Much has been written about Jack Lenor Larsen over these many years, including on his own Wikipedia page! His accomplishments, awards and recognition as an international textile designer, author, and art collector are numerous. As one of only four Americans to be honored with an exhibition in the Palais du Louvre, his contributions to the world of textiles, where many of his designs are in the collections of museums worldwide; as well as his dedication to the worlds of art and architecture culminated in the design and creation of his home, LongHouse Reserve.
Completed in 1992 on 16 acres in East Hampton, LongHouse was inspired by the Ise Shrine in Japan. Built on stilts, the home is divided by spaces that showcase Larsen’s fabric designs and personal collections on sliding panels. It is here that this innovator and expert in traditional and contemporary crafts expressed his belief that friends and visitors should, and could, experience art in living spaces.
Complementing his beautiful home LongHouse Reserve, a magnificently designed landscape showcasing modern sculpture and exquisite gardens begun in 1975 when Larson acquired the property, has been a Mecca for not only residents of the East End, but visitors from around the globe. Showcasing sculptural installations in a designed landscape by famous artists, including Buckminster Fuller, Yoko Ono, William De Kooning and Dale Chihuly, to name just a few, is not the only aspect to LongHouse Reserve, the gardens are a horticulturist’s dream!
The mission of LongHouse Reserve (LHR) is “To exemplify living with art in all forms. Through its gallery, arboretum, sculpture gardens, and educational programs, LongHouse brings together art and nature, aesthetics and spirit, with a strong conviction that the arts are central to living wholly and creatively. Dedicated to quality and integrity, LongHouse programs encourage a broad concept of learning.”
Helping to produce and enhance the gardens at LongHouse Reserve, Alex Feleppa has been with LHR since September of 2014. Alex works closely with Founder Jack Lenor Larsen, Director Matko Tomicic, and Head Gardener Bonifacio Rojas to ensure that the gardens reflect the tastes of Larsen in particular and the general public. LongHouse Reserve accommodates over 12,000 visitors a year, and thousands of school children have visited free of charge. The numerous different and distinct garden areas are maintained by a garden staff of only four people, two full-time year-round employees and two seasonals who work from late March to December. Since he started, Feleppa has initiated a garden volunteer program which is slowly growing in number. Folks interested in volunteering in the garden or training to be LongHouse docents to lead tours are always encouraged to contact the Reserve.
Although Larsen is an extremely busy man, he did pause long enough in his numerous endeavors to answer a few questions for Hamptons.com:
What made you choose this location on the East End to build not only your beautiful home but establish the LongHouse Reserve as well?
JLL: It’s next door to Round House, my round African house I lived in for many years. I’ve also had this land next door for 40 years. Property so far from the ocean is not only affordable but better weather for year-round gardening.
How have you seen the public’s reception to LongHouse Reserve change or evolve over the years?
JLL: The garden and sculpture area is now the full 16 acres. We have more special events, concerts, and such, and spectacular programs for 2,000 school children.
How is such an established bucolic setting enriched your residency here in the Hamptons over the years?
JLL: Beyond being a weaver, I am a maker and a place maker. The property was dully dismal; my joy has been in slowly converting it to a special place.
Any pending acquisitions you can reveal?
JLL: The newest is an apple arbor 30 feet long, blooming and perfect. Also a bold pergola 110 feet long covered with flowering vines.
What do you hope the future brings for LongHouse Reserve?
JLL: We are celebrating Master Works, an exhibition of our growing collection of modern design and serious handcrafts assembled over 50 years. When no longer a residence, LongHouse Reserve will convert to a museum open to the public.
Given your immense experience in the art world, and the number of artists living and working in the Hamptons, what advice would you offer an emerging artist who hopes to perhaps one day exhibit at LHR?
JLL: Don’t seek a job nor a career but find a calling – something you want to do all your life, that you will sacrifice for, but in the end, be rewarded; if not with fame at least with a life of choice.
Any visit to LongHouse Reserve, or conversation with Jack Lenor Larsen, will certainly leave one feeling both creative and inspired, and perhaps even a little bit blessed and fortunate that such an extraordinary place created by such an extraordinary gentleman is within our shores to be enjoyed by all.
LHR is open Wednesdays and Saturdays, from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. (May 1st to October 9th), and during July and August, Wednesdays through Saturdays, from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.
LongHouse Reserve is located at 133 Hands Creek Road in East Hampton. For more information, call 631-329-3568 or visit www.longhouse.org.