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Visionary Home: Inside Starchitect I.M. Pei’s New York Residence

His works include the Musée de Louvre’s pyramid in Paris and Doha’s Museum of Modern Art—no wonder then that I.M. Pei’s New York residence is an architectural masterpiece

Gaze up at the façade of this smart, four-story townhouse located in New York‘s prestigious Sutton Place, and its architectural significance may not be immediately obvious. Step inside the classic, moss-green door however, and clues to a revolutionary former owner become instantly more apparent.

A Light-filled Masterpiece

Located centrally in the cool, marble-floored entrance hall, a spectacular spiral staircase winds its way gracefully through the very core of what was once a traditional Victorian property, while at the top sits a glittering geometric skylight, which allows light to flow freely downwards, bathing the many levels below.

No ordinary staircase and no ordinary skylight, this breathtaking structural combination is in fact the work of world-renowned architect I.M. Pei.

Many elegant spaces lie beyond the modest exterior, including the minimalist living room with fireplace. Banner image: the incredible staircase and skylight.

Having purchased the house from Laura “Polly” Delano, a cousin of President Theodore Roosevelt in the early 1970s, Pei and his wife, Eileen, occupied the property from 1972 onwards following an extensive rebuild, and it was here that the iconic Chinese-American design master lived until his death in May 2019, aged 102.

One of the most lauded architects of the 20th and 21st centuries and winner of countless awards, including the prestigious Pritzker prize, Pei was known for his Modernist style and an astounding body of work, including the East Building of the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C., the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio, the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, and perhaps his most famous commission, the dazzling glass and metal pyramid at the Musée de Louvre in Paris.

A four-story townhouse, the I.M. Pei Residence offers exceptional provenance and a sophisticated Modernist aesthetic.

The same lean, reserved, and simple style that he used to create his staggering portfolio of art museums, concert halls, academic structures, hospitals, office towers, and civic buildings can be clearly seen as you move through this residential property, his own home for almost 47 years.

A Great Location

Gravitate towards the rear of the house, and Pei’s magical touch once again becomes clear as a double-pane glass door, designed and installed by the architect, opens up on to the private, bricked garden. Here, as with the other three stories that all benefit from the same glass treatment, the views across the neatly manicured private park-open only to residents of the 14 homes that comprise Sutton Place—towards the striking Queensboro Bridge, the East River, and Roosevelt Island are nothing short of astonishing.

I.M. Pei’s private office occupies the highest floor of the home, hosting a collection of his achievements and books that inspired his design.

Thanks to the addition of this contemporary glass wall, the now calm and refined rooms are awash with natural light. “It’s absolutely idyllic,” says listing agent Edward F. Joseph of Christie’s International Real Estate‘s New York brokerage in New York City. “The staircase, the skylight, and the views really take your breath away.”

The Finest Materials

Handsome Tasmanian oak and marble floors installed by the architect run throughout the house, which can be configured to suit with either four or five bedrooms, while further highlights include the airy living room, the intimate library with its built-in bookshelves, an elegant formal dining area that can seat up to 12 guests, and four wood-burning fireplaces, three of which feature smooth soapstone mantels designed by Pei. A master suite is located on the third floor, while a basement serves as a utility area and wine cellar. Three baths, a powder room, a kitchen, and an elevator complete the generous property.

The communal garden—accessible only to residents—at the back of I.M. Pei's New York City residence in the Sutton Place neighborhood overlooks the East River.

Currently dressed using many items of furniture and art from the architect’s personal collection that could potentially be included in the sale, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to own a slice of architectural history, as well as a genuinely magnificent and unique home.