Design Leadership Network

Design Leadership Network

FALL 2023

At Water’s Edge: Glenn Gissler Turns a Steep Bank Into a Backyard Escape

by Glenn Gissler

This was a newly built Colonial Revival with almost no landscaping on a three-quarter acre property on the Hudson River. At the back of the house was a very steep, sloping yard to the river and a rickety narrow metal stairway leading to the dock. Our clients were looking to build a sizable pool and cabana, set into the steep slope going down to the river, with stairs to the river’s edge and the dock, and a level yard near the house.

Our biggest challenge was incorporating the engineering and structural aspects of the retaining walls needed to support the pool and house on a steep, sloping yard while maintaining a graceful appearance. This undertaking required a team including a landscape designer, engineer, the pool company, and architects.

The entire process took about a year: We broke ground in the late fall after a few months waiting for permits, had to take a long pause during the harshest days of winter, and started right back in the early spring. The pool and landscape were finished just in time for an early August swim.

Now, the pool area has become somewhat of a private resort; it’s the focus of almost all summer activities. All told, the yard now includes a pool cabana, an infinity edge pool, a variety of covered and open porches and patios, a barbecue area, flower garden, water’s edge walk, a big dock into the river, and a swing all overlooking a spectacular view of the Hudson.




Riverfront Home

While throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, the riverside hamlet of Nyack, New York, bustled with a thriving shipbuilding industry, today, the locale is better known as a much sought-after community just forty-five-minute from the gridded streets of Manhattan.

Established clients of Glenn Gissler Design were looking for a weekend property when we found a newly-built architect-designed shingle-style Colonial Revival home on the Hudson River. The rooms were gracious and well-detailed yet not ostentatious, with remarkable river views, presenting the perfect backdrop for a restrained mix of contemporary, vintage, and antique furnishings.

A color palette of tempered marine blues, celadon, and sophisticated neutrals was chosen, paying homage to the verdant landscape and gleaming water beyond the structure’s facade. The resulting spaces are comfortably classic and ideally suited to the stunning naturalistic panoramas.

With the interiors complete, the focus turned to the client’s wish for a pool and cabana, presenting a daunting set of challenges. Working closely with an engineer, landscape designer, and an experienced pool builder, the team moved the earth–quite literally–to create a plateau for a resort-inspired infinity edge pool. The resulting terrace appears effortlessly carved into the landscape—as if it has always been there—the ultimate hallmark of successful exterior design.

Glenn Gissler - Sharpe Nyack - New York State
Chiseled into the sloping terrain between the main house and the Hudson River, the newly constructed terrace with its infinity edge pool and cabana provides a superb respite from the bustling streets of New York City, less than an hour away.
A backless, streamlined daybed allows a view of the crackling fireplace throughout the fall and winter seasons. The painting over the mantel is by American Abstract Impressionist Richard Pousette-Dart’s 1969-1970 Untitled (Radiance). Pousette-Dart is a widely recognized member of the New York School of painting, creating a poignant relationship between the artist and this Hudson River home.

A stylized Chinese-inspired chain-link motif unfolds across a custom-designed area rug, establishing a colorful dialog with two armchairs in the style of Jacques Adnet, upholstered in similarly-hued paisley. Two lean classical end tables, a custom-colored linen table at the center, and a cast bronze thorn-leg table by Herve van der Straeten provide gracious space for a pair of white crackle-glazed lamps, drinks, books, and cherished mementos.

Three pendant lights are hung from a blue ceiling in the dining room, lending rhythmic gravitas to the room’s lighting. Lush linen curtains frame the windows and French doors. Subtle curves define the suite of chairs, while Winged Creature (2014), by Frank Bowling, takes pride of place above the marble-and-millwork mantle.
The patinated oak finish and graphic contours of the 1940’s pecan-toned sideboard by Parisian furniture maker Charles Dudouyt lend a historical note to the dining room, while Hale Woodruff’s Landscape No.2 (1966) hangs above, referencing the lush landscape beyond.
To one side of the living room, en route to the paneled library, a second seating area invites casual conversation with its armless sofa. The coffee table and chairs are French, with silhouettes establishing a note of continental modernity. Completing the tableau is The Studio, a 1952 canvas by female Abstract Impressionist Yvonne Thomas, who has garnered considerable attention in the years since her death.
Three handsome barstools, clad in a burnished blue-grey textile, add a colorful counterpoint to the kitchen’s celadon-and-off white palette. A small yet striking painting by Franz Kline, Untitled 1960, is perched on the counter, underscoring the homeowner’s interest in modern abstraction.
The custom millwork, marble, slate, and subway tile in the expansive, perfectly appointed chef’s kitchen are softened by several unlined Roman shades tailored in a handsome Zimmer + Rohde stripe.
In the library, pine paneled walls strike a stately note; their color echoes on a caramel leather club chair and vintage coffee table. A melange of slate blue textiles, both plain and patterned, perfectly balances the atmosphere. The painting over the mantel is Bradley Walker Tomlin’s Number 19 (1952-53).
A subdued palette in the primary bedroom, similarly hued yet softer than the rest of the home’s interiors, hits just the right chroma-note for encouraging a peaceful night’s rest. The textural rug and curvaceous settee mimic the undulation of the Hudson river just below the room’s adjacent terrace. Rock-crystal lamps and the sculptural ‘Supra Bubble’ chandelier provide ambient light.
A crystal chandelier from the 1960s by the influential Venetian architect and designer Carlo Scarpa hangs above a decidedly feminine bath adjacent to the primary bedroom. Marble mosaic tiles and custom built-ins meet creature comfort in a lavishly upholstered sling-backed slipper chair, while an abstract geometric embroidered linen fashioned into a Roman shade diffuses the afternoon light.
A study in perfect contrast, the home’s entryway is at once stately with its double-height ceiling and understated in its elegant simplicity. The monumentally-scaled canvas by Frank Bowling emphasizes the grand sweep of the staircase from above, while the angular Chinese Chippendale fretwork railings sway in juxtaposition to the perpendicular lines of the slate floor.

In this vignette, a Gustavian chest, one of a pair flanking a custom upholstered bed, is coupled with a cylindrical, mother-of-pearl inlaid side table. The rock crystal lamp is ingeniously produced from the detritus of larger crystal cuttings wired together, from CL Sterling & Sons.

Playful polka dot curtains and a gestural line-drawn garden scene rug–rendered in tones of pink, rose, and cream–add to the joyful atmosphere in the daughter’s bedroom. And because it’s never too early to expose children to art, Winter Rose by Kikuo Saito hangs above a diminutively-scaled Chesterfield sofa, chair, and elephant side table.
The infinity-edge pool, cabana, and multiple seating areas for al fresco dining are visible from nearly every room in the home. An adjacent boat launch provides private access to waterside recreational activities.
The cabana, open on three sides to circulate river breezes, draws its architectural inspiration from the shingled house above. A suite of chaise lounges and umbrellas are oriented to capitalize on the remarkable views.

A teak table and fretwork chairs, which allude to the stair railings in the home’s entry, are arranged on a bluestone terrace just off the kitchen, providing seating for an intimate meal.

Introspective Magazine: Hudson River Estate



Introspective Cover

With This Handsome Hudson River Estate, Glenn Gissler Redefines Gracious Living

by Fred A. Bernstein
Photography by Peter Murdock

In Nyack, New York — not even an hour’s drive from Manhattan — the interior designer created a home that makes its owners feel as if they’d been transported to a faraway resort.

It takes GLENN GISSLER almost two hours to drive from his apartment in Brooklyn Heights to his weekend house in northwestern Connecticut. So, he might envy his clients — an investment banker, his wife and their young daughter — who live in a Lower Manhattan loft. Getting to their weekend house, in Nyack, New York, takes all of 45 minutes. And that includes crossing the Hudson River, which the city apartment and the country house overlook from opposite sides.

Nine years ago, when they bought the Manhattan apartment, the couple hired Gissler to design its interiors, a job that included helping them assemble a collection of ABSTRACT EXPRESSIONIST ART. Then, three years ago, when they started looking for a weekend house, they turned to Gissler for advice. After a few false starts, the couple found a newly constructed COLONIAL REVIVAL/shingle-style home that fronts the river at its widest point. Architect David Neff had given the 5,200-square-foot home traditional details while keeping the interiors open and light.

“The rooms are well proportioned, not too grandiose,” Gissler says. And the setting couldn’t be better. The house, he says, is set high enough to offer spectacular Hudson River views and low enough to feel close to the water.

The couple bought it, and Gissler proceeded to outfit the interiors with a smart mix of new and old furniture, much of it European. “The house is very much American, but it’s not AMERICANA,” says the designer, who studied architecture and fine arts at the Rhode Island School of Design, then worked for an architect (Rafael Viñoly) and an interior designer (JUAN MONTOYA) before founding his own practice, in 1987.

Here, Gissler leads Introspective on a tour of the house, on which he collaborated with his senior designer, Craig Strulovitz, also a RISD graduate.


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Let There Be Light

by Lisa Zeiger

Introspective Magazine




See the High-Style 1970s Home of a Renowned New York Preservationist

by Glenn Gissler
Photography by Joshua McHugh

We offer the first public peek at a Joe D’Urso–designed Upper West Side apartment that hasn’t been touched in 40 years — and discover the many lessons both the space and its owners, Arlene and Bruce Simon, have to teach.

Joe D’Urso — a pioneer of forward-looking, minimalist modernism — designed the apartment of Bruce and Arlene Simon on New York’s Upper West Side more than 40 years ago. Thanks to the Simons’ careful upkeep — she’s a well-known preservation advocate — it remains a study in sleek black, white and gray. Top: For the dining room, D’Urso created a modular table system (one leaf hangs from the wall when not in use, looking like an Ad Reinhardt painting deployed as bulletin board), and he added chairs in the style of Marcel Breuer’s 1920s Cesca design.

Even in the analog days of the 1970s, word traveled fast about a certain emerging and remarkably talented interiors star. His name was Joe D’Urso, and he was shaking up the design world.

I still remember the first time I saw his work, just after I graduated from high school and 10 years before I would start a design practice of my own. It was in Architectural Digest’s November/December 1976 issue, which featured a New York City home D’Urso had reinvented as an exemplar of High Tech design, the extreme minimalistmodernindustrial style that had become his signature. The Upper West Side apartment was unlike anything I had ever seen or imagined.

The space, located at the top of a West 67th Street Gothic-revival atelier building, was a four-bedroom duplex belonging to prominent labor lawyer Bruce Simon and his wife, Arlene Simon, a childrenswear designer who in 1985 would cofound the trailblazing neighborhood preservation group LandmarkWest!. In creating the apartment’s design, D’Urso used the most limited palette of colors and materials and the fewest pieces of furniture possible. He covered the floors in nearly black commercial-grade carpeting of a sort not usually associated with residential design, contrasting its dark hue and low, nubby texture with smooth high-gloss white paint. This he used on every paintable surface, from the wood paneling and balusters to the built-in cabinets, doors, walls, beams and ceilings.

His design for the home’s soaring main space, a double-height living room overlooked by a balcony originally intended to accommodate musical performances, felt radically new.

He furnished the space sparsely, with a few blocky, rolling black-Formica coffee tables and a couple of low-slung woven chairs set on a high carpeted platform. That plinth was one of several he created to break up and define various sections of the room, using one as a sofa, another as a daybed, and one even as a table. To help balance out the cavernous volume, D’Urso suspended a large split-leaf philodendron on wires from the ceiling, and Arlene added black canvas pillows to the extended built-in sofa, with more on the daybed near the fireplace.

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