Richard Neutra’s Lovell House in Los FelizAuthor:Philip Ferrato
Richard Neutra’s house for famed 1920s naturopath Phillip Lovell is, to put it simply, one of the most influential houses built in the United States. Built over the years 1927-29, it was the first steel framed house built in this country, one of the first to deploy sprayed-on gunite instead of stucco, and one of the first International Style houses– Neutra’s mash-up of le Corbusier’s “machine for living” esthetic and the commercial steel structural techniques he learned working in Chicago for Holabird & Root.
Neutra’s steel frame allowed the house to be built on site so steep it was previously considered unbuildable, giving it wide-open, unobstructed views and light, with bands of steel windows and private decks for nude sunbathing. With abundant sunlight, a swimming pool and a vegan kitchen, and a popular naturopath client, it linked modernism directly to health and what would become the California lifestyle.
The discreet entry on the top floor leads to what is now a modernist icon, the double height stair hall with expanses of industrial steel windows and accented with an automobile headlight. It may be difficult to grasp in 2020 how radical this was in 1929 when everyone else was living in (or aspiring to) life in some variation on an historical revival style. And, counter-intuitively, it’s the staircase that’s making the grand entrance, not the person walking down it.
The offering has been well documented in the press over the past week and comprehensively covered in The Real Deal. Plus this KCRW podcast from last year is totally worth a listen. What is clear is that the property presents some cosmetic and structural challenges (cue Frank Lloyd Wright’s 1924 Ennis House) that come with the original innovative construction techniques and decades of benign neglect. What’s also clear is what the house represents– an historic moment in the architectural and cultural history of Los Angeles, and a restoration worth undertaking.
To get an idea of what a painstaking, seven-year Neutra restoration looks like, check out Gerald Casale’s Kun House No.1.