Saturday, October 22, 2011


I thought I would take a break from the usual to share some things about our home. This summer my wife and I bought our first house! It's a quirky modern house halfway into the woods, a short walk to the college. We both loved it immediately. It has these great big floor-to-ceiling windows that look out at birch trees and fields beyond. But we were also intrigued by the house's slightly mysterious history. The previous owner was the eccentric widow of the chair of the art department. When we first saw the place it was full of art -- African masks and statues, Japanese paintings, Eames and Noguchi furniture, crazy optic wallpaper, etc. I remember saying to each other that it looked like the home of some crazy 1970s art teacher lady. We were sold!

Friends of the previous owners told us the house was a prefab built by grad students from either Harvard or MIT. We did a little research but couldn't find anything. Then last week a friend found a photo on a blog of a house that looked exactly like ours. A few clicks of the mouse later and we discovered that our house is a Techbuilt prefab designed by an architect named Carl Koch. Apparently Techbuilts were among the most popular of early prefabs on the east coast in the 50s and 60s. Koch's idea was to cut costs by building homes out of exchangeable 4 X 8 panels factory made and shipped to the building site, where they could be erected in a few days. The panels could be arranged in a number of configurations, but all Techbuilt houses have the same pitched roofs, exposed beams, split-level construction, large overhangs, etc. There's actually another house just down the street from us that we suspect is another Techbuilt.

Koch was an interesting figure from what we can gather. We checked out one of his books, At Home With Tomorrow, where he makes some slightly ponderous claims about what women want in life and in houses. Some of these photos are from that book, or from promo materials for Techbuilt. I love the one of the wall being assembled below. It looks just like our house! Koch seems to have been a shrewd marketer as well as an architect. The way many east coasters found out about Techbuilt was through a 1954 Ford Foundation-sponsored TV program called "Excursion," which did a lengthy feature on Techbuilt narrated by Burgess Meredith. I would love to see that show.

Anyway here are some views of our house, taken in August before we moved in. I can post more if anybody's interested. Photos of my records?


  1. Seems like a very interesting and inspiring place! With lot´s of "vibes" from the previous owner present. I´m a swedish painter,singer/songwriter and poet; Peter Gustavsson, that just found your site and find it highly enjoyable. We seem to share a lot of interests; records, books and all kinds of odd findings. and yes, please,more photos of house and environs. If you like, reach me at

  2. Ben, congratulations! Good to see you're at home with (a) tomorrow (from the past).
    There's even a tiny Charlotte Perriand-feel in the proportions of that shelf.

  3. I've been returning to your blog time and time again to peruse the great scans of books and to hear all the wild recordings you post -- but now I'm spun into a third dimension--of, all things, prefab housing! Wow. I really like the Techbuilt affordable function-meets-aesthetic. I also am envious that you bought a home from an old art prof lady (how great is that!). Did she leave any Giacometti monographs or curious sculpture or glass? Would love to see more photos of the place. Seems like you've done well to land where you have. Kudos!

  4. Yup, lovely abode there Ben! Great views! I'll bring our family to move in as well if that's ok?

  5. Sounds good as long as you are a master plumber.

    Thanks for the good wishes everybody. The house needs some fixing up but we're really happy here.

    James: I think she ended up selling most of the collection to Christie's over the years. A lot of it also went to family friends and to the art museum at the college. When we made an offer we asked them to throw in certain pieces of furniture. They said no to some stuff but we ended up getting a George Nelson clock, a Noguchi dining table for Knoll, and an Eames chair. We also got the awesome wallpaper above and matching drapes with an optic green ceiling. It's looking a little Mad Men around here but we are slowly putting our imprint on things.

  6. Congratulations it looks beautiful!
    I am terribly much light..and the wall paper! One day I will own the British equivalent an Eric Lyons designed Span House ..I hope..

  7. Wow, those Span houses are great. The photos on that website are like my Lucienne/Robin Day fantasy.

  8. Wow. That's great, Ben! Though I perpetually rent, I have always been doubly ecstatic when moving into a place with inliad bookshelves, especially the floor-to-ceiling variety.

    And getting anything Noguchi and an Eames chair is a(n unaffordable) dream of mine. Congrats. An optic green ceiling? (Why do I feel the need for you to post more pix :-?)
    The wallpaper is almost too amazing to even address at this point...
    Happy landings!

  9. Sooo incredible! Congratulations. Would love to see more photos---especially as it fills up with your amazing collection!

  10. Came here looking for good information on Techbuilt houses, and found it! My family is in the process of buying one (built in 1955, same family owner since, who also happen to have been wonderfully creative academic types). It needs some fixing up, too, so I would really love to see photos of what you've done with your place. Any chance you could email me pics if you can't post them here? First-time homeowners of historic Techbuilt houses, unite?!