Albert Van Luit Complex | Los Angeles Conservancy
Photo by Douglas Hill

Albert Van Luit Complex

Located just off of the equestrian paths of Griffith Park in Atwater Village, the Albert Van Luit Factory and Showroom (also known as the Van Luit Complex) are excellent examples of the daylight factory property type and International Style architecture, respectively. This factory and showroom complex housed the internationally renowned wallpaper workshops of Albert Van Luit & Company from 1950 through the 1970s.

The factory was designed in 1950 by architect J.W. Wyatt. Its sawtooth roofing, large windows supported by strong walls, and open floor plan made it an ideal space for Van Luit to meticulously test his colors under natural lighting. Additionally, the open floor plan fostered mutual understanding in a diverse workplace that included sexual minorities as well as immigrants from Europe, the Middle East, and Latin America.

The showroom and office building, which was constructed in 1965, was designed by modernist firm Killingsworth, Brady & Associates in the popular International Style. Surrounding an interior courtyard, the showroom is a brick and stucco U-shaped building with tall floor to ceiling windows, narrow columns, and a high ceiling. Its seamless connection of interior and exterior spaces allowed Van Luit to exhibit his wallpaper designs in natural light.

The Albert Van Luit Complex was designated a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument (HCM) in May 2016. Community group Atwater Village Always spearheaded the nomination with support from the Conservancy. Click here to read the staff report and HCM application >>

Albert Van Luit was born in Cleveland in 1897. His first introduction to wallpaper was at the age of 14 when he worked at a retail wallpaper store. After graduating from high school, he studied interior design at art school and in 1935 he moved to Hollywood to open his first wallpaper business.

After moving his workshop once to Glendale, Van Luit finally chose Atwater as the site for his growing business in 1950.

Van Luit wallpaper was recognized for its unparalleled attention to color, known as the "Van Luit Touch."

The company also pioneered the innovative use of oven-drying instead of air-drying, and a new system of distribution which sold directly to retailers instead of through interior designers.

Van Luit’s wallpaper, which adorned the sets of Hollywood classics such as I Love Lucy, was regarded as the “Cadillac” of wallpaper and Van Luit himself was formally recognized by the wallcoverings industry’s highest honor, the WA Allman Award, in 1962.

In addition to being an influential figure in wallpaper design, Van Luit was also a largely-closeted gay man. By 1960, he was estranged from his wife, Birdie, and had begun a longstanding relationship with a professional dancer, Art Mendez (1922-2005). They regularly entertained their neighbors in their Atwater Village home until Van Luit’s death in 1970.

 
 

The Van Luit Factory and Showroom was California’s first and most renowned wallpaper factory. The enduring appeal of Van Luit’s colors and designs still persist today, and the property reveals important stories about postwar Los Angeles.

The showroom is an exceptional work by two of Southern California’s most renowned modern architects, Killingsworth and Brady. The factory, designed by Wyatt, provided an ideal physical and social environment for Van Luit’s team.

From 1950 through the 1970s the Van Luit factory fostered a safe and highly diverse work environment for people who might not have otherwise had employment.

The company hired numerous LGBTQ workers, including artists and designers, at a time when it was highly risky to openly express nonconforming sexual or gender identities in the workplace. In addition, it employed a significant number of Latinos, including immigrant and first or second generation Cubans, Mexicans, and Argentinians.  

Workers at this integrated and diverse company collaborated to produce some of America’s most celebrated wallpaper designs.  

Photo by Adrian Scott Fine/L.A. Conservancy

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