Bailey House (Case Study House #21)
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.