Melding the strong geometries of both the Prairie School and the International Style, the Nelson house presents a dynamic image both inside and out. The house’s low-slung posture, juxtaposition of variegated grey Roman brick on the first story with horizontal mahogany siding on the second, emphatic horizontality reinforced by projections above both first and second story, and low hip roof recall the pioneering examples of the Prairie Style. The International Style references include the ample use of glass and ribbon windows and the curving geometries and dramatic spatial sequence, both horizontal and vertical, in the main hall. The interior spaces and finishes are largely as constructed 50 years ago, but the kitchen has been remodeled, a design by Dana Kahn that incorporates the curving geometry found in the front hallway.
Eugene M. Nelson (1922-1988) was an orthodontist. Jean Nelson is the daughter of Milton Sapinsley, who had built the house on abutting property at 270 Laurel Avenue in 1949.
This is one of many construction projects that Dr. and Mrs. Nelson completed, including three other houses, two office buildings, and several tennis clubs. Not trained designers but possessed of good design sense, the couple relied on professionals to translate their concepts into reality through precise construction documents.
– 2011 Festival of Historic Houses Guidebook