The John Riecker Residence by Alden B. Dow
Designed in 1961 for Alden B. Dow’s niece, Margaret Towsley Riecker, her husband John, and their two children, the Riecker residence is one of the architect’s most distinctive designs. The 6,800 square-foot house nestles horizontally into a slightly rising site some 85 feet back from the street. From the front elevation, the house deceptively appears to be one level.
A composition of brick walls and a flat multiple beam roof frame expose an intricate modular grid ceiling pattern. Cross beams and span beams interlock to create the ceiling grid. Narrow clerestory windows are visible from the front and used throughout the roofline, bringing natural light into the interior. Mr. Dow’s signature red detailing highlights the window frames and ends of the crisscrossing beams.
The low entrance façade gives no hint of the two levels inside. A brick entryway continues around the sunken living room. Three levels of interlocking ceiling beams are interspersed with 88 light fixtures designed by Mr. Dow and built on site by his woodworkers. He was known to have enjoyed coming into the living room and lying down on the floor just to look up at the ceiling pattern.
A large square rosewood coffee table, also designed by the architect, forms one focal point in the room, while a warm hearth creates another gathering spot further into the living room. Just beyond the hearth and one more step down is the dining room, with a wall of windows opening the room to the backyard and an adjacent screened porch.
Off the dining room is the kitchen with an adjoining day room or family room. This room also has a fireplace, the fourth in the house, and a warm feeling created by the extensive use of wood. Three bedrooms, a study, and the master bedroom all line up along the hallway opposite the living room.
Throughout several additions over the years and interior updates following an historic flood in 1986, the Rieckers continued to live in and enjoy their home for over 30 years.
Note: All photographs taken by Balthazar Korab.