Tag Archives: Mid-Century

The Stahl House… the most famous home in Los Angeles

Case Study House #22, Stahl House, Photo Romi Cortier
Stahl House aka Case Study House #22, Photo Romi Cortier
Case House Study #22, Stahl Residence, Photo Romi Cortier
Stahl House aka Case Study House #22,  Photo Romi Cortier
Case Study House #22, Stahl Residence, Photo Romi Cortier
Stahl House aka Case Study House #22,  Photo Romi Cortier
Case Study House #22, Stahl Residence, Photo Romi Cortier
Stahl House aka Case Study House #22, Photo Romi Cortier
Case Study House #22, Stahl Residence, Photo Romi Cortier
Stahl House aka Case Study House #22, Photo Romi Cortier
Case Study House #22, Stahl Residence, Photo Romi Cortier
Stahl House aka Case Study House #22, Photo Romi Cortier
Case Study House #22, Stahl Residence, Photo Romi Cortier
Stahl House aka Case Study House #22, Photo Romi Cortier
Case Study House #22, Stahl Residence, Photo Romi Cortier
Stahl House aka Case Study House #22,, Photo Romi Cortier
Mrs. Stahl of the Stahl Residence, Case Study House #22, Photo 2009
Mrs. Stahl of the Stahl House, Case Study House #22, Photo 2009

The Stahl House, also known as Case Study House #22, is without a doubt one of the most famous homes in all of Los Angeles… and maybe the world. Built in 1959 as part of the Case Study House Program, it’s  probably one of thee most photographed homes ever.

The late Julius Shulman made the residence famous with his iconic black and white photo of the home which featured two elegant women lounging in the home at dusk, as the city sparkled behind them. This happened in 1960, and the home has been on a roll ever since. Movies, editorial fashion shoots, tv commercials… I guarantee you’ve seen this home and it’s stunning panoramic view more often then you realize.

I was beyond excited when I was able to join an architectural tour to see this home in ’09. While it appears larger than life in photos, the square footage is in reality only about 2200 Square feet. It’s the balanced proportions that makes this residence looks so massive. Designed by Pierre Koenig for Buck Stahl and his family, the modernist glass and steel constructed home has become one of the most iconic  mid-century homes in southern California.

Located in the Hollywood Hills above the Sunset Strip, the house was declared an LA Historical Cultural Monument in 1999. While the homes address is easy to find, 1635 Woods Drive, LA Ca. 90069, you’ll need to think twice about doing a drive by to catch a glimpse of it and the remarkable views. I learned when I visited the home that it’s on one of those gated private roads. But, if you’d really like to see the home, you can schedule a private tour that is remarkably affordable.  For as little as $60, one person in one car, can have access to the home for an hour. Why not bring your significant other, a picnic basket and a bottle of wine, and sit and chill by the pool at dusk. I guarantee you it’s a ‘date night’ either of you would soon forget.

StahlHouse.com 

FYI The 2010 Documentary Visual Acoustics revisited this home with Photographer Julius Shulman, where he briefly talks about what it took to create his iconic image at the Sthal House.

 

 

John Lautner’s Harpel House Restored

John Lautner's Harpel Residence, Photo Romi Cortier
Harpel House by John Lautner,  Photo Romi Cortier
Harpel Residence by John Lautner, Photo Romi Cortier
Harpel House by John Lautner, Photo Romi Cortier
Harpel Residence by John Lautner, Photo Romi Cortier
Harpel House by John Lautner, Photo Romi Cortier
Harpel Residence by John Lautner, Photo Romi Cortier
Harpel House  by John Lautner, Photo Romi Cortier
John Lautners 1956 Harpel House, Photo Romi Cortier
Harpel House by John Lautner, Photo Romi Cortier
Harpel Residence by John Lautner, Photo Romi Cortier
Harpel House  by John Lautner, Photo Romi Cortier
Harpel Residence by John Lautner, Photo Romi Cortier
Harpel House  by John Lautner, Photo Romi Cortier

John Lautner’s  1956 Harpel House may sit in the shadow of Chemosphere, his famous flying saucer home, but it’s a shining gem in its own right.

I visited this home in 2008 as part of the MAK Center tour, organized in conjunction with the Hammer Museum‘s John Lautner exhibit Between Earth and Heaven.  This home was on the tour because  recent renovations by Mark Haddawy had restored the home to its original design.  Lets call it a ‘make under’ because that’s exactly what it was. Haddawy  removed  a second story addition,  stucco walls,  aluminum window frames, track lighting and a myriad of other ‘improvements’ by previous owners who thought they were modernizing and improving the mid-century  home. Haddawy spent two years removing those improvements and then recreated Lautner’s door knobs, light fixtures and other details,  returning the home to the architects original vision. His passion as a preservationist has given great hope and pride to architectural enthusiasts, and shows what’s possible at a time when  many of these homes are on the brink of being bulldozed.

Thanks to Haddawy’s restoration, I was able to observe Lautner’s  use of a ‘radial’ support system for the roof.  While homes like Silver Top (lower level) and the Harvey Residence feature a single central support pillar with beams radiating out, this home features multiple concrete pillars with beams radiating out, ultimately creating a zig zag pattern. This remarkable construction  gives  more flexibility to the placement of walls both inside and out. Thus the exterior walls are no longer ‘load bearing’. This is what allows the hallway to exist on the outer perimeter of the homes north side,  joining the bedrooms with the main living area. It also allows for the creation of the homes hexagonal living room.  You’ll also notice in the photos that the stone flooring in the living room is continued out onto the patio by the pool. This helps  blend the indoors with the out doors because there’s no threshold line with contrasting materials on either side. Thus, stone gives way to stone, versus hardwood floors against concrete or tile. Additionally, the stones are irregularly shaped, as is the pool,  which again adds to the visual continuity of the homes overall design. Ultimately, this groundbreaking design serves a larger purpose, which is to maximize the stunning views of the San Fernando Valley. It’s to bad we weren’t allowed to bring our swimming suits on the home tour, because I would have loved nothing more then to run and jump on that amazing diving board, and canon ball into the pool.

 

 

Palm Springs Mid-Century Modern Texture

 

City Hall, Palm Springs, Photo Romi Cortier
City Hall, Palm Springs, Photo Romi Cortier
Residence, Sunrise Park, Palm Springs, Photo Romi Cortier
Residence, Sunrise Park, Palm Springs, Photo Romi Cortier
Carport, Sunrise Park, Palm Springs, Photo Romi Cortier
Carport, Sunrise Park, Palm Springs, Photo Romi Cortier
Residence, Sunrise Park, Palm Springs, Photo Romi Cortier
Residence, Sunrise Park, Palm Springs, Photo Romi Cortier

Palm Springs mid-century modern texture is one of the design hallmarks that makes this region so recognizable. As a Palm Springs homeowner for over a decade,   I’ve watched several neighborhoods re-emerge  and blossom into beacons of  desert modernism.   While the simplicity of the images above may seem like ‘no brainers’,  it couldn’t be further from the truth. In a minimalist environment, every detail counts. Think Chinese Brush Painting, the simplest strokes can have the most impact, therefore, every detail must be deliberate.  When competing with the low slung  or butterfly rooflines of Wexler, Alexander and Meiselman homes,  less is more. To much going on around the home, can detract from those amazing design lines.

Drought resistant landscaping,  known as Xeriscaping, is a perfect companion to the elegant mid century modern textures. Corrugated metal fences, like the one shown above, withstand the summer heat remarkably well. Inspired by Albert Frey’s use of corrugated  metal at city hall, many homeowners have begun adopting this material over the last decade. I’ve seen dilapidated wooden fences all around the city being replaced by this material… mine included. And the way corrugated metal reflects the sunlight on the colored dirt, plants and rocks can be beyond amazing. It’s like mood lighting that changes throughout the day.

Open carports with slatted wood, like the one shown above, are another great use of texture in the desert environment. The slats provide both privacy and shade, while also allowing breezes to pass through. Every little bit helps with the temperatures hit 110 and above (I know… it’s a dry heat).

And lastly, lets talk about those great circular metal partitions at Palm Springs City Hall.  Was Albert Frey reusing the design element from the circular cutout for that iconic entry that allowed the palm trees to pass through the roof? Or was Mr. Frey inspired by the exhaust vents of a jet engine from the nearby airport? The partitions aren’t flat circles, they’re about 8-10 inches deep. They certainly have an ‘Atomic’ quality to them which would be in keeping with that period.

Across the street from City Hall is the Palm Springs International Airport, which  was built by the United States Army Corps in 1939, and then declared surplus after the war in 1945. In 1946 it was sold to private buyers, which was then sold to the City of Palm Springs in 1961 and converted to the Palm Springs Municipal Airport.  I can’t find any details to support my theory on the web, but maybe I didn’t dig deep enough. Albert Frey was a ground breaking  architect who took inspiration from his environment, and is considered the founder of Desert Modernism. Maybe those circular partitions were a nod to the airport to the east, because in 1952, most mid-century homes hadn’t been built yet.

 

Pool time in Palm springs

Pink Striped Towel, Photo Romi Cortier
Pink Striped Towel, Photo Romi Cortier

 

Towel in Water, Photo Romi Cortier
Towel in Water, Photo Romi Cortier

 

Orange Striped Towel, Photo Romi Cortier
Orange Striped Towel, Photo Romi Cortier

 

Pool Float in Pool, Photo Romi Cortier
Pool Float in Pool, Photo Romi Cortier

 

Pink Ball in Water, Photo Romi Cortier
Pink Ball in Water, Photo Romi Cortier

Pool time in Palm Springs is my favorite time of year. If you’ve ever spent a summer in Palm Springs, then you know how hot it gets. I have a home there and nothing feels better then jumping in the pool when the temperature hits 115. Splash. Submerge. That big ahhh as my body temperature drops. Every thought squeezed from my mind. Relaxation at its finest.

I’ll never forget the moment I was floating in the water, looked at the towel hanging over the edge of the pool and thought, hey there’s a painting there.  I got out, snatched my camera, waded back in, and spent the next few hours photographing the towel, the ball, the pool toys, the shadows from the palm trees.  I was lost in the artists zone of making art.  Each weekend it became my obsession as  my collection of photos grew. I came to view my simple back yard as a total work of art. The stainless steel fence, the agave plants, the palm trees, the colored river rock, they all held a story that needed to be told. Was is it sun stroke, or was there really that much beauty in the simplest of details.

The Palm Spring nights take on an equal amount of beauty from the pool. Looking up at the stars and the moon, feeling the warm breeze, enjoying the nothingness of it all, yet feeling so content. Wondering how many eyes have looked at those same stars over the years, seeing what I’m seeing. It’s no surprise so many of us dash to the desert for the weekends. To decompress. To reconnect. To feel the pulse of nature and find our own pulse again. This is the less celebrated side of life in the desert, but for me, it’s what keeps me coming back.

The Heart of John Lautner’s Harvey Residence

Harvey Residence, Main Entry, Photo Romi Cortier
Harvey Residence, Main Entry, Photo Romi Cortier
Harvey Residence, Foyer, Photo Romi Cortier
Harvey Residence, Foyer, Photo Romi Cortier
Harvey House, Circular Main Room, Photo Romi Cortier
Harvey House, Circular Main Room, Photo Romi Cortier
Harvey Residence, Living Room, Photo Romi Cortier
Harvey Residence, Living Room, Photo Romi Cortier
Harvey House, Mid-Century Lighting, Photo Romi Cortier
Harvey House, Mid-Century Lighting, Photo Romi Cortier

The remarkable Central column above might be the Heart of John Lautner‘s Harvey Residence ,  or it might also be Actress Kelly Lynch and Mitch Glazer who are committed to mid-century preservation.  In 2008 they opened their home to the public via the MAK Center and the Hammer Museum in conjunction with the Lautner retrospective ‘Between Earth and Heaven’.

Marked as a tear-down,  the couple bought the home in 1998 and set to work restoring the 1950 residence.  No two Lautner homes are alike, even if this concentric design reminds you of his iconic Chemosphere home.  While Lautner had a strong preoccupation with geometric forms, such as the circle and triangle, his homes are ultimately rooted in the concept of integrating the home into its location, creating an organic flow between the indoor and outdoor spaces.  If the words ‘Organic Architecture’  ring any bells, you might be thinking Frank Lloyd Wright whom Lautner apprenticed under at Taliesin .

The fact that all of this might be lost because the home sits on a remarkable piece of property with a 180 degree view, or more, is unthinkable. Imagine sitting in the grand central room while listening to chamber music as the lights of the city twinkle behind the performers… it’s pure magic. As luck would have it, several years ago one of my clients gave me her tickets for The Da Camera Society, who specialize in Chamber Music In Historic Sites.  Therefore, I’ve been in this home twice, and Kelly and Mitch as usual are remarkable hosts.  They wouldn’t know me if I walked in through their doors again, but that’s not the point. The point, is that they’ve restored this remarkable home and kept the doors open, even to the public.