Everyone likes to have a few conversation pieces in their home, but Zelda and Paul Levitz's very unique house in Lawrence is chock full of them at every turn.
They created their home from the ground up, which is equal parts eco-friendly house of the future, art gallery, and meditative Asian sanctuary. It is reminiscent of Frank Lloyd Wright’s famed designs.
Just over 26 years ago, the couple set out to create a one-of-a-kind home for themselves when they began to tire of their conventional house in North Woodmere. They chose a plot of land on Willow Way, which was a dump sight at the time, to build their dream house.
“I hired an architect, and the mandate was that he use materials that my husband Paul produced in his glass and metal factory in Lawrence,” Zelda said. “We made the house with reflective glass. People can’t see in, but we can see out.”
The house, which sits on three-quarters of an acre, was completed in less than a year, with a greenhouse that was added a while after they moved in. Zelda, who has a natural artistic flair, had a very strong vision that she not only conveyed to the architect, but to the interior decorating team that came in afterwards.
“I knew that I wanted the architecture, the artwork, the sculptures and the garden to prevail,” she said. “It wasn’t important to showcase our furniture, which is very muted, because it’s not the important theme of the house.”
The Levitz’ efforts have not gone unnoticed. Several years ago, the home was featured in Architectural Digest. A major motion picture was to be filmed at the house, until the writers' strike ended the project—although it’s still possible that the house may someday be immortalized on the silver screen. Periodically, they are contacted by movie scouts looking for unique locations to film movies.
Many of Zelda’s sculptures are displayed throughout the house, an art form she studied after she retired. She made one of them in Zimbabwe, during one of the couple’s many trips abroad where they picked up works of art for the house over the years. While there, they also purchased a beautiful hand-carved wooden “kings chair.”
Every corner of the house has something of interest—from the stainless steel ceiling to the baby grand piano draped with an authentic Egyptian tapestry to the priceless busts that line the steps of the spiral staircase.
They designed some of the furniture, including a glass, metal and stainless steel dining room table. They also created a set of end tables for their living room, which are unique, functional and portable. They are made from special glass that is used in churches and temples.
Giant bamboo trees are the backdrop for a large portion of the huge backyard garden, which is Zelda’s biggest source of pride. Over the years, the couple has hosted many lavish parties and even a couple weddings back there.
“The bamboo is beautiful in the winter,” Zelda said. “If it’s icy, they become icicles. And the snow covers the leaves. It looks like a winter wonderland.”
Tremendous boulders, special plantings, three ponds, four waterfalls, sculptures and wind chimes were strategically placed throughout the garden, which Zelda jokingly refers to as her Zen Temple.
“Although the house was built within a year, the garden was a work in progress that evolved over time,” she said. “We hand-picked the boulders in the Hamptons at a quarry.”
Years later, they added several large solar panels to the house’s three flat roofs.
“We are very eco-friendly,” she said. “Everything is reflective glass. Everything is sensitive to energy.”
The house and most of its décor is contemporary, although there are a few older pieces throughout, including an antique high chair in the bathroom.
The house is situated on an idyllic countrified street that seems light years away from the bustling Lawrence business district that is only about a half-mile away. Although it has been a source of pride and joy for many years, the couple may consider putting it on the market in the near future.
“We’re getting older, and this is a big place,” Zelda said. “We keep a place in Manhattan, but we would still like to keep a small foothold in this area. I love Long Island in the spring and summer.”