John G. York and the York House

After posting the color photo of John York’s house in our blog about the Cole Clinic the other day, Robyn did a little research and found that she owns a book that contains several more images of his beautiful home in Harlingen, TX.  The book, Designs for Living by Katherine Morrow Ford and Thomas H. Creighton, was published in 1955, shortly after York designed and built this home for himself and his family.  The book also features work by George Nelson, Richard Neutra, A. Quincy Jones, Pierre Koenig, Alden Dow, Craig Elwood and Marcel Breuer, so this might be a tome to add to your “must have” list.

Here’s the spread about York’s house:


Firm Project - John G. York - York house


The architect of this house wanted an inexpensive, open scheme, and settled on a simple shell, built of pipe columns, specially fabricated steel bar joist, steel roof deck, insulated, and a built-up roof with white marble chips to reflect the sun’s rays. Within the shell, the plan is open; bamboo curtains and folding partitions provide room separations. A continuous screened porch runs along the “breeze” side. Flooring in major rooms is cork, with red quarry tile in “traffic” areas. Steel bar joists and underside of roof decking are left exposed, to form an interior ceiling pattern of an unusual, and very attractive, sort. Colors were carefully selected throughout, on a three-color scheme, to secure a pattern of warm, bold, contrasting colors to offset the ever-present green of the outdoor setting. Lighting is a combination of fluorescent and incandescent. The informality of these interiors, and the open relationship of spaces in the house, reflect the family’s desires and mode of living, and their entertaining habits which tend to the “informal, in which the guests take as much part as the hosts.”

York 1


A large part of the United States has very warm weather during many months, and an open relationship of spaces within the house is almost necessary, to insure through ventilation and take full advantage of the prevailing breezes. This Texas house is, as its owner-architect says, a “continuous volume 74 feet long, oriented so as to turn parallel to both view and breeze, turning its back to the north winds and the extreme west sun.” Thus living and dining spaces and kitchen area are separated from one another only by sliding and folding panels, partial doors, and flexible bamboo curtains. Even the bedroom is separated by a low storage wall with sliding panels above it, and can gain from the openness of the plan. Another device for hot climates is the continuous screened porch acting as a buffer to hurricanes and as a shade strip for the interior. In the sense of space relationships, it connects (all the rooms open onto it) and it adds (it is an extension of living and dining areas).

York 2,3


A “strip” kitchen was the logical answer for this open-plan house. The kitchen is under the same structural ceiling as the living-dining room; storage wall repeats the mahogany used elsewhere in the house. Installed in one continuous wall is a built-in oven, refrigerator, storage cabinets and – under a continuous window wall – meal preparation and clean-up section with sink, and beyond that a cooking area. The kitchen, with its red quarry tile flooring is separated from the living areas by a floor-to-ceiling bamboo curtain. Service door at the extreme end allows one to by-pass the main entrance for service yard access.

York 5


Corrugated translucent wall silhouettes foliage of outside planting in this handsome bathroom. Spacious built-in lavatory counter has storage cabinet and drawers beneath.  Ceiling skylight and cove-lighting strip provide good day and night lighting for the mirror wall above the counter. High casement windows give additional daylight as well as good ventilation.

York 4


Studio bedroom, at a higher level than the main living space, is screened from it by the built-in storage wall which serves both the bedroom and the living room. On the living room side this wall contains bookshelves, radio and record player; on the bedroom side the same wall holds a built-in sewing machine and special cabinets and drawer space, and in addition forms the headboard. Above this storage wall is a series of stacking or sliding panels which can be adjusted to give either a full opening or a full enclosure to the bedroom. An eight-foot wide screened patio acts as a buffer against hurricane winds and provides shade for the bedroom – both essential in this climate. Flooring is cork.

York 6


Photography by Ulric Meisel.