The architect responsible for some of the most famous Southern California designs of the twentieth century is less well known for his very first solo design, the house he built for himself and his wife.
Architect John Lautner became known as one of the finest practitioners of what is often called the Organic Modern style, responsible for some of the most famous Southern California designs of the twentieth century. But his first solo design, the house he built for himself and his wife in Silver Lake in 1940, is much less well known.
It is highly inconspicuous from the street, offering only a view of a flat-roofed concrete carport and a glimpse of a simple entry behind a low wooden fence. Beyond the street, the house opens out over its small, steep hillside lot, stepping down in two levels that allow a separation of the kitchen and dining area from the living room without using interior walls. The exterior is simple, built of steel beams, concrete, and redwood, while the interior is open to allow free circulation throughout the whole house. Everything about the house aims to facilitate a casual, open feel, maximizing the spectacular views to the west.
In his modest design, Lautner drew on his experience working for Frank Lloyd Wright to work through his own design ideas.
The result is a fascinating Los Angeles interpretation of Wright's Usonian ideals, including merging interior and exterior space, using simple materials, adapting to small and oddly-shaped lots, using a carport, and incorporating interior built-ins. This unassuming house is a tiny harbinger of the spectacular Lautner designs to come for the next fifty years.