His homes have been backdrops for Less Than Zero, Body Double, Big Lebowski, and Diamonds Are Forever, and dozens more. An entire Simpsons episode was set in a Lautner home. (Can you match the homes to the movies?)
So much of the sexy modern design that defined the southern Californian style came from the prolific architect, John Lautner. From coffee shops to desert motels to jetliner trophy homes, Lautner brought a unique and expressive flair to every creation. No wonder his work has proven to be so irresistible to Hollywood. Put a character in a Lautner home and you’ve got his whole backstory right there.
But his homes were more than just a pretty face. They had backbone as well. Lautner was one of the first architects to solve the problem of building on the rugged slopes of LA’s canyons.
The Chemosphere was erected on a single concrete pillar on a lot thought to be unbuildable. This seemingly simple idea turned out to be a magnificent solution. The result was a home truly fit for its original aerospace engineer owner. By the late 1990s, Chemosphere fell into a state of severe disrepair. Fortunately, the property was rescued by art book publisher Benedikt Taschen in 2000. Thanks to architectural firm Escher GuneWardena, it once again stands proudly above Mulholland Drive.
The Wolff Residence just off the Sunset Strip, is a bit of a departure for Lautner. In place of sweeping curves are chunky masculine shapes. Marco Wolff was a designer himself, and wanted a home that blended harmoniously with its surroundings. The resemblance to Frank Lloyd Wright’s later work is no accident. Early in his career, Lautner was an apprentice to Wright, an experience that influenced him throughout his life.
“The idea was to achieve a timeless, natural, real entity… consequently, stone, concrete, cement plaster, copper and railroad ties all permanently suitable.” – John Lautner, letter to House & Garden, 1963
Although hillside homes are fairly commonplace now, just read the original article from House & Garden magazine and you’ll appreciate how impressive this engineering feat seemed at the time.
So far, the Wolff Residence has yet to be used as a Hollywood backdrop. Here’s a chance to take a photo tour and write your own screenplay.
From the street, all that’s visible is the overhanging carport with few clues to the private retreat below. Lautner designed the home to flow downhill, seamlessly blending the outdoors with the indoor. The design allowed for sixteen foot ceilings adding light and volume to the rooms. The public and private areas of the house are nicely separated and each level has its own veranda. Despite the rather narrow lot, the floor plan includes four bedrooms and four bathrooms. The final effect resembles a luxurious tree house in its own private park.
And, yes. The property is for sale and can be yours for $7,995,000.
Wolff Residence photos by David Lena. Listing courtesy of Simon Salloom, Caldwell Banker and Tyson Park, Berkshire Hathaway Home Services.