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The Butterfly House: East Hampton, New York

After a brief holiday hiatus Incredible Interiors has returned! Due to the stockpile of amazing interiors held within CIRCA’s listings, I have decided to examine some of my very favorites, starting with Henry T. Howard’s Butterfly House in East Hampton, NY. Listed with the Corcoran Group for $699,999, I’ve had my eye on this mid-century beauty since CIRCA’s launch. Its superb angular roof exudes modernity and it stands in a distinct lineup of other famous butterfly roof houses!



Constructed in 1964, Howard’s Butterfly House was influenced by trends in architecture that can be traced back nearly two decades prior. The butterfly shape is evident in a house that MoMA (The Museum of Modern Art) commissioned Marcel Breuer to design in 1948. The Breuer commission, which was inspired by a project designed by Le Corbusier in 1930, was part of an effort in the immediate post-war years to establish a distinctive American housing prototype that was both architecturally innovative and economically feasible for the growing middle class. MoMA promoted the Breuer house as “a moderately priced house for a man who works in a large city and commutes to a so-called ‘dormitory town’.” The house, like Howard’s Butterfly House, was relatively compact and focused on flexible open living spaces.


Le Corbusier’s Maison Errazuriz, Sans lieu, Chili, 1930. Courtesy of Foundation Le Corbusier. 


The Breuer house in MoMA’s sculpture garden. Courtesy of Misfit Architecture.  

MoMA played a distinctive role in the definition of postwar domestic modernism. In America, the socialist goals of pre-war European architects and designers were dissolved by consumer goods and the postwar legislation that promoted single-family home ownership. In effect modernism in the United States was relegated to the corporate headquarters and to the suburban sophisticate.

Howard’s Butterfly House exemplifies the post-war zeitgeist for streamlined suburban living. The house’s interior is defined by walls of floor-to-ceiling windows that promote a sense of indoor-outdoor living. A key component of mid-century modernism, the integration of exterior and interior spaces was perhaps first developed by Frank Lloyd Wright but perfected during the post-war years.


The interior of the Butterfly House. 


The living room of the Breuer house. Courtesy of Archives of American Art. 

Outdoor living was a particularly important feature in houses built in sunbelt cities that began fervently expanding after World War II. Like MoMA in New York, Arts and Architecture Magazine helped to shape the image of post-war living on the west coast by sponsoring the now famous Case Study House program. Running intermittently from 1945 to 1966, the Case Study House program sponsored major architects, like Richard Neutra, Charles and Ray Eames and Eero Saarinen, to design and build inexpensive and efficient model homes. The houses produced influenced a generation of architects and consumers with their free-flow of space and modern interiors.


The infamous Case Study House 22 designed by Pierre Koenig in 1960 and photographed by prolific architectural photographer Julius Shulman. Courtesy of Pleasure Photo. 

If you’re interested in purchasing the Butterfly House, you can see the full listing HERE or check out other mid-century modern houses for sale on CIRCA.


A Portland, Oregon native, Vincent is particularly interested in historic interiors and decorative arts. His love for historic architecture was indulged at an early age by his parents, who kindly accompanied him on countless tours of historic houses and sites. Vincent lives in South Harlem with his partner, Nate, and their formally feral cat named Edna.


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