For the Love of Lautner

Unsung Fischer house by architect John Lautner now on TLC restoration odyssey
Fridays on the Homefront
Restaurateur Greg Morris has come a long way since eyeing architect John Lautner's Fischer House (above) of Los Angeles on a neighborhood walk. As the Fischer's new owner since spring 2020, he has taken yet another plunge—headfirst into an extensive restoration. Photo: Michael Locke

"I stumbled across the home," restaurateur, art collector, and motorcycle enthusiast Greg Morris admits of his initial encounter with master architect John Lautner's Fischer house of Los Angeles. "It was never really published before—and even in the documentation I found, it was thought of as a minor home at the time."

Beginning with that fortuitous introduction in early 2020, Morris has come a long way with that unsung Lautner in the year that followed. As the Fischer house's new owner today, Morris has taken yet another plunge—headfirst into an extensive restoration.

"Today I'm reminded how much I love the home each time I remove the layers, or strip away to reveal the lines of the house," he says. "When you see the back of the house, it's a marvel—that curvature, the beams…I have to say, it's sexy!"

Fridays on the Homefront
Fischer house front entrance, 2009. Photo: Michael Locke

Located on Canyon Oak Drive in the hills of Los Angeles, the two-bedroom, one-bath home was built in 1954-'55 from Lautner's design for Harry Fischer, who was a seasoned practicing CPA in Los Angeles at the time, and his wife, Sylvia. Three years after Harry's death in 2001, the Fischer house was purchased by Lawrence Levenstein. Morris is the third owner.

"The Fischer house is an excellent example of Lautner's prolific inventiveness in the 1950s," explains architect and historian Alan Hess, author of The Architecture of John Lautner.

"This house, like others in those years, has all the spatial boldness and creative structure of Lautner's later, larger houses. But its design is all the more extraordinary because its size and budget were those of a typical middle-class house. Lautner never let his creativity be limited."

Fridays on the Homefront
Fischer house, circa 1956. Photo: courtesy Greg Morris

"I'm a big fan of John Lautner," points out Morris, who had been leafing through a different Lautner book, Lautner A-Z: An Exploration of the Complete Built Work, when he came across the address of the Fischer house prior to his initial visit early last year.

"I couldn't believe it was just three minutes from my own home, so I walked up to see it. It wasn't on the market, so I wrote to the people [the Levensteins] who lived there. But I never put that letter in their mailbox. I thought perhaps it would be too forward of me, and left it on my desk."

But Morris told a realtor friend about the house and, as luck would have it, a few months later Morris received a call from the realtor letting him know the Fischer house was for sale.

Fridays on the Homefront
Living room prior to Morris' 2020 purchase. Photo: courtesy Greg Morris