Archives For Mid century modern

Courtesy of Holger Ellgaard

Before I get to Los Angeles midcentury modern, where did the term “midcentury modern” even come from?

Since movements are rarely named while they’re happening (unless you’re Andre Breton and write a manifesto), but rather, have scholars name them decades later, it is unsurprising that the term “midcentury modern” was first coined by Cara Greenberg in her famous book published in 1984, Midcentury Modern: Furniture of the 1950s. Because of the book’s popularity, and the resurgence of interest in mid-century design, marketers in the industry and the general public started using the term to describe the period of post World War interior, architectural, furniture and graphic design.

Rooted in Bauhausian minimalism and the functionality of the International Style, American midcentury modern’s ultimate goal was comfort for everyone, for the 1950’s middle-class families fleeing cities for the suburbs, and artists fleeing suburbia for California. In architecture there was also the influence from simple Scandinavian lines & symmetry, yet also the free-flowing texture of Oscar Niemayer’s work. In California, this meant square, geometric shapes amidst open floor plans, abundant windows to allow sunlight to stream into the house, and the movement from indoor to outdoor space. It was a square, but it moved, ya dig?

Why was Los Angeles Midcentury Modern so prominent?

While there are many reasons for the rise of Los Angeles midcentury modern, including post-war real estate booms, the influential design trends that led up to it, the weather of Southern California, the Hollywood film industry, the vibe that something special was happening in California, something that widely goes unnoticed, which also happens to be the primary reason for its success, was the presence and influence of the American military industrial complex in the region. As the US entered WWII approximately 60% of American manufacturers of aerospace products were located in Southern California, mostly in Los Angeles and San Diego. All of this wartime production meant a lot of money was streaming into the area—$70 billion in federal funds to be more precise. Los Angeles emerged as a military production hub and the city grew. Among the beneficiaries of US military funds was Charles Eames, who was commissioned to build plywood splints for soldiers, a modification of his innovations on plywood furniture.

Money, time, people, and space (mostly money)—that’s what makes a movement. Trends come and go, but a movement will always come back. Think about it: in any movement, there were just too many of them doing it, too many people that took part and wrote essays, articles, pieces in The New York Times fifty years later called “Why Won’t Midcentury Design Die?” for it not to make a continual impact. It’s true that we have short attention spans and we forget. We also have a tendency to reject what the previous generation loved. But a movement will always come back. Sometimes it just takes a show like Mad Men to remind us that it was all so cool.

By: David Plick

Even if you’re not a sports fan, chances are you’ve experienced the designs of Dan Meis, possibly the world’s most renowned stadium designer. His architectural visions have spanned the United States, in major cities including New York at Madison Square Garden, the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Safeco Field in Seattle, and in Las Vegas, Sacramento, Phoenix, and many other cities. Globally, he’s designed throughout the Middle East, Europe, and Asia, as seen in Stadio della Roma in Rome, Saitama Super Arena in Japan, and more recently in Qatar, for the upcoming World Cup games. This past year Meis also moved into designing homes and wooed actress Eve Plumb and her husband Ken Pace with his simple yet elegant model for a modern home.

With all of this work on his plate, Dan Meis needed a respite from the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles and New York. After travelling the world, it was a short conversation with Brian Linder that led him up the Santa Monica Mountains to Calabasas, where he found a dream home. This same home is now listed at The Value of Architecture, and Dan Meis spoke to us about how this house wooed him, what it was like for him to live in another architect’s vision, and what he did to keep the narrative going.

The Value of Architecture: So what made you first interested in the property?

Dan Meis: It’s a funny story. My wife and I didn’t know Calabasas at all, and I had talked to Brian about potentially moving back to LA because we had lived in the Palisades. Brian asked me if I would be interested living in what is officially Calabasas, because there was a house there that’s really special. He sent me the photos, and I was on my way to the airport, and literally missed my flight so I could come see it and decided to put an offer on it that day.

TVOA: How long did you look at the property before you put an offer on it?

Dan Meis: Maybe 15 minutes? I’ve always loved the Case Study, indoor/outdoor, mid century modern vibe. I’ve had other houses that were similar, but this one has such a beautiful post and beam design, and a lot of it is about the site itself. It opens up onto this acre of protected oaks that create a canopy that is almost like the world’s largest living room. It’s really special. After a quick run through the house and a walk under the oaks, I was pretty sold.

TVOA: It seems like a place where you could really get some thinking done.

Dan Meis: It definitely is. I get a lot of thinking done there. It’s become my office in the woods. It’s not far from LA, but it’s so tranquil there that I get a lot done. I commonly work from home and just do everything electronically from there.

TVOA: How long does it take to drive to Santa Monica?

Dan Meis: It takes about forty minutes to get to Venice on an average day. But you’re also driving along PCH, so it’s not a bad drive.

TVOA: As a successful architect, how is your process in investigating a property different from a non-architect, or layperson?

Dan Meis: I think one of the things that architects do, and this is true for myself and my wife, is we look for a home with provenance. It’s not just another home. There’s a story to the home, and it’s the architect’s job to tell that story. Now, it’s not necessarily a stylistic thing, though I have a tendency to be drawn more towards mid century modern or contemporary. But mainly, I want to live somewhere that has a narrative of the provenance of the home. I want to live somewhere that has some meaning to it.

TVOA: Were you familiar with that narrative and Douglas Rucker’s work before you saw the property?

Dan Meis: I wasn’t, but I quickly got a sense of it, and absorbed it. Douglas Rucker is a well-known Malibu architect, and he did a few homes with a similar style. And he was a very interesting guy in general. For me, all of those components combined to tell the story of this house. And I loved being a part of that, an architect living in another architect’s vision.

TVOA: And you did some renovations on the house. How did you continue the narrative?

Dan Meis: Luckily, the former owner had it for thirty years and took great care of it, so not a lot of things were necessary, but we did a few updates. Part of it is the functionality of how people live differently. The former owner had a lot of carpeting, so the first thing we did was put in a lot of hardwood floors. But we looked for a flooring that was very deep in color because of the color of the structure itself. Also, the flooring has a worn, aged look to it. And I built in shelves for my somewhat unnaturally large book collection. Every time I move I have to figure out a way to make the books part of the architecture.

We also renovated the bathrooms and made it much more contemporary. We put in subway tiles, and a lot of marble which contrasts the deep, dark colors of the structure beautifully. I like the idea that houses evolve much like buildings evolve. This happens in my work too. For example, if I work on a stadium that was built 100 years ago, I don’t try to recreate it entirely. I draw from the history, and also update it to have the modern amenities of a modem stadium.

TVOA: Is there a difference in the way you design in your personal life compared to your professional life?

Dan Meis: No, I think they cross over a lot. I may not have the budget my clients do—we may have to be more clever about what we do and what materials we use—but I think it’s a similar eye. I like things simple, functional, clean with durable materials–things that are easy to maintain. I like a darker palette.

It’s all influenced by California modernism. I grew up in Colorado actually, but the only textbooks that existed on drafting or architectural drawings were about mid century modern, the case study program, all in California. I was always influenced by stone materials that ran from the living room all the way to the patio, wood used in a contemporary way, flat roofs, square windows. That influence carries through in all the work I do, both personally and professionally.

By: David Plick

From Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West to Zaha Hadid’s London Loft and Philip Johnson’s home in New Canaan, Connecticut, we always have this fascination with the inner lives of artists. Of course, we’ve seen the work that they produced for their clients, where we recognize that a great deal of collaboration and compromise (sometimes begrudgingly) have been made during the design process. But what would they do if they had complete creative control, because they were simultaneously the architect and the client? That’s what we have here with Morris Bolter’s LA Mid Century modern (1966) near Lake Hollywood Park, which he built for himself and his family.

LA Mid Century Modern: Morris Bolter, 1966

Morris Bolter’s open plan design comes with gorgeous views of mountains and the Hollywood sign that can be seen from the Zen fountain. Architectural Digest called this LA mid century modern Bauhausian, and with the simple, elegant line, it’s clear why.

By: David Plick

Detroit native William Baker, founder of LAModernHome, moved to California from Chicago in 2005 after his international design company relocated him to the West Coast. After a short stint in Newport Beach, William landed in Los Angeles and immediately felt at home amongst the eclectic modern real estate, diverse cultures, art, music, food, and fashion of the most contemporary city on Earth. Because of his background in design, William has also always been inspired by architecture, most specifically, the famous mid-century modern homes of Los Angeles. In 2006, William bought his own mid-century modern (1962, John L. Pugsley, AIA) in Montecito Heights with Deasy/Penner as his agent. Excited by this process with Deasy/Penner and the energy in Los Angeles’ design scene, William joined Deasy/Penner as a partner, opening up his own office in LA’s legendary Silverlake neighborhood. Today, William brings that same level of design knowledge and sensibility as he represents buyers and sellers of architectural real estate throughout Los Angeles.

Similarly to the properties that LAModernHome and The Value of Architecture represent, William and Brian bring their own integrity, for both design and business, to the process. They both understand that buying a home is often the single-most relevant financial purchase in a person’s life, and they are sensitive to the needs of the buyer or seller, recognizing that this is a delicate time for them. William is inspired by LAModernHome’s alliance with The Value of Architecture, and the thoughtful service that these companies can give to the people of Los Angeles.

The Value of Architecture: So how’d you become interested in architecture?

William Baker: When I moved to LA from Chicago, where I had lived in a downtown Wrigleyville loft with a beautiful, modern design, I realized I always had an urban design focus to my aesthetic naturally. When moving to LA I discovered this new magazine Dwell, and saw that Los Angeles had the most pedigreed architectural property in the world. After that I was hooked, and started attending home tours, seeking out Richard Neutra, Rudolph Schindler, Gregory Ain, Cliff May and others.

Additionally, I quickly learned that you can’t buy as much property in LA as in Chicago. The great thing about mid-century modern though, is its’ great utilization of space, with seamless transitions between inside and out. For example, my house in Chicago was three times the size of my house in LA, but my house here has three distinct outdoor spaces in the design.
Mid-century modern appeals to me aesthetically but also, when it was first conceived, was designed for the masses—something small and affordable for everyone, given that it utilized the space so well. For my own home, because of its uses of steel, glass and wood, and blurring the division between indoor and outside so much, its’ vibe is of a treehouse.

TVOA: Isn’t that everyone’s dream?

William Baker: It’s definitely my dream. I love my house. It was designed in 1962 by John Pugsley, an architect who designed several significant homes in the Pasadena area. It doesn’t have the notoriety as a Schindler or a Neutra, but he designed other compelling gems in LA, and then in San Diego. It’s a small house but it feels bigger.

TVOA: How does the design of your home affect your lifestyle, your behavior and choices?

William Baker: I’ve been in this house for more than ten years and every time I come home I’m on vacation; for myself it’s a sanctuary. I don’t like a lot of visual noise and my house reflects that. When I get home at the end of the day it’s just me and my chocolate lab, Bodhi.

TVOA: Do you consider yourself a minimalist?

William Baker: I have been described as such. My house is only 1,500 square feet, so I also don’t have a lot of room for furniture. What I do have though, is nice—I like quality furniture, from my experience working in high-end interiors for such a long time. But I recently purchased a great turntable so I’m getting back into vinyl. Really, the only thing I have is my dog, and a few cars—I’m a big fan of German cars.

TVOA: And you just went through your own renovation. How’d that go?

William Baker: It was great. I wanted to make a commitment to this house; I had the opportunity to be highly involved in the project and make some cool changes. I wanted to make the house more open, lighter in feel and modern. When I first moved in I installed cork floors, which were period-correct, and chose grey walls, which were all pretty dark. In reimagining the space, I instead painted the walls a crisp white and brought in a light grey, bleached hardwood for flooring, and I opened up some rooms. We ended up ordering too much wood and I installed the remaining on one of the walls, which I think give that room a fresh energy. I completely renovated the kitchen, purchased new appliances and put in this awesome Gaggenau stovetop. The process took a great deal longer than I expected, but the good news with that was I had a chance to sublet a beautiful two-bedroom apartment in Venice for eight months. It became a rewarding process.

This house represents all that’s great which has happened to me since I’ve lived in LA. It was the first house I viewed when looking for property here; I saw nearly fifty homes after it, but this one kept drawing me back. This is home. This isn’t a house I’m going to flip. Coming from the Midwest, not truly understanding at that point LA’s values, the purchase was a leap of faith, and I’ve been able to share that experience with others. That perspective is consistent with LAModernHome and the Value of Architecture. It’s consistent with the type of value that Brian and I bring.

TVOA: How so?

William Baker: Our value isn’t just in selling houses. Our value is deeper than that; it is helping people understand how to maximize the selling price of their house; how to design and decorate, for example. Brian and I are involved in the staging of properties before they’re on sale. We both have a great eye and not a lot of real estate agents do. For sellers, that comes into play when we advise people on this, because of our design experience, but we’re also homeowners doing renovations ourselves. I just completed my renovation and Brian is almost finished with his. You’d be surprised how many real estate agents in town don’t own their home. Brian and I don’t just sell it. We live it.

Real estate affects people’s lives. It’s important to recognize as a realtor that in the moment when someone engages your service significant change is going on in their life. At times the change is exciting for them—someone’s getting married or having a baby, perhaps they’re making more money. But other times it’s not a celebration; for other clients, it’s an unfortunate death or divorce.  It requires us to be a steady, calm influence for them. Our goal is to not only give them incredible results, but also a great experience.

We recently were honored to represent the sellers of the 1925 Rudolph Schindler How House in Silverlake, one of the most significant properties in all of LA and produced a record setting sold result of $2,500,000.

We’ve begun seeing mainstream real estate firms now opening their “architectural divisions”. But LAModernHome and The Value of Architectural were created to function as dedicated specialists in the sale of unique, historic and architectural properties.

As Architectural Realtors, our fundamental goal is to raise awareness of the value of good design, and to assist our clients in maximizing the benefits of a design-oriented lifestyle.

By: David Plick