Did you glance longingly at the Eames House in its new incarnation at LACMA wishing you could walk inside, plop down into one of those namesake chairs and transport yourself to another time? Has all this talk about Pacific Standard Time worked you into a frenzy over California midcentury modern design? You can satisfy both cravings by taking a tour of Case Study House #22, the most iconic of the Case Study homes.
“We hope to be able to resolve some part of that controversy now raging between those who believe in miracles and those who are dead set against them,” reads the playful announcement by Art and Architecture magazine in 1945. The magazine’s ambitious Case Study Program sought to challenge the status quo of residential design in post war America. Fortunately for us all architect Pierre Koenig and his clients C.H. “Buck” and Carlotta Stahl were believers in miracles.
The Stahls purchased the jagged, hillside lot in 1956 for $13,500, remarkable by today’s standards but comparable to the price of an average three bedroom home in LA at the time. Koenig completed the 2,200 square foot house in 1960 at a cost of $34,000. The house’s dominating presence in films, TV and print has surely earned back the Stahls’ investment ad infinitum.
Expect to be disappointed when you first arrive at the Hollywood Hills location. The splendor of the house is camouflaged street-side with a windowless wall and an unassuming carport. Here you will meet a docent who will unlock a door through which you will pass and never be the same again. Your first view of Case #22 is the iconic one- the L-shaped glass-and-steel structure jutting assuredly over a cliff. The pool is brighter than to be imagined and the view more arresting. Maybe a helicopter or two will pass. You will be looking down at them from your high vantage point. It’s hard to choose between staring at the house or out at the 270 degree views of LA, which is Koenig’s point exactly.
You could save a few dollars and take the afternoon tour but why would you when you can see the house at night? The evening viewing begins in the late afternoon and lasts for a leisurely 1 ½ hours, giving you ample time to explore the living room, dining room, kitchen and pool area. (The bedrooms are off limits as the original owner, Carlotta, still lives here, however, you can easily study them through the glass.) Quiz the docent about piers and cantilevers, if that’s your thing. Listen to her charming stories about the Stahl children roller-skating in the house, if that’s more your speed. In the countdown to sunset, claim your spot and settle in. Pretend this is home and that you’re spending an unremarkable “night in” as the sun slips into the Pacific and the glistening metropolis of LA beckons at your feet.
For more on the house, check out the Stahl House site for tickets and more information on Case #22. It’s definitely a tour any fan of modernist architecture in the city must take.