Getting the opportunity to purchase a home designed by a world-renowned architect is a treat for any design lover. But getting one designed by and lived in by an architecture master is genuinely unique. But that opportunity is available as I.M. Pei's Sutton Place townhouse in NYC is on the market for $8 million. And it's everything you'd expect from the man who designed the Louvre Pyramid in Paris.
The Pritzker Prize-winner died in May at 102 years old, leaving behind an incredible body of work, including his four-story home on Manhattan's east side, where he lived for 45 years. When Pei and his wife Eileen first purchased the nearly 4,000-square-foot home in 1973, it was a bit rundown. Of course, the Chinese-American design master took it on as yet another project, completely overhauling the space and bringing new life to it with his signature modern aesthetic.
As you step inside the moss green door, you're greeted by a marble-floored entrance hall and a spectacular spiral staircase that winds to the top of the home.
"At the heart of the house is the breathtaking spiral staircase of Mr. Pei's design," listing agent Edward F. Joseph of Christie's International Real Estate told Departures. "Ascending from the first floor to the home's three upper levels, the staircase is capped with a large oblong skylight enhanced with a geometric treatment, reminiscent of Mr. Pei's famed glass pyramid at the Louvre."
Light also pours in from the house's backside as the architect swapped small, narrow windows for floor-to-ceiling picture windows during the renovation.
"Once you shut the front door and walk inside, my dad designed it so that the narrow hallway directs your eye towards this incredible garden in the back that you can see through the floor to ceiling glass," Pei's daughter, Liane Pei, told us. "There is a secret and idyllic, oasis-like feel."
Every aspect of the four-bedroom, three-bathroom home is meticulously designed with features like Tasmanian oak, towering built-in bookshelves on the parlor level, and a fireplace surrounded by soapstone. This living area, complete with unobstructed views of the private garden and East River, Pei might have loved most.
"The rocking chair in the living room is where he would enjoy sitting looking out at the East River to get a design idea or even simply enjoy a glass of whiskey," Kai Cheng, Executor to I.M. Pei's Estate, told Departures. "I think it is probably one of his favorite spots in the house."
It's not surprising that prominent people would dine regularly—Liane noted famous guests would come over at least once a week—as socialite Anne Vanderbilt designed Sutton Place in the 1920s as a place of refuge in the bustling city. It's made of 14 pre-war townhouses situated in a U-shape around a private park that looks over the East River. And it was that unique offering that made Pei—known for designing the East Building of the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C., the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha—see the potential in the otherwise rundown building.
"What makes the house so special is that it's tucked away in a part of the city that people often are just rumbling on by," said Liane. "When people came to our house, it was almost like an oasis for them because you lose any sense of the city traffic. So, being part of that very privileged community of people that can enjoy this very special garden is quite a unique honor."
Just as much as it's an architectural masterpiece, the space is also incredibly functional and homey.
"There were a lot of touches with wood and beautiful fabric that warmed up the place," said Liane. "The lines are very clean and very pure, but always with a warm feeling of home and family. Everything is designed very efficiently for real living that real people can enjoy.
She added, "[The new owners] are going to have a treasure. It's like a jewelry box. They will find that there's everything there to entertain and live in a most gracious, comfortable, easy, and natural way. The hallmark of my dad's work has always been an elegant understatement, and that's the best setting to make it possible for a new family to come in and enjoy it just as much as we have."