Romantic Neutra with a Tale

Modest for Beverly Hills, the Cytron House is well preserved, landmarked—and for sale
Fridays on the Homefront
Among Richard Neutra's best designs, the Cytron House (above) is sited on .45-acre lot in Beverly Hills and features a 300-year-old sycamore tree (as above), room enough for seven parking places, and a serene backyard garden. The two-bed, two-bath home is 1,480 square feet and basically unchanged since its construction. Photo by Julius Shulman © J. Paul Getty Trust. Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles (2004.R.10)

Besides his status as Southern California's most prolific, dedicated modern architect of the mid-century, Richard Neutra was especially known for designing to the needs of his client.

One example that is modest by Beverly Hills standards hit the market this month for the first time ever, accompanied by a charming and romantic history.

Although the Austrian native (1892-1970) built dozens of homes in SoCal, the Cytron House (1961) is one of but a few in Beverly Hills, perhaps as few as three. Neutra's clients in the Beverly Crest neighborhood at 2249 Benedict Canyon Road were Leo and Matilda Cytron, retiring proprietors of an Inglewood storefront since 1922, Cytron's Shoe Store. The two-bed, two-bath is 1,480 square feet and basically unchanged since its construction.

"It was my grandmother's house," says Sally Gati, a retired teacher from City College of San Francisco who is presenting the house for sale by owner. It hit the market recently for $2.4 million, and interested agents and shoppers have been ringing Gati's cell phone 'off the hook.' Also a documentary filmmaker, she produced and narrated a five-minute video to market the home.

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Leo and Matilda Cyntron at the Cytron House, circa 1960s. Photo courtesy Sally Gati

"My grandma fell in love with Richard Neutra. They were soulmates," Gati recalls of Tillie Cytron's friendship with both Neutra and his wife, Dione. She adds proudly, "I have every letter they've written back and forth."

Not only that, but Dion Neutra (1926-2019), one of Richard and Dione's two sons and also an architect, inscribed his father's posthumous book, Building with Nature (1971), to Tillie thusly: "One of our favorite clients, whose house was really 'built with nature'!"

The house was designed at the beginning of Neutra's fifth and final decade as an architect, 12 years after being featured on the cover of Time magazine as a leading light of California modernism. Having spent most of his career in the U.S., a few years later he would move into a final professional phase, designing villas for clients in Germany, Switzerland, and France.

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Front of the home today. Photo courtesy Sally Gati

As with many of Neutra's best designs, there is built-in furniture and shelving in nearly every room of the house, in accord with the Cytrons' needs. The .45-acre lot features a 300-year-old sycamore tree, room enough for seven parking places, and a backyard garden so serene that first Gati's mother and then Gati herself chose to get married there.

"Why not?" the retired teacher replied quickly when asked about that decision. "It's a beautiful backyard, [and] I loved the idea of having a garden wedding. It was really nice."

Presenting the home as one of its three trustees (along with her brother and a cousin), Gati was hoping to hold an open house but has decided otherwise. The main reason is that, having been rented out since her grandmother died in 1990, "There are tenants living in the house right now."

Fridays on the Homefront
Living room today. Note the built-in furniture and shelving, which is featured in nearly every room of the house. Photo courtesy Sally Gati