at the indoor pool, there’s a wall relief that’s a series of right-angled extrusions,” says Alex. “This is what Frank Stella’s art looks like.

Over the years, the couple have kept everything on the property as they originally found it, taking on only maintenance work (like replacing the roof and resurfacing the pools).

From left to right : Photo: Connie ZhouPhoto: Connie Zhou

From above: Photo: Connie ZhouPhoto: Connie Zhou

In recent years, the couple’s children (one of whom is a real estate developer and Million Dollar List actor Zach Vella) convinced them to sell the house. Les Vella half-heartedly released it in March 2019, and then again in May 2020, for $ 2.8 million. This time around, the price has dropped to $ 2.5 million. There are a few challenges specific to selling property. On the one hand, there’s the fact that Meier announced his retirement last month, three years after allegations of sexual harassment were brought against him by five women, including four former employees. And then there’s just the inherent difficulty of finding the specific buyer who is interested in purchasing a $ 2.5 million, state-of-the-art glass-walled home in a rural suburb, where the price median catalog is around $ 750,000 and the dominant styles are ranches and colonials. “You wouldn’t question a mid-century modern in the Hollywood Hills,” says Alex. “But in Chester, we are an outlier.”

Photo: Connie Zhou

Photo: Connie Zhou


Julio V. Miller

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.