Beautiful Koenig Mid-Century Restoration

Designed by Pierre Koenig in 1954, this iconic L.A. house was carefully restored to pay homage to the Koenig’s distinctive style.
The Scott House in Los Angeles’ Tujunga neighborhood – the fourth house designed by American mid-century modern architect Pierre Koenig – was lovingly restored to stay true to its mid-century roots. The house was commissioned in 1953 by Edwin and Aurora Scott, a chemist and his wife who were looking for a home that would allow them to enjoy the indoor/outdoor lifestyle of Southern California. After purchasing a plot of land in Tujunga with 270-degree views of the city below, the Scotts set out to find an architect to design their home.

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By chance, they drove past Koenig’s Case Study House #1 in Glendale, which Koenig was using as his own residence at the time. The Scotts were so impressed by the house, that they rang the doorbell, met Koenig, and asked him to design their new home.

In 2014, Nikolaus Kraemer and Heather van Haaften, a couple who are passionate about midcentury-modern architecture and furniture, purchased the Scott House from Aurora (who was 94 years old at the time) and sensitively restored it in a way that would reflect the property’s roots.

-couple-nonetheless-haEdwin Scott and his son Mike in front of the Scott House in 1956. 

“We knew of Koenig’s work when we first saw his iconic Stahl House. Heather and I were intrigued by his accurate rationale of steel being not just something you can ‘put up and take down,’ but a way of life,” says Nikolaus, who compares their serendipitous acquisition to “owning an original Warhol, Lichtenstein, or Ruscha.”

Though they were grateful to be able to purchase an iconic residence directly from its original owners—rather than one that had been altered by numerous people—the couple nonetheless had to invest a lot of time and effort in renovating and reviving the architectural gem.

“Midcentury-modern homes can suffer from too many ambitious owners trying to improve their homes. Mostly, these attempts do more harm than good, and can even distort the original design,” says Nikolaus.

The house’s flat-roof structure had substantial damage that needed to be addressed. A few years after the house was built, a leak developed in the roof, so Edwin Scott had poured a four-inch layer of light concrete on the metal roof panels.

midcentury-modern-homesmodern 7modern 6modern 5Like many of Koenig’s Case Study Houses, the Scott House is an architecturally simple, L-shaped structure made up of straight, clean lines. Plenty of floor-to-ceiling glass walls link the interior spaces and visually connect the house with its surrounding environment. A bright and expansive central living area is anchored by a dividing wall and a two-sided fireplace. Sliding glass doors connect this central living space to other parts of the house. The kitchen connects to two dining zones: an indoor dining area with a small round table, and a larger “winter garden” dining space with a rectangular table. Full glazing on their exterior walls of the two bedrooms bring in tons of light and allow guests to feel a sense of being immersed in the outdoors.

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Nikolaus and Heather hired Urban Innovations, Inc. and MIM Construction Inc. to work on the renovation. When the project began, they discovered that the electrical and plumbing systems were also in bad condition.

“The roof was in such bad shape that our contractor Meir Manor from MIM Construction suggested it might be cheaper to replace Koenig’s signature metal ceiling rather than try to fix it. That, of course, was out of the question.  Eventually, Manor and his team found an effective and affordable way to save the original roof by gluing zinc patches on top of the hundreds of holes, filling them up with Bondo, a putty that’s normally used as an anti-rust treatment for cars. He then sanded the entire bottom part of the ceiling to smooth it,” says Heather.

The construction team then rust-proofed the roof by painting it with two layers of heavy-duty primer and a coat of white paint. They replaced all the electric and plumbing systems, as well as the glass panels. They also upgraded the kitchen, bathrooms, floors, driveway, and lighting.

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With many of its structural details still intact, the Scott House is an authentic example of Koenig’s architectural legacy.

“With the help of Urban Innovations, Inc. and MIM Construction, the home was brought back to its original state. It now represents the best of Pierre Koenig’s original plans and design, enriched with the amenities of a contemporary 2017 living standard.

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Beautiful Toys by Charles & Ray Eames

Serious Fun

Taking inspiration from the humble cardboard box, Ray and Charles Eames created toys and furniture to spark the imagination of kids and adults alike. A central tenant of the design philosophy of Ray and Charles Eames was an embrace of play as an end in itself, the idea that creativity should be unconstrained and unburdened. While the couple will always be remembered for their contributions to furniture, design and cinema, it was their approach to experimentation, and their interest in seemingly tangential topics such as clowns, that inspired their seemingly endless sense of wonder and a constant drive towards exploration and improvement. As champions of those beliefs, it only goes to follow that they’d also be some of the world’s foremost toy designers.

Ray and Charles Eames took child’s play seriously. They invented playthings, furniture, and films to spark, but never limit, the young imagination. Given their own ideas of fun, these toys tended to emphasize composition, structure, and building, giving children the tools of their own adult trades in miniature (and giving some adults the chance to make like children again). Many of their designs embrace what kids and parents have long known: that the box an item comes in, especially if it’s a very large item, can be more exciting than the contents.

So it comes as no surprise that the Eameses improved the box itself, as a portfolio of photographs unearthed from the Herman Miller Archives reminds us. The humble cardboard box offers children their first chance to make space for themselves, whether that’s a race car, a robot, or a house, sprouting from the shipping container the Eames Office designed in 1951 for the Eames Storage Units (ESUs).

Printed in a colorful red and black design, and featuring the distinctive Herman Miller ‘M,’ the heavy cardboard carton, reinforced with wood splines, had only to be re-nailed to the bottom wood skid, after the furniture had been removed, to be made into a playhouse youngsters would love, reads text from a draft press release. A separate leaflet offers instructions on “How to Make a Playhouse,” but it should have been self-explanatory: dotted lines suggest locations for an entrance and a view out, as well as jaunty awnings.

In one fell swoop, the Eameses managed to combine adult and child fun, eliminate waste, and add excitement to the mundane process of delivery. The up arrows, as well as the deep V of the logo “M,” designed by Irving Harper for the company, suggest the possibility of upward expansion into a miniature townhouse or skyscraper, should a child or parent need more furniture.

The ESUs themselves were also a kind of demountable toy for grownups. Made of perforated steel extrusions with diagonal bracing, they could be configured as low credenzas or high bookshelves. Buyers could customize the interior arrangement, selecting plywood drawers or doors, and perforated metal or enameled Masonite filler panels. Owners could also take them apart and rearrange or add on, treating the furniture as a series of modular boxes‑ furniture as toy.

As adults designing playthings intended for children, the Eameses found more inspiration in boxes. The Toy, manufactured by Tigrett Enterprises in 1951, offered children the chance to make their own prefabricated structure, one more colorful and flexible than Carton City. The Eameses had first been in touch with Tigrett about manufacturing large, bright, paper-and-cardboard animal masks based on those they used for skits and photo shoots in the late 1940s. The Memphis-based company was run by the highly entrepreneurial John Burton Tigrett, who made his fortune selling the Glub-Glub duck and may have been looking for more patentable products. The masks never made it out of the prototype stage, but the simpler and more geometric Toy did.

The Toy combined thin wooden dowels, pipe cleaners, and a set of square and triangular stiffened-paper panels in green, yellow, blue, red, magenta, and black. Children could run the dowels through sleeves on the edges of the panels to strengthen them, and then attach these struts at the corners. Initially sold in a big, flat box via the Sears catalog, the Eameses soon redesigned this packaging as well, creating a far more elegant 30-inch hexagonal tube, into which all parts could be rolled and stored.

The first version of the Toy made spaces big enough for children to inhabit, like the cartons. The Little Toy, released in 1952, was scaled more like an architectural model, allowing children to radically reinterpret the dollhouse. (The office later prototyped a modern model house for Revell, but it never went into production.) The Little Toy boxes, which feature a grid of colorful rectangles and words, resemble the panelized arrangement of the Eames House façade and the ESUs, and all of these products, at their various scales, were being developed at the Eames Office within the same few years.

Charles Eames once said of the work done out of the Eames Office, “We work because it’s a chain reaction, each subject leads to the next.” The connection to the ESU cartons and The Toy is immediately apparent in the longest-lived of the modular, paper-based playthings to come out of the Eames Office, the House of Cards.

In the voiceover for “Toccata for Toy Trains,” Charles Eames says, “In a good old toy there is apt to be nothing self-conscious about the use of materials. What is wood is wood; what is tin is tin; and what is cast is beautifully cast.” He could have added, in reference to the couple’s own toys, what is cardboard is cardboard, and then talked about the qualities that make it an ideal building material: its strength, its low cost, its ability to withstand a judicious number of cuts and slots.

Why Magazine by Alexandra Lange

Beautiful Stahl House

Stahl House, completed in 13 months and costing $37,500, further demonstrated Pierre Koenig’s flair for working with industrial materials, particularly steel, glass and concrete.

Stahl-Landscape1-The image is instantly familiar; the house, all dramatic angles, concrete, steel and glass, perched indelibly above Los Angeles, with Hollywood’s lights resembling a circuit board below it. Inside, two women sit, stylish and relaxed, talking casually behind the monumental floor to ceiling glass walls. One of the world’s most iconic photographs, Julius Schulman’s Case Study 22 beautifully captures the optimism of 1950s Los Angeles, and the striking beauty of architect Pierre Koenig’s masterpiece, Stahl House. The classic L shaped pavilion, cantilevered above Hollywood on Woods Drive, was built in 1959 after being adopted into the Case Study Program, an experimental residential design initiative that commissioned architects to create model homes in the wake of the 1950s housing boom. Stahl House, also known as No. 22, was the wild one, conjured up by the man who purchased the plot of land at 1635 Woods Drive in 1954 for $13,500 and sealed the deal with a handshake. C H ‘Buck’ Stahl was a dreamer, who, along with his wife Carlotta, set about finding the right person to bring his vision for an innovative and thoroughly modern home to life.

Stahl-portrait1-chairstahl_portrait2-pool.jpgBuck was a former professional footballer who worked as a graphic designer and sign painter. He spent his first few years as a landowner hauling broken blocks of concrete to the site in attempt to improve its precarious foundation. He and Carlotta ferried their finds, load by load, back to Woods Drive in the back of Buck’s Cadillac, hopeful the reinforcements would prevent the land from sliding. Buck’s dreams for the house began to take shape over the following two years, and eventually, he made a model of the future Stahl House. His grand designs, however, were promptly rejected by several notable architects.

Stahl-Landscape2-view.jpgCarlotta recalled Buck continually telling prospective architects “I don’t care how you do it, there’s not going to be any walls in this wing.” Until they hired Pierre Koenig in 1957, an ambitious young architect determined to build on a site nobody would touch, it seemed unlikely the house would ever exist. Pierre described the process of building Stahl House as “trying to solve a problem – the client had champagne tastes and a beer budget.” He was interested in working with steel, and despite being warned away from it by his architecture instructors, possessed great aptitude for it. He’d experimented with a number of exposed glass and steel homes before he created Case Study 21, or The Bailey House in 1958 and 1959, and his skill for designing functional spaces with simplicity of form, abundant natural light, and elegant lines would eventually make him a master of modernism. Stahl House, completed in 13 months and costing 37,500 USD, further demonstrated Pierre’s flair for working with industrial materials, particularly steel, glass, and concrete. The project put him on the map as an architect with an incredible eye for balance, symmetry, and restraint. The 2,040 m² house was, as Buck insisted, built without walls in the main wing to allow for sweeping 270º views. Three sides of the building were made of plate glass, unheard of in the late 1950s, and deemed dangerous by engineers and architects. This design feature required Pierre to source the largest pieces of glass available for residential use at the time. With two bedrooms, two bathrooms, polished concrete floors, and a very famous swimming pool (a fixture in countless films and fashion editorials) Stahl House was an immediate mid century icon.

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Although there has been some dispute over Buck’s influence on the design in the years since he died in 2005 and Pierre Koenig’s death in 2004, some experts who have seen Buck’s original model agree that his concept informed the direction the Stahl House would finally take.

“I dismissed it as typical owner hubris at the time,” architect and writer Joseph Giovannini told the Los Angeles Times in 2009. “The gesture of the house cantilevering over the side of the hill into the distant view is clearly here in this model. But it is Pierre’s skill that elevated the idea into a masterpiece. This is one of the rare cases it seems that there is a shared authorship.”

Today, Stahl House is still owned by the Stahl family. Though it remains a magnet for film crews and photographers the world over, for Bruce Stahl, Buck and Carlotta’s son, who grew up there with his siblings, it was simply part of a typical, happy childhood. “We were a blue collar family living in a white collar house,” he said. “Nobody famous ever lived here.”

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Credits: Lucy Brook
Photos: Rick Poon

Beautiful Googie Architecture

Union 76 Gas Station

The dramatic upward-curving roof is one of the most iconic examples
of Googie architecture that still stands today.

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What looks like a flying carpet anchored to the ground with pillars at
the intersection of Crescent Drive and Little Santa Monica Boulevard in
Los Angeles is actually a functional gas station. It’s also one of the most
iconic examples of Googie architecture in the world.

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The dramatic upward-curved canopy decorated with red square tiles was
originally designed in the 1960s by architect Gin Wong to be a part of the
city’s airport, but when that plan was changed, it ended up as a Union 76
gas station. When the fluorescent lights that follow the curve are turned on,
Jack Colker’s 76 station, as it is commonly known, goes from flying carpet
to embellished spaceship.

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It was completed in 1965, right around the time when the eye-catching
Googie style was extremely popular in California. Inspired by the SpaceAge,
fast cars, and jets, Googie style buildings contain steel, plastic, and neon,
twisted into crazy shapes and designs. Several of these whimsical creations
were demolished in the decades that followed but there are still handful of
them scattered around the Golden State.

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Atlas Obscura

Beautiful Scandinavian Design

I am so enamored by this this classic Scandinavian apartment belonging to designer Hanne Bloch featured on Bo Bedre. The mix of mid century furniture, rustic materials and design simplicity blends so beautifully together. The Serge Moille lighting fixtures, the classic white tufted mid-century modern lounger, the Eames dining chairs — all of it works perfectly together. And the dark stained hardwood floors work sets everything off perfectly!

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Beautiful Mid-Century Modern Home

House stalking…and dreaming

House stalking is like a past time for me lately. Honestly, when I drive by a house I like I think about whether I could live in it and what it’s like inside, but it just seems so far out of reach these days, especially in the heart of Seattle. Property here is ridiculous if you’re wanting to live anywhere within the city limits. Sometimes I feel like I can barely afford life, let alone buying a home in the kind of up and coming area I’d want to be in.

One style I’m currently obsessed with is all things mid-century, I love the clean lines, modern style furniture, large widows and vaulted beamed ceilings. The problem being there are not too many good mid-century style homes in Seattle where bungalows rule. Palm Springs has the best examples, now if only I could find a way to plunk an Eichler home somewhere in Seattle, hmm.

This beauty is the Dr. Scholl’s estate in Palm Springs, CA, the epicenter for mid-century modern, is designed by Anshen+Allen. The entrance has an amazing colonnade and oversize atrium that leads straight into a round pool from the moment you step in the door. I love the front facade with minimal window lines, the privacy, the custom walnut Kerf cabinetry in the kitchen, vintage tiles and hand crafted walnut accent walls….mid-century doesn’t get any better than this. Now if only I had a spare $1.2 million and could tolerate the heat of Palm Springs.

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