Lautner's Own Home for Sale

Striking Silver Lake design was the master architect's only house ever built for himself
Fridays on the Homefront
Architect John Lautner launched his career in 1939 with a small, problematic hillside lot in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles. The house (pictured above), designed for Lautner and his family, is now on the National Register of Historic Places—and for sale. Color photos: Cameron Carothers

Some talents show greatness from the start, like movie director Orson Welles with 'Citizen Kane' and baseball slugger Bobby Bonds with a grand slam home run for his first hit.

The architectural equivalent of those revered achievements just hit the market in Los Angeles in the form of the first house ever designed by controversial mid-century modernist John Lautner.

No one had yet hired the Frank Lloyd Wright protégé to design a home, so Lautner started a career-long trend in 1939 with a small, problematic hillside lot in the Silver Lake neighborhood. There, he built a striking house for himself and his wife and infant daughter.

The only home Lautner ever built for himself, the compact three-bedroom, two-bath house was listed recently for the first time since 1984 at a modest-considering-its-pedigree $1.59 million.

Fridays on the Homefront
The living room has an aura of FLWright.

The price reflects a unique opportunity to follow the path of another Lautner on the same street that recently underwent an award-winning restoration.

"It's really ingenious design," declares Ilana Gafni, listing agent of 2007 Micheltorena Street for Crosby Doe Associates, noting that the firm has not responded to one offer already made "sight unseen" on the historic property.

"It's still pretty much intact, so that lends itself to restoration," Gafni said with reference to the condition of the house as compared to Lautner's time there. Regarding the materials used, she added, "It's all original except the flooring in the bathroom and the countertop."

The stucco, concrete, glass, and redwood construction is only 1,244 square feet, but as Gafni noted of the architecture, "For the size of it, the design works really well. Lautner really maximizes the space with that patio."

  Fridays on the Homefront
John Lautner: a striking, well-preserved family home.

"It's clearly meant to be a sleeping porch, but [on the plans] it's labeled as a balcony," she commented, adding, "It makes the house."

"I really like how private it is from the street," Gafni observed of the house, noting that one bedroom is shielded by the carport and much of frontage is behind fencing. It also boasts charming, built-in furniture and bookshelves, and a natural ventilation flow channeled by the sloped roof and hillside siting of its 5,394-square-foot lot.

Lautner profiled his new home in a story for the magazine California Arts & Architecture, and it was soon lauded in House Beautiful by historian Henry-Russell Hitchcock as "the best house in the United States by an architect under 30."

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