Ritts/Kohl Residence
1949 Chautauqua, New York

The usual solution to a sloping lot is to construct a long, narrow building across the grade and tuck a half-story into the hill below the main floor. Most of the houses on the shore of Lake Chautauqua, N.Y., follow this formula, but for the Ritts family’s home, Paul R. Williams designed a series of pavilions stepped down the incline. Topped with pyramid and hipped roofs, the pavilions resemble a hillside village. The street façade consists of the entry, garage and the main bedroom pavilions. 

The front door opens to a revelation of Williams’ spiraling vision. From the entry, one sees down a wide, gently curved staircase to the lower lobby, a patio and a dramatically angled living room with stone walls and three lake exposures. Still standing in the entry, one sees up a curving stair to a crow’s-nest guestroom and clerestory windows that reveal the sky.  To the left and down another short curved stair is the kitchen, and to the left of the entry is the wide hall of the bedroom pavilion with broad lake views. Moving through the three primary levels of the building is an adventure of arrivals, departures and glorious vistas.

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