I often deal with stress by hopping on Zillow—that living breathing reminder of what an open real estate market looks like—and tool around looking for homes in locales that I barely know, searching for cool houses that I have no intention of buying. If that sounds crazy to you, I totally understand. If it doesn't, well then you're the perfect WL reader.
In the past I've fawned about the last house Frank Lloyd Wright ever designed, a Richard Neutra rental in LA or the all-time coolest house in Qualicum Beach. But for a combination of cool location, relative affordability and amazing pedigree it's tough to beat this gem—the personal residence of John Lautner. For real architecture nerds, Lautner needs no introduction—whereas Neutra was all minimalism and cool, Lautner was, well, out there. Many casual observers will be well acquainted with his maximalist work: his famous house for Bob Hope that looms over Palm Springs...
...or the nearby Elrod House, featured in Diamonds are Forever. But before he became the go-to architect for the unusual and amazing, Lautner was a student of Frank Lloyd Wright at Taliesin for several years and was lead apprentice of many famed FLW residence.
But by 1939 Lautner had struck out on his own and moved to Los Angeles. This house—his own house—was his first major project.
It's an amazing 1,244-square-foot historical document. It not only shows one of the great architects of the 20th Century at the very start of his journey, it also shows how the most famous architect in the world influenced what would become one of the truly unique visions in American architecture.
One of the most striking features is the compact size: the house is smaller than some living rooms Lautner designed later in life (the Hope Residence checks in at 24,000 square feet).
But even in a small space, it hits all the key notes of great mid-century design, including perfect siting, with views over the hills of L.A., beautiful wood built-ins throughout and the aforementioned only-as-much-space-as-you-need floor plan.
So with all the above, you'll forgive us for saying that the price—$1,590,000 USD—seems cheap. It was put on the National Register of Historical Places a few years ago, and while that's some nice cachet, it also probably means you will be restoring this house, rather than renovating it (but you weren't the sort of slob to mess with history in any event, right?). See full listing here.