Durisol House/Risom House


Sherwood, Mills and Smith


1949


Description

The Durisol House/Risom House is a one-story, slab-on-grade structure sited at the center of a small, open parcel with a significant old-growth Chinese paper maple tree. The house has an irregular L-shaped plan, gable roofs, and a painted stucco exterior wall finish. The stucco wall surfaces are relieved with broad expanses of glass, primarily found at the back of the house. The original garage area (now a bedroom) is clad with red brickwork. The attached carport has painted wood-encased steel columns, a wood-frame gable roof, and an asphalt floor.

In 1954, the original porch was enclosed and the master bedroom was enlarged. Between 1958 and 1959, the garage was remodeled into living space, including a bedroom with a bathroom and storage space. A carport and an office, designed by architect Laurent DuPont, were added in 1972.


Significance

In 1950, Jens Risom (1916- ), the renowned Modern furniture designer from Denmark, bought a three-bedroom house from Robert Jahn. The house was designed by architecture firm Sherwood, Mills & Smith and was completed in 1949 by contractors Tudisco & Diehl.

The house was built as a showcase for a construction material known as "Durisol." According to the New York Times, the Risom house was the first house to be built entirely of Durisol, a material described as a "light-weight pre-cast concrete employing chemically mineralized wood shavings for its 'aggregate,' and formed in modular slabs, blocks and tiles, over which various surfaces can be applied if desired" (New York Times, 6 November 1949). The article states that the blocks used for the walls of the house were laid in staggered rows, interlocking at their ends and laid without pointing mortar. The voids within the blocks were filled with concrete to form load-bearing walls. The corner units were reinforced with steel bars. Stucco was applied directly to the units' surfaces for an exterior finish. Durisol was also used for the roof sheathing, which was left exposed at the interior for a ceiling finish and for acoustical ceiling tiles.

Featured in articles in the New York Times (1949), the New York Times Magazine (1954), House and Garden (1955), and the Herald Tribune Magazine (1958), the house was acclaimed for the use of Durisol, its efficient layout, and the prominence of its owner, Jens Risom.

In 1959, Risom sold the house to Lester and Patricial Brooks, who still own the house today. Despite additions and alterations, the house retains its plan, character-defining features, and most of its original materials, including the Durisol.


National Trust for Historic Preservation, 2009.