Bailey House (Case Study House #21)
Built for a couple open to the idea of a steel-framed house, which allowed architect Pierre Koenig to realize his vision of an open plan design that was both affordable and beautiful.
Renowned architect Pierre Koenig is famed for his steel-framed houses, most famously the Stahl House (Case Study House #22), which overlooks all of Los Angeles from the Hollywood Hills. Less well known but no less admired is Koenig’s earlier Bailey House (Case Study House #21), which is tucked into those same Hollywood Hills on a small, nondescript lot.
He designed it for psychologist Walter Bailey and his wife Mary, a contemporary-minded couple who wanted a small house in the Mid-Century Modern style. Unlike many other homeowners, the Baileys were open to the idea of a steel-framed house, and Koenig was able to realize his vision of an open plan design that was both affordable and beautiful. Completed in 1959, the Bailey House was envisioned as a prototype for modern housing that could be produced on a large scale, perfectly in keeping with the goals of Arts + Architecture magazine’s Case Study House program. It is a simple one-story box with a flat roof, built mostly of steel and glass.
Koenig oriented it on a north/south axis in order to trap the sun’s warmth in the winter and screen it out in the summer. This adaptation, along with others like sliding doors for cross-ventilation and shallow reflective pools for evaporative cooling, ensured the building would be in harmony with its climate. An opaque side façade and a carport protect the house from the street, allowing the front and back façades to be floor-to-ceiling glass for a true merging of the indoors and outdoors. The overall design is extremely clean, elegant, and peaceful, a success visually as well as functionally.
In the 1990s, Koenig reversed a number of inappropriate modifications to the house’s interior, in a rehabilitation campaign that took twice as long as the original construction.
As a result, Case Study House #21 survives as a beautiful and sadly rare example of steel-framed residential architecture in a graceful Mid-Century Modern style.