For the Love of Lautner - Page 2

Unsung Fischer house by architect John Lautner now on TLC restoration odyssey
Fridays on the Homefront
Hand-drawn rendering of the house by John Lautner, circa 1954. Photo: courtesy Greg Morris

"So then I bought a bottle of wine and knocked at the door," recalled Morris. "I met Mrs. Levenstein, and had a nice Scotch with Larry. They showed me around their home, and said if I wanted to I could make an offer."

"But then I got into a bidding war," Morris says with some regret. "And then Covid happened. And I was very depressed about it all."

Morris, who lives with his wife in a 1912 Craftsman home nearby, got plenty of encouragement at that time from his partner to help ease his low spirits. "We would walk past that house every day, and my wife would say, 'That's your house.'

"Well, sure enough, in April of 2020 my broker contacted me and said 'you're in escrow'!"

  Fridays on the Homefront
At the onset of the restoration, worker power washes decades of dirt, grime, and paint. Photo: courtesy Greg Morris

Soon afterwards the restoration was underway. After pulling original plans and doing extensive research, Morris engaged architect Helena Arahuete to work on the restoration. Arahuete had worked with Lautner on his Arango residence, built in 1973 in Acapulco, and continued on as Lautner's chief architect until his passing in 1994.

"I've done commercial improvements, but this is my first residential restoration," says Morris. "And with the spectre of John still there, and [my] working with the restraints of the 21st century, it was daunting."

"John was always looking to the future," Morris says, "constantly re-editing, re-imagining. Knowing he would do some things differently gives me hope that I can successfully restore the home within the same spirit."

Morris received approval from the city to build a wraparound deck designed by Lautner that extends across the back of the home.

  Fridays on the Homefront  
  Fridays on the Homefront
Top: Meticulously sanding the interior ceiling. Above: More than 1,000 man hours later, the ceiling is beginning to shine. Photos: courtesy Greg Morris

"John also designed full plans showing a second story basically underground, but there is a lot to consider in that area with hillside ordinances and today's building codes."

When Morris bought the house, he admits, he found it dark and depressing, and dated. "It never had a chance to breathe," he says today.

But Morris knew better. "Hiding under all of that paint is so much beauty. I probably went through 15 to 20 sanders [during the early work]. There's a graveyard of sanders now."

Once his restoration is complete, Morris wants to see the home made available to architectural students, and other artistic and cultural endeavors. "I would like other people to be able to appreciate the magic and amazing feel it has," he says.