The Man in the Glass House
Steve Goldman pictured his ideal home as one that would reflect his passions for art, science, music and nature. Clearly, he got his wish.
|With its abundance of glass, Goldman’s house is no place to cast stones.|
Sometimes, in the quiet hours of late evening, Steve Goldman hears footsteps behind him when he enters the office of his Winter Park home. But there’s no one there; the sound is his own footsteps, a result of the circular room’s remarkable acoustics.
That room, like the rest of the home, was designed to meet the homeowner’s particular passions, one of which is music. Ever since the 58-year-old retired in 2000 after selling his Maitland company, Distributed Processing Technology, he has returned to his first love of composing music. Encircling the office are 30 speakers, each of which plays a different synthesized instrument. The speakers connect to his computer’s composition software, which he uses to create complex symphonies. His works have been performed internationally as well as locally; earlier this year, his “Acadian Dance” was the musical accompaniment to the Orlando Ballet’s performance of “Pas de 13.”
The curved glass wall of the office reveals another passion: flora in all its forms, which creates a bower outside. Goldman says the 7,103-square-foot home was carefully sited so that none of the towering cypress trees on the property would be cut down. “When I was growing up here in the ’50s, they were considered junk trees,” says the Winter Park native. So determined was Goldman to preserve them that he had the front entry of the home cantilevered above the soil in order to avoid cutting the trees’ roots.
The result is a home surrounded and shaded by trees, giving the second floor rooms the feel of a treehouse, as they seem nestled among the branches just outside the floor-to-ceiling windows. Blooming bougainvillea and other flowering plants provide a colorful counterpoint to the veritable sea of green leaves rustling in the wind. “The idea of the house is kind of a reverse greenhouse where the people are on the inside and the plants and trees are outside,” says Goldman.
That emphasis on natural beauty was driven by the work of an architect who Goldman greatly admires, Antoine Predock. Goldman, ever a meticulous researcher, pored through architecture and design publications to find inspiration for the home’s design, building a notebook of images and ideas that included samples of Predock’s work. Goldman shared his “wish list” with his own architect, John Hackler of Winter Park.
“Predock’s influence can be felt more than seen at the rear of the house,” says Hackler. “The way in which the natural, jungle-like environment envelops the design, the warmer palette, and use of more natural materials in the fountains, paving and finishes owe much to Predock.”
Inside, glass is the defining element, much of it in the form of plentiful windows, including the two-story-tall bank of windows that frames Goldman’s remarkable collection of Chihuly glass art. Here, dozens of Chihuly “Persians,” as the discs of colorful glass are called, are grouped in clusters of various sizes. Sunlight streams through the windows, setting the blues, greens and golds of the Persians ablaze. At night, museum-quality halogen lighting takes over the task.
That the interior has a museum-like feel is no accident: the High Museum of Art in Atlanta provided another inspiration for the home’s design. Architect Richard Meier, whose work includes the High Museum, is another favorite of Goldman’s. But it’s Hackler who ultimately turned Goldman’s varied architectural tastes into a dramatic, livable home. “John should get a lot of the credit; he’s got a great eye and a great sense of space,” says Goldman, who moved into the home with his longtime partner, Melanie Love, in 2000. “He synthesized a lot of my ideas and gave it his own touch.” Hackler drew from Goldman’s research to create the minimalist modern home; the influence of the High Museum is evident in the abundance of curving walls and windows and the clean, uncluttered lines of both the interior and exterior.
|Art imitates life as the swirling green glass of the Chihuly chandelier mimics the ivy that tumbles from planters designed by Goldman.|
Like a museum, this home was built to showcase art. The black granite floors are polished to a mirrorlike sheen, which amplifies the impact of the works of art on display. Pure white walls serve as a stark backdrop for the collection, the vast majority of which is composed of glass, crystal and acrylic sculptures displayed on black laminate pedestals. “We have almost no flat art here,” says Goldman, referring to the absence of framed art on the walls. “The style of the house required that.”
Among the three-dimensional pieces are colorful Plexiglas columns by French artist Jean-Claude Farhi and ethereal flamework glass by Robert Mickelsen of Melbourne. Some of the largest and most notable glass sculptures are by Christopher Ries, who uses optical glass from a factory in Pennsylvania to create his works. Ries’ mind-bending, light-refracting pieces include a crystal-clear, 600-pound egg that took the artist a year to create. “There’s nothing else like it in the world,” notes Goldman.
An Inventive Approach
Deviating from Goldman’s love of translucent, light-loving pieces are works by ceramic artist Fausto Salvi and a disturbing installation of severed anime-style doll heads by a Cuban-born Japanese artist who goes by the name “Mr.” The heads are suspended from the ceiling by nearly invisible fishing line, which makes them appear to float in midair.
Furnishings are understated so as not to compete with the art. In the dining room, elegantly simple chairs that are works of art themselves surround a streamlined table with an ingenious drop-down leaf mechanism. Also in the dining room is the one piece of art that references Goldman’s love of music, a fiberglass sculpture of a three-string cello. Next to that work is a twisting column of glass that mirrors the tranquil water feature outside the window. The series of square outdoor pools features “very complicated hydraulics,” says Goldman, who resolved the design challenges, putting the physics degree he earned at the University of Florida to good use.
Adjacent to the dining room is the kitchen, a showplace of gleaming granite countertops and professional-grade appliances where Goldman indulges his love of cooking a variety of dishes, including Asian cuisine and his all-time favorite, a traditional Thanksgiving meal. He adds that Love, 53, is a first-rate baker who enjoys whipping up breads, cakes and other goodies. Above all the food preparation that takes place here is a barrel-vaulted metal framework that Goldman designed. Painted white and gently arched, its color and silhouette provide a dramatic contrast to the kitchen’s abundance of black granite and rectangular appliances.
Goldman also combined his interests in science and art in designing the freestanding staircase that sweeps along a turret of glass blocks. “No one else could figure out how to do it,” he says of this seemingly free-floating marvel of engineering.
Goldman got especially creative with the staircase’s final touches. In order to get the deep, lacquered black finish he wanted, he had the metal framework painted in an auto body shop. “That’s Ferrari paint,” he says.
The glossy black granite used for the steps is the same as the flooring that covers much of the ground floor, but it came with unexpected consequences when used for the winding staircase: Goldman and Love kept wiping out on the slick steps. Goldman pondered for months to come up with a solution; the notion that he put adhesive treads with a sandpaper-like finish on the stairs was dismissed as an unattractive option.
Finally, a trip to Munich gave Goldman the answer. While at that German city’s airport, he spotted a flight of stone steps embedded with thin strips of metal. Raised slightly above the steps’ surfaces, the metal provided the resistance needed to prevent slipping. Goldman had similar strips added to his stair treads.
|Walls of glass give the dining room an alfresco feel.|
The gleaming ebony of the staircase and floors also is reflected in the full-sized grand piano, which has its own glass-block alcove beside the stairs. Goldman enjoys tickling the ivories from time to time, as do his two adult children, Kenneth, 26, and Michelle, 21, when they’re in residence. Both have natural musical ability, notes Goldman, who adds that Michelle aspires to a singing career. “She’s great onstage,” he says of his daughter, who recently performed at the House of Blues in Downtown Disney.
Goldman occasionally can be found lying on the floor near the piano. It’s the best vantage point from which to view the massive Chihuly chandelier suspended in the entryway. The profusion of illuminated curling glass tubes and delicate globes took more than a week to assemble and hang. “I like to lie on the floor and look up at it,” he says.
The greens and golds of the piece were chosen to reference the ivy that spills from wood-paneled planters along a second-floor landing. Built into the paneling are doors that spring open with a gentle push to reveal small hoses to water the ivy—another of Goldman’s innovations.
If most homes are reflections of their owners’ tastes and interests, then Goldman’s residence is a mirror image. It perfectly represents his multiple passions and innate talents in a structure that’s as unique as its owner. “This is a glass house,” he says, clearly comfortable knowing that his life inside it is on permanent exhibition.