Nelson Houses | Los Angeles Conservancy
Photo courtesy Architectural Resources Group

Nelson Houses

Greta Magnusson Grossman was one of very few female modernists to gain acclaim in Los Angeles' testosterone-heavy architectural scene during the postwar period, and she managed to do so as a designer of both buildings and objects.

Born in Sweden, she was a successful industrial designer creating furniture, lighting, and other designs, and she continued that work when she moved to the U.S. Once in California, she began taking on architectural projects, eventually completing at least fourteen homes in Los Angeles. Two of them were for Frances Nelson, sited on adjacent hillside lots above Cahuenga Pass, and are wonderfully intact to this day.

The Nelson houses reflect Grossman's use of simple deck construction; unlike some other Modern hillside designs that step up or down a slope, the Nelson houses each sit on one level slab extending through the entire enclosed space, and are cantilevered out over their slopes.

They are both very small in scale but feel large and open thanks to their thoughtful modular design and the extensive use of floor-to-ceiling glass framed in wood.

Tall ceilings, overhanging roofs and trellises extending from the slabs also make the houses seem even larger. With their simple Mid-Century Modern lines and their breathtaking views, the Nelson Houses are an excellent example of Grossman's residential designs in the hilly neighborhoods of Los Angeles.

Photo by Michael Smith on Flickr

Villa Riviera

With a clever composition featuring splayed wings that offer ocean views to most of its 130 units, this Chateauesque design remains one of the city's most recognizable landmarks.
Photo courtesy Architectural Resources Group

Spanner Residence

Completed in 1968, this two-story Rex Lotery-designed house is more explicitly vertical than many Modern designs, adapting to a comparatively small lot on a sloping hillside with an irregular plan and multiple levels.