Inside Pierre Koenig’s Case Study #21
The most famous home in the Hollywood Hills is Case Study #22, also known as the Stahl House. The second most well known is it’s close cousin, Case Study #21, or the Bailey House.
Renowned photographer Julius Shulman captured the famous photograph of two women sitting in the living room of the Stahl House at night with the twinkling city lights below. That image came to symbolize the modern California lifestyle of the Kennedy years.
Pierre Koenig designed both houses. Case Study #21 was built for psychologist Walter Bailey and his wife, Mary in 1959, one year before the Stahl House.
It’s easy to understand why the Case Study homes ended up looking the way they do. The Bailey House shares the the low-slung roofline and rectilinear shapes with the other Case Study homes. This choice isn’t merely aesthetic. Straight lines and standard building materials are far cheaper to use and standardize, an essential ingredient for a successful Case Study home.
Whereas the Stahl House is clearly created to take advantage of its dramatic vistas, Case Study #21 is much more subtle in its integration with the site.
Click here to see the original brochure.
Driving by, the home is easy to miss. Simple white panels tucked into the hillside is all that’s visible from the street. Inside, the home is built on a steel frame structure with floor-to-ceiling glass and an open floor plan. The windows and sliding glass doors are oriented along a north-south axis that brings in plenty of natural light and helps regulate the indoor climate.
Lacking the spectacular views of the Stahl House, Case Study #21 takes the opposite approach by blending in with the surroundings. In addition to the seamless indoor-outdoor flow, Koenig’s vision includes a water feature that meanders throughout the property culminating in a small cascading waterfall in the center atrium. The elements of light, earth, and water combine to create a harmonious experience.
No doubt one reason that the Bailey House has continued to capture the imaginations of architecture buffs is not only its historical significance, but that the home has been maintained very closely to its original feel. During the 1990s, the property had begun to deteriorate and its new owner enlisted Koenig to restore the house. Koenig updated and improved upon his original design and added new appliances and systems.
To anyone familiar with the modernist construction so common in the Hollywood Hills of late, it’s tempting to see the connection between Case Study designs and today’s modernist blocks. My experience was quite the opposite. Although the form is similar, the intent could not be more different.
One of the hallmarks of the Mid Century masters was a sensitivity to the natural topography. Despite it’s use of industrial steel and glass, the Bailey House has a light and almost gentle feel. In contrast, many of today’s monolithic mansions are crammed into the hillside by sheer force and will. The materials they are built with are chosen not for their practicality, but precisely because they are scarce, exotic, and expensive. The objective of these properties is clearly to convey the status, wealth and prestige of their owners. Not exactly design for the masses.
That said, it should be noted that the current asking price for this two bedroom home is $4.5 million. The irony is that the property’s historical and cultural significance has put the home out of reach for all but the most affluent art collectors.
It’s unlikely that Case Study #21 will be available for public viewing any time soon. However, Archdigest has 3D virtual tour that does a pretty good job of simulating the feel of the house.
For many, the image of a Hollywood Hills home conjures sweeping city light views, crisp geometric lines, and a seamless blending from outdoors to indoors.
Modernist architecture is ingrained in LA’s DNA and is one of the most recognizable symbols of the Los Angeles lifestyle. The contrast between nature and the built environment side-by-side is a distinctive feature of LA and is what sets it apart from the world’s other great metropolis’.
It’s not a stretch to say that the look and feel of the modern American home was born right here in Los Angeles, and in large part because of the work of the Viennese architect Rudolph Schindler.
Although his work was not widely celebrated during his lifetime, he remains an enduring influence and is one of the most borrowed from, copied, and plain ripped off architects to this day.
Schindler’s highly-regarded later work, the Kallis-Sharlin Residence (1946) has come onto the market. Although there have been changes made over the years, the house is largely faithful to the original design and has been designated a Historical Monument.
The home was commissioned by artist Mischa Kallis to be used as a residence and art studio. In its conception, Schindler separated the property into two symmetrical wings divided by an open-air patio overlooking the valley and the San Gabriel Mountains in the distance.
Kallis later sold the home to his cousin, concert pianist Jacqueline Sharlin who joined together the two wings by converting the studio into a master bedroom suite and enclosing the patio to form a living room – a remarkably successful remodel.
The subtle outward appearance of the home is typical of the Schindler approach.
The Kallis-Sharlin Residence gracefully melds into the hillside, matching the contours of the canyon. The drive -through carport provides privacy for the residents without distracting from the natural setting.
The Kallis-Sharlin Residence is a beautiful example of the Schindler philosophy in practice. The low-slung roofline sits close to the street level. With a split-stake covering and an entrance hidden behind the carport, the home is easy to miss from the curbside. By today’s standards, the proportions are modest but tidy. Typically, the architectural features step back to allow the sweeping view of the distant mountain range speak for itself.
The conversion of the studio into a master suite and open porch into a living room is very much a welcome addition for the contemporary buyer. The remodeling is restrained and faithful to the original vision and succeeds surprisingly well.
The four bedroom, 3 bath house is situated on a generous lot with winding garden walkways to make for a serene creative hideaway.
Nichols Canyon Post-and-beam
This updated Richard Dorman-designed single story on upper Nichols Canyon Road is a sparkling gem.
Richard Dorman was a prolific Southern California architect with a wide body of work ranging from private residences to large commercial buildings. His fluid, low-key style made him a perfect fit for the understated 1960s. Dorman is best known for the Los Angeles Design Center (1964) at 8899 Beverly Boulevard in West Hollywood. The building served as the heart of LA’s exploding design and architecture scene in the 60s and 70s. The massive Pacific Design Center, also known as The Blue Whale, took over that function some ten years later.
One of the pitfalls of restoring any period house is the temptation to “improve” the character right out of it until one is left incoherent mish mash. However, this restoration by Studio Tim Campbell is pitch-perfect. The modern stone and wood finishes beautifully complement the original design without breaking character. Most importantly, the elegant and balanced floor plan was left intact.
One of the defining elements of mid-century residential architecture is the open, airy feel. The generous use of clerestory windows and room dividers rather than walls help open the space and ensure plenty of natural light. There may be no better example of how well this works than this Dorman home.
Add in the floor-to-ceiling glass, the gracefully balanced proportions, and a sparkling backyard pool and you have the ideal Sunset Magazine lifestyle.