The Floating House 

 "This is not a 'Hi honey, I'm home!' house," artist Annie Dunsky-Kälnitz says of her Pittsford residence. Pod-shaped and perched on 100-foot pylons on the side of a hill --- like a long-legged bug --- the house was dubbed the Floating House by its first owners. It was designed and built in the late 1970s by architect Jim Johnson, of Mushroom House fame.

            The house is oriented away from the street and towards a lush tangle of woods to create privacy and foster an intimacy with nature. On the eastern side, a three-story bank of windows overlooks the trees and creek below. At the western side, facing the street, a blank, 80-foot-long, cedar-shingle wall maintains the private feeling of the home.

            The land surrounding the house is, like the house, atypical. There's no lawn, nor is there any level ground to speak of --- just a steep hill. To get to the backyard you have to walk down dozens of steps. At the bottom, the Floating House looms above the scrub bushes that lead to the creek and woods.

            "This is a retreat," Annie says. She's seen wild turkeys, deer, and great blue herons there. "Do you feel like you are in Pittsford?"

Inside, the house has an open plan, with the second and third floors opening onto the main space and the 30-foot wall of windows situated above the sunken conversation pit on the first floor.

            "[Johnson] considers every angle," Annie says. "It's sensuous and massive. It's all about volume and space."

            Up in the master bedroom, which has no doors, a low bed faces the windows. Leafy green light filters in from the canopy of trees outside. Only a slender railing stands between the bedroom and the spectacular view.

            "It's like waking up in the jungle," Annie's husband, software developer Paul Kalnitz, says.

            In addition to the proximity to nature, the couple revels in the details of their home. "Every inch is hand-considered, handmade," Annie says, pointing out a joint where two oddly angled roof sections come together perfectly. She loves the sleek walnut built-ins, the fireplace tiles, and the open-riser stairs. "Jim Johnson's houses are like sculptures. We're living in a sculpture."

            Johnson studied with Bruce Goff, a professor of architecture at the University of Oklahoma, who combined unusual materials in unexpected ways to create buildings that are both plant-like and futuristic.

            Johnson's projects include over 25 custom homes and numerous religious buildings, including St. John Evangelist in Greece, for which he won the Lillian Fairchild Award from the University of Rochester. His CV also lists a wide array of workaday design jobs, from the local (Altier's shoe stores) to the exotic (a dorm in Basrah, Iraq). Perhaps Johnson's most famous landmark design is the Liberty Pole downtown.

Decorating the Floating House might seem like an intimidating proposition, but not to its residents. They moved here 18 months ago from a big Tudor house, which, Paul says, just wasn't right for them.

            "We had been buying modern things," he says, "and we were surprised at how well they all came together here." The home is furnished with architect-designed furniture, which they collect. And their colorful art-glass collection enlivens the surfaces. Annie's expressionistic paintings, which are hung here and there, add to the mix.

            When they first saw the house a couple of years ago, Paul was initially put-off. "From the driveway, it looks like a shack," he says, referring to the long, featureless, cedar-shake wall.

            "It's an antisocial house," Annie says, laughing. "That big wall says, 'Go away!'"

            "But as soon as I came inside, I knew right away that I liked it," Paul says. "And I wanted a house where I wouldn't have to mow the lawn."

In This Guide...

  • Breaking the mold

    Three houses you won't find in a tract
    Anyone who has shopped for a house knows the process can be fraught with anxiety. The commitment.

  • Home Sweet Dome

    Buckminster Fuller first envisioned geodesic domes as sturdy, easy-to-construct, low-cost housing for the masses in the late 1940s. His idea took hold in the decades following, and today the geodesic dome --- part engineering triumph, part philosophy-in-action --- is a symbol of an era when world peace was a goal, not just a logo.

  • The straw-bale house

    If you tell Sharon Kissack her house smells like a barn, she won't be insulted. She's in the final stages of installing straw-bale walls inside, and the scent of sweet, dry hay is just one of the advantages of her unusual choice of materials.

  • Right under your nose

    Art furniture made here
    Art furniture made here

  • DIY: children's bedrooms

    I was cruising right along, hitting all the mile markers of adulthood --- finished school, landed a real job, bought a used car, got hitched, knocked up, the works. But no one makes it out of childhood without facing something that makes them say, "Whoa!

Latest in Home Design

More by Jennifer Loviglio

Pride Meets Summer Camp Themed Market

Pride Meets Summer Camp Themed Market @ Village Gate Square

Come celebrate LGBT+ pride with a nostalgic summer camp twist! Shop over...
Parenting Village's 9th Annual Family Fest

Parenting Village's 9th Annual Family Fest @ Rothfuss Park

Parenting Village, a community nonprofit that supports children and families in the...
Improv Comedy for Tweens/Teens

Improv Comedy for Tweens/Teens @ Winton Branch Library

Say “Yes, and…” to this hilarious improv program. Anything can happen in...

View all of today's events »

Website powered by Foundation     |     © 2024 CITY Magazine