Modernist Home Turned Creative Retreat

A mid-century home with a rich architectural heritage in New Albany finds new purpose as a respite for creative individuals and groups.

Photo: Edward A. Winters

A stark white Modernist house sits nestled amid the hills outside New Albany. The architecture of the house maximizes views of the woods and hillside, a goal of the original owner and the architect, and perfect for its present use as INhouse, a restful retreat for creative individuals and groups.

Bob Kelso admired architect Philip Johnson’s Glass House in Connecticut, and chose John Johansen, one of Johnson’s peers and a Modernist icon in his own right, to design his family’s Indiana home. Johansen studied at Harvard University under Walter Gropius, founder of the Bauhaus movement. He was one of the “Harvard Five,” with Johnson and architects Marcel Breuer, Landis Gores, and Eliot Noyes, whose work shaped Modernist design principles. Johansen died in 2012 at age 98.

Kelso built Johansen’s design, a U-shaped house, in 1957, incorporating walnut woodwork from trees harvested on the property and a round fireplace made of local creekstone. The house suffered under several intervening owners until a 2012 renovation recaptured the home’s Modernist spirit.

Contemporary art collector Brook Smith, president of Smith Manus, a national surety bond business, founded INhouse in 2015 to support creative individuals and projects in the Louisville area and nationally through residencies and seed funding. Smith bought the two-bedroom house to serve as INhouse’s retreat center, a place where artists, musicians, writers, architects, chefs, and other creative individuals and small groups can get away for residencies to foster creativity. “INhouse is not simply a place, it is a catalyst, a nurturing framework with a vision to help imaginative talent grow,” Smith declares.

“It’s a very contemplative environment that feels like it is in the middle of nowhere, but actually is very close to everything you need,” says INhouse Director Julien Robson, a British curator who has worked in museums and galleries in the United Kingdom, Europe, and the United States. “It is idyllic.”

INhouse was in its infancy when Smith purchased the Floyd Knobs landmark, and while brainstorming uses for the property, saw a residency program as a way to further INhouse’s mission. INhouse evaluates residencies based on merit and availability of the house, with stays limited to two weeks or less. “We want it to remain a place that is precious, that helps the people who really need to go there,” adds Robson.

Learn more about INhouse’s mission and see additional photos of the home on its website,

Sign up for our e-newsletter.

Stay up to date on the latest news, stories, and events from Indiana Landmarks, around the state or in your area.