Sunday, January 5, 2014

The Stahl House

Last year, at this time, instead of shoveling snow and fussing over shelters for the neighborhood cats, J and I were in sunny (albeit surprisingly chilly) Los Angeles. We spent 10 days there. J had never been, and I had only been on business, so it was a new city for both of us and we found all sorts of fun things to do.

One of our favorite excursions was to the famed Stahl House. You know it, even if you don't recognize the name. It has been photographed and filmed hundreds of times, it is the quintessential image of Los Angeles living.

See? I knew you would recognize it. Buck and Carlotta Stahl purchased the property, a piece of land balanced precariously on the side of a steep hill, in 1954. For years the Stahls worked with the land on the weekends, shoring it up so it would be stable for a foundation. Buck, a graphic designer, sketched out his vision for the house and spent years trying to find an architect who was willing to take on the challenges of building it. Pierre Koenig, then a young architect took on the project and submitted as a Case Study House for Art & Architecture Magazine. By 1959, Case Study House 22 was move-in ready. In 1960, Julius Schulman photographed the house and the above image became an iconic symbol of mid-century Los Angeles.

One thing J and I love to do is go on a house tour. We enjoy looking at different architectural periods and styles. Our combined favorite is mid-century style, and I wondered what kind of house tours we might run across in LA. I was so excited to find that the Stahl house offers tours. I booked the Wednesday evening tour, which starts around 4:00.

You drive up an incredibly steep hill packed with houses and come to a somewhat unexciting garage. By the way, they have strict parking rules because the house is in a residential neighborhood. Be nice to the neighbors please! After the group is checked in, you go through the gate and Bam! All of Los Angeles is laid at your feet. The tour is very relaxed, our guide was extremely personable and knowledgable, and although he told great stories about the history of the home and the Stahl family's life there, you had the freedom to wander around at your own pace.

I was so glad that I booked the Wednesday evening tour because you got to watch the sun go down over LA. Gorgeous! If I remember correctly, we were there almost three hours. Mainly looking at the views and chatting with the group while lounging around pretending that we owned the place (at least I did).

This house is not only a Los Angeles landmark, but also a design landmark. If you are at all interested in architecture or mid-century design, then I can't recommend this tour enough. Also, once you have finished with the tour, you might roll on down the hill and into the Chateau Marmont for a drink. It's a great way to cap off the event.

*If you love modern architecture then I think you will really enjoy the film Visual Acoustics, about photographer Julius Schulman. Check it out and let me know what you think!