Midcentury Modern

Mid century modern

Mid century modern is more than just a home designed by Richard Neutra or any of the other great modernist architects.

The term describes a design aesthetic produced during the mid 20th century that’s rooted in simplicity and spans a style of architecture, interior design, décor, furniture, and graphic design.

Walter Gropius is often credited for giving birth to the mid century modern movement. In 1919 Weimar, Germany, he opened Bauhaus, a German art school. His goal was, “to create a new guild of craftsmen, without the class distinctions which raise an arrogant barrier between craftsman and artist.”

Students learned the principles of architecture, sculpture, and painting with crafts and engineering. According to metmuseum.org the preliminary courses were taught by visual artists like Paul Klee, Vasily Kandinsky, and Josef Albers and included the study of materials, color theory, and formal relationships.

From there, students moved on to specialized studies in metalworking, cabinetmaking, weaving, pottery, typography, and wall painting.

What developed was a school that “churned out so many pioneering architects and designers that it fleshed out an entire artistic movement.”

With the help of Gropius, and designers and architects like Marcel Breuer and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, the swanky style of this era became popular in the United States with an unrivaled collection of architectural work located in Los Angeles, California.

Mid century modern in Los Angeles

 

The City of Los Angeles is applauded for its collection of mid century modern architecture. Here are the architects and a list of their most recognized residences and commercial buildings:

Gregory Ain

Despite dropping out of the University of Southern California School of Architecture program, Gregory Ain‘s career as a modernist architect flourished. He was influenced by Schindler and Neutra. According to NC Modernist, “He lived in Neutra’s then-new VDL Research House for a while and worked for Neutra from 1930 to 1935 … Ain’s second wife, Josephine Cohen, later married Robert Chuey and had Neutra design them a house.” Ain is best known for designing modern homes for the working class with flexible floor plans and open kitchens.

Residences & Buildings:
1936: Edwards House, Los Angeles, California
1937: Ernst House, Los Angeles, California
1937: Byler House, Mt. Washington, Los Angeles, California
1937–39: Dunsmuir Flats, Los Angeles, California
1938: Beckman House, Los Angeles, California
1939: Daniel House, Silver Lake, Los Angeles, California
1939: Margaret and Harry Hay House, North Hollywood, California
1939: Tierman House, Silver Lake, Los Angeles, California
1939: Vorkapich Garden House, for Slavko Vorkapich, Beverly Hills, California (later destroyed)
1941: Ain House, Hollywood, California
1941: Orans House, Silver Lake, Los Angeles, California
1942: Jocelyn and Jan Domela House, Tarzana, California
1946: Park Planned Homes, Altadena, California
1947–48: Mar Vista Housing, Mar Vista, California. Designated as a Historic Preservation Overlay Zone by the city of Los Angeles in 2003.
1948: Avenel Homes (cooperative), Silver Lake, Los Angeles, California. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2005.
1948: Albert Tarter House, Los Feliz, Los Angeles, California
1948: Miller House, Beverly Hills, California
1949: Ain & Garrott Office, Silver Lake, Los Angeles, California
1949: Schairer House, Los Angeles, California
1950: Beckman House II, Sherman Oaks, California
1950: Hurschler House, Pasadena, California (later destroyed)
1950: Ralphs House, Pasadena, California
1951: Ben Margolis House, Los Angeles, California
1951: Mesner House, Sherman Oaks, California
1952: Richard “Dick” Tufeld House, Los Angeles, California
1953 : Feldman House, Beverly Crest/Beverly Hills PO, California
1962–63: Ernst House II, Vista, California
1963: Kaye House, Tarzana, California

Charles and Ray Eames

Charles and Ray Eames are the husband and wife team adored for their groundbreaking designs in architecture, furniture, industrial and graphic design, fine art and film. In a video promoting Pacific Standard Time: Art in LA 1945-1980, Ice Cube tours the Eames’ landmark residence built as their personal home and studio. Before rap music, Cube studied architectural drafting and admires Eames’ ability to plan and build the frame of their home in just two days.

In addition to their home and study they’re fondly remembered for the Eames Lounge Chair.

Residences & Buildings:
The Eames House, Case Study House No. 8, Pacific Palisades, CA

Paul Williams

Paul Williams was the first certified African-American architect west of the Mississippi. His strategic use of sweeping entry staircases or an oversized fireplace to create dramatic interiors earned him the reputation among the Hollywood elite as the go-to architect. His celebrity client list included Frank Sinatra, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, Lon Chaney, Barbara Stanwyck and Charles Correll. And while he is mainly known for character homes dripping with detail his architectural prowess covered midcentury, Tudor-revival, French Chateau, Regency, French Country, and Mediterranean architecture.

Residences & Buildings:
28th Street YMCA, 1006 E. 28th St., Los Angeles, CA.  NRHP-listed
Angeles Mesa Elementary School, Los Angeles, California
Angelus Funeral Home, Los Angeles, CA. NRHP-listed
Arrowhead Springs Hotel & Spa, San Bernardino, California
Beverly Hills Hotel (redesigned & added rooms in the 1940s)
Cord Estate (late 1930’s) for E.L. Cord of Cord/Auburn/Dusenberg Motorcars, Beverly Hills, California
First A.M.E Church, Los Angeles, CA
1960: Founder’s Church of Religious Science, Los Angeles, CA
Golden State Mutual Life Insurance Building
Goldschmidt House, San Clemente, CA. NRHP-listed
Hollywood YMCA;
Los Angeles County Courthouse;
Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration;
Marina Del Rey Middle School
Nickerson Gardens
Palm Springs, CA, Tennis Club
Perino’s restaurant interior and exterior redesign in 1950, then oversaw a second renovation after the restaurant was damaged in a fire in 1954.
Roberts House Ranch “The Tropical Terrace”, Malibu, CA (The remains of the burned down structures can be explored on Solstice Canyon Trail in Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.
Saks Fifth Avenue Beverly Hills, Beverly Hills, California
SeaView Palos Verdes, a mid-century modern tract neighborhood built from 1959-1960
Second Baptist Church, Los Angeles, CA. NRHP-listed
Shrine Auditorium (Williams helped prepare construction drawings as a young architect.);
The retro-futuristic googie styled Theme Building at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). (In the 1960s as part of the Pereira & Luckman firm and with consulting engineers, Williams helped design this futuristic landmark.)
The Gatehouse (1940), for aviation pioneer Thomas F. Hamilton (Lake Arrowhead, California);
Woodrow Wilson High School
One or more works in 27th Street Historic District, Los Angeles, CA. NRHP-listed

Craig Ellwood

Did you know Craig Ellwood, the man who designed three Case Study Houses, was not a licensed architect? (… but he did take night courses in structural engineering at UCLA extension.) His ability to blend the formalism of Mies van der Rohe with the informal style of California modernism places him among history’s greatest American architects of the modernist era.

Residences & Buildings:
1948: Lappin House, Cheviot Hills, Los Angeles, California, 1948
1949: Hale House, Beverly Hills, California
1951-53: The New Case Study House 16 (Salzman House), Bel Air, California
1952-53: Courtyard Apartments, Hollywood, California
1954-1956: Case Study House 17B (Hoffman House), Beverly Hills, California
1955-58: Case Study House 18 (Fields House), Beverly Hills, California
1955: Smith House, Los Angeles, California
1955: Hunt House, Malibu, California
1956: South Bay Bank, Los Angeles, California
1958-1960: Carson-Roberts Office Building, West Hollywood, California
1960-61: Daphne House, Hillsborough, California
1966-69: Scientific Data Systems, various buildings and offices, El Segundo and Pomona, California
1968: Max Palevsky House, Palm Springs, California
1953: Charles and Gerry Bobertz Residence, San Diego, California
1976: Art Center College of Design (Hillside Campus), Pasadena, California, 1976

A. Quincy Jones

A. Quincy Jones was a modernist architect and a architecture professor at the University of Southern California.  During his 42 year career he focused on “better living” for the growing middle class. Jones’ name is stamped on over 5,000 built projects that Hammer reports still exist today. His homes and buildings are celebrated for, “expansive interior spaces, thoughtful and efficient building layouts, and a reverence for the outdoors.”

Residences & Buildings:
1938: Jones House and Studio, 8661 Nash, West Hollywood, Los Angeles, California
1947: Palm Springs Tennis Club Addition, with Paul R. Williams. Palm Springs, California
The Center, a.k.a. Town & Country Restaurant, with Paul R. Williams. Palm Springs, California. (altered)
Romanoff’s on the Rocks, Palm Springs, California (altered)
Nordlinger House, Los Angeles, California
1950: Brody House, Holmby Hills, Los Angeles, California
Mutual Housing Association Development (Crestwood Hills), with Smith and Contini. Los Angeles, California
Hvistendahl House, San Diego
Andrew Fuller House, Charron Lane, Fort Worth, Texas
The Barn, Los Angeles, California
1951: Campbell Hall School, North Hollywood, California
1952: House, Bienveneda and Marquette Streets, Pacific Palisades, California
1953 House, 503 N Oakhurst Drive, Beverly Hills, California (destroyed by new owner circa 1995.) (According to Property Shark and several other realty websites, the house at this address was built in 2005, so the new owner either held onto the property for 10 years, or Wikipedia date is incorrecct. According to Jones’ collection at UCLA the home was actually built in 1951.)
1954: Emmons House, 661 Brooktree, Pacific Palisades, California
1955: Jones House, 1223 Tigertail Road, Los Angeles (destroyed by fire)
1956: Eichler Steel House X-100, San Mateo, California
1957: 82 houses in Lido Sands Development, Newport Beach, California
1959: Biological Sciences Building, University of California, Santa Barbara
Trousdale Estates home, Beverly Hills, California
Matt and Lyda Kahn house, Stanford, California
1960: Faculty Center, University of Southern California Los Angeles, California
1961: Case Study House No. 24, Chatsworth, California (unbuilt)
1963: Shorecliff Tower Apartments, Santa Monica, California
1964: Joseph Eichler Housing Development, Granada Hills, California
University Research Library, unit I, University of California, Los Angeles, California
Laguna Eichler Apartments, San Francisco, California
Joseph Eichler Housing Development, Thousand Oaks, California
Long Beach Naval Station Family Housing, Long Beach, California
California State College, Dominguez Hills campus master plan, Carson, California
1965: University of California, Irvine (partnership with William Pereira)
1966: Walter Annenberg Estate “Sunnylands”, Rancho Mirage, California
Carillon Tower, University of California, Riverside, California
Faircourt Housing Subdivision, Palo Alto, California
1967: Chemistry Building, University of California, Riverside, California
1971: Research Library, unit II, University of California, Los Angeles, California
1975: Mandeville Center for the Arts, University of California, La Jolla, San Diego, California
1976: USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, unit I, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California
1979: USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, unit II, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California.

John Lautner

John Lautner maybe the most daring architect of the modernist era. From the Elrod House used in the James Bond classic “Diamonds are Forever,” to Chemosphere, and the Foster Carling House, Lautner used innovative designs to tackle and do what others never dreamt of. On the rare occasion a Lautner home hits the market, a flurry of interest is generated almost immediately and often followed by a real estate bidding war. For example, Silvertop, also known as the Reiner-Burchill Residence, sold for $8.55M, (that’s 14% over the asking price) to Luke Wood, the president of Beats By Dre, in a fierce bidding war.

Residences & Buildings:
1939: John Lautner House, Silver Lake, CA
1940: Norman Springer Cottage, Echo Park, CA
1940: Bell House, West Hollywood, CA
1945: Darrow Office Building, Beverly Hills, CA
1945: Edgar Mauer House, Los Angeles, CA
1945: Hancock House, Silver Lake, CA
1946: Coffee Dan’s No. 1, Los Angeles, CA (demolished)
1946: Coffee Dan’s No. 2, Los Angeles, CA (demolished)
1946: Coffee Dan’s No. 3, Los Angeles, CA (demolished)
1946: Coffee Dan’s No. 4, Los Angeles, CA (demolished)
1946: Arthur Eisele Guest House, Los Angeles, CA
1947: Foster Carling House, Los Angeles, CA
1947: Desert Hot Springs Motel: Renamed Hotel Lautner, Desert Hot Springs, CA
1947: Henry’s Restaurant, Glendale, CA (demolished)
1947: Florence Polin House, Hollywood, CA
1947: Jacobsen House, Hollywood, CA
1947: W. F. Gantvoort House, La Canada Flintridge, CA
1947: Tower Motors Lincoln Mercury Showroom (demolished)
1948: Jules Salkin Residence, Echo Park, CA
1948: Sheats Apartments (“L’Horizon”), Westwood, CA
1948: Valley Escrow Offices, Sherman Oaks, CA
1949: UPA Studios, Burbank, CA Demolished
1949: Grant Dahlstrom House, Pasadena, CA
1949: Schaffer House, Glendale, CA
1949: Googie’s Coffee Shop, West Hollywood, CA (demolished)
1950: Leo Harvey House, Los Feliz, CA
1950: Louise Foster House, Sherman Oaks, CA
1950: Shusett House, Beverly Hills, CA (demolished)
1950: Lawrence E. Deutsch House, Los Angeles, CA
1951: George Alexander House, Long Beach, CA
1951: Baxter-Hodiak House, Los Angeles, CA
1951: Bick House, Brentwood, CA
1952: Nouard Gootgeld House, Beverly Hills, CA (altered beyond recognition)
1952: Howe House, Los Angeles, CA
1952: Fern Carr House, Los Angeles, CA (altered beyond recognition)
1952: Harry A. Williams House, Hollywood Hills, CA
1953: Ted Bergren House, Los Angeles, CA (rebuilt after it burnt down in 1950)
1953: Henry’s Restaurant, Pasadena, CA (demolished)
1953: Tyler House, Studio City, CA
1953: Howe House, Los Angeles, CA
1954: Beachwood House, Los Angeles, CA
1954: Coneco Corporation House, Sherman Oaks, CA
1954: Harry C. Fischer House, Los Angeles, CA
1955: Baldwin House, Los Angeles, CA
1956: Reiner-Burchill House, also known as Silvertop, Silver Lake, CA
1956: Speer Contractors Building, Los Angeles, CA
1956: Kaynar Factory, Pico Rivera, CA
1956: Willis Harpel House No. 1, Los Angeles, CA
1956: Stanley Johnson House, Laguna Beach, CA
1957: Paul Zahn House, Hollywood Hills, CA
1957: Henry’s Restaurant, Pomona, CA (demolished)
1957: Carl and Agnes Pearlman Cabin, Idyllwild, CA
1957: Ernest S. Lautner House (“Round House”), Pensacola, CA
1958: George Hatherell House, Shadow Hill, CA
1958: Russ Garcia House (“Rainbow House”), West Hollywood, CA
1958: Iwerks House, Sherman Oaks, CA
1958: Leonard J. Malin House (“Chemosphere”), West Hollywood, CA
1960: Concannon House, Beverly Hills, CA (demolished)
1960: Midtown School, Los Angeles, CA
1961: Peter Tolstoy House, Rancho Cucamonga, CA
1961: Marco Wolff House, West Hollywood, CA
1962: Paul Sheats House, Beverly Hills, CA
1965: Wayne Zimmerman House, Studio City, CA
1966: Willis Harpel House No. 2, Anchorage, CA
1966: Marina View Heights Headquarters Building, San Juan Capistrano, CA
1968: Dan Stevens House, Malibu, CA
1968: Arthur Elrod House, Palm Springs, CA
1968: Marco Wolff Mountain Cabin (“Windsong”), Banning, CA
1969: Douglas Walstrom House, Los Angeles, CA
1970: Garwood House, Malibu, CA
1971: Gary Familian House, Beverly Hills, CA
1972: Stephen Bosustow Cabin, Lake Almanor, CA
1973: Bob Hope House, Palm Springs, CA
1973: William Jordan House, Laguna Beach, CA
1973: Jeronimo Arango House (“Marbrisa”), Acapulco, Mexico
1975: Beyer House, Malibu, CA
1978: Robert Rawlins House, Newport Beach, CA
1979: Crippled Children’s Society, Woodland Hills, CA
1979: Gilbert Segel House, Malibu, CA
1982: Allan Turner House, Aspen, Colorado
1982: Alden Schwimmer House, Beverly Hills, CA
1983: Krause House, Malibu, CA
1983: Stanley Beyer House, Malibu, CA
1990: Levy House (“Concrete Castle”), Malibu, CA
1992: Shearing House, Coronado, CA

Richard Neutra
Jardinette Apartments, Hollywood, California
Lovell House, Los Angeles, California
Neutra VDL Studio and Residences (also known as Van der Leeuw House or VDL Research House), Los Angeles, California
Sten and Frenke House (Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument #647), 1934, 126 Mabery Road, Santa Monica
Strathmore Apartments, Westwood, Los Angeles, California
Case Study Houses #6, #13, #20A, #21A
Schaarman House, Hollywood Hills, California
Clark House, Pasadena, California
Kuhns House, Woodland Hills, Los Angeles, California
Elkay Apartments, Westwood, California

Rudolph Schindler
Schindler House, West Hollywood, California
How House for James Eads How, Silverlake, California
Manola Court apartment building for Herman Sachs, Silver Lake, California
Samuel Freeman House (two guest apartments and furniture), Hollywood Heights, Los Angeles, California
Bethlehem Baptist Church, Los Angeles, California

Frank Lloyd Wright
Ennis House, Los Angeles, 1923
Hollyhock House (Aline Barnsdall Residence), Los Angeles, 1919–1921
La Miniatura, Pasadena, California
Storer House, Hollywood Hills, CA
Freeman House, Hollywood Hills, CA

Lloyd Wright
John Sowden House, Los Feliz, Los Angeles, California
Samuel-Novarro House, Hollywood, California
Millard House (studio), Pasadena, California

Pierre Koenig
Case Study House #21, Bailey House, Los Angeles, California
Case Study House #22, Stahl House, Los Angeles, California

Raphael Soriano
The Lipetz House, Silver Lake, California
Ross House, Echo Park, California
The Polito House, Hollywood Hills, California
Meyer House, Silver Lake, California

Thornton Abell
Case Study House #7, San Gabriel, California

Buff, Straub & Hensman
Case Study House #20, Bass House, Altadena, California

Joseph Eichler
Eichler Homes, Foster Residence, Granada Hills, CA

Industrial Design

As residences and commercial buildings in Los Angeles emerged with clean lines, open spaces, and an indoor-outdoor flow, modern furniture became en vogue.

The Scandinavian design movement centers around simplicity, minimalism and functionality. And everything from glassware, lighting, and furniture took on a whole new look. Today the reproduction of these interior pieces still exist. IKEA is by far the most recognized name to bring beautiful and functional everyday objects to the masses. Marimekko is a Finnish home furnishings, textiles, and fashion company based in Helsinki with a flagship store in Beverly Hills, CA. Modernica continues to produce the Case Study Fiberglass Chairs that was originally designed in 1948 as an entry in The Museum of Modern Art’s International Design Competition. George Nelson’s bubble lamps are still going strong. Heath Ceramics is forever a favorite tableware choice. And classic Danish modern furniture is available at several new and vintage stores throughout LA.

Graphic Design

Graphic design became more streamlined. Sans serif fonts, more white space, and pops of vivid color became a lasting trend. While Josef Albers, Lucienne Day, Paul Rand, and Saul Bass are all recognizable names in the field of modern graphic design, Alvin Lustig is the most famous in Los Angeles. Lustig studied design at Los Angeles City College, Art Center. He worked with architect Frank Lloyd Wright at his Taliesin studio and with French painter Jean Charlot. He’s admired for the book covers he designed while working for New Directions in LA. It’s also widely believed he designed the William H. Thomas Residence in Silver Lake.

More Architects & Designers

• Emil Milan

• William Morgan

• Børge Mogensen

• George Nelson

• Oscar Niemeyer

• Svend Nielsen

• Isamu Noguchi

• Verner Panton

• Tommi Parzinger

• Adrian Pearsall

• Walter Pierce

• Warren Platner

• Ira Rakatansky

• Jens Risom

• Paul Rudolph

• Eero Saarinen

• Richard Schultz

• Paul Schwepikher

• Harry Seidler

• Avriel Shull

• Mel Smilow

• Maurice K. Smith

• Alison and Peter Smithson

• Russell Spanner

• Edward Durell Stone

• Ole Wanscher

• Hans Wegner

• David Weidman

• Russel Wright

• Eva Zeisel

• Donald G. Park

• Alfons Bach

• Milo Baughman

• Al Beadle

• Robin Boyd

• Marcel Breuer

• Robert C. Broward

• Victor Christ-Janer

• William Curry

• Edward D. Dart

• Arthur Erickson

• O’Neil Ford

• Paul T. Frankl

• Bertrand Goldberg

• Max Gottschalk

• Eileen Gray

• Taylor Hardwick

• Ralph Haver

• Finn Juhl

• Vladimir Kagan

• Louis Kahn

• Poul Kjaerholm

• Kaare Klint

• Florence Knoll

• William Krisel

• Mogens Lassen

• Roger Lee

• Carl Maston

• Cliff May

• Paul McCobb

• John Randal McDonald