The Stahl House

Why yes, I enjoyed this iconic architectural masterpiece for a few hours last week.

When that day off hits you in the neck

It was exactly how I thought it would be: pretty small yet spacious. Loved it. Here’s the short version of the history of this house:

Clarence “Buck” Stahl had the original idea for the home. After purchasing the lot on which it sits for $13,000 in 1954, he began, along with his wife, Carlotta, to search for the perfect architect to realize his vision. More than one architect the Stahls met with insisted their dream could not be executed. Pierre Koenig disagreed. The young, energetic architect took on the project in 1959.

Today, the home is known as Case Study House #22. That’s because it became the 22nd of 27 homes to be a part of Arts & Architecture’s famous Case Study series, which commissioned emerging modernist architecture in Southern California. Homes designed by Raphael Soriano, Charles Eames, Craig Ellwood, Richard Neutra, and Eero Saarinen were also part of the project, but the Stahl House has become the most recognizable of the Case Study houses. It embodied the home of the future.

LA Mag

It was an everyday people’s house is what is so interesting here. Buck Stahl had a very weird (for his time) career. He moved to LA to become an actor, found the lot almost randomly, worked on it for three years and half to make it better (by adding concrete he would scavenge around Los Angeles because the man was broke) while paying back the loan and living modestly somewhere. He was in his forties, had a dream house and worked to make it happen.

He built a model, showed it to architects. Most thought he and his wife were nuts. Pierre Koenig accepted the challenge though. Here comes the most beautiful and ironic part of the story of this house. To finance the building, the couple had to take a loan. No bank wanted to be part of a project like this. Too risky. Pierre used his connections and found a bank to loan money. A black-owned bank.

In short: a white couple built a modern, iconic house in a segregated area (the lot was not to be sold to anyone not Caucasian), thanks to LA’s black capital. THIS SHIT RIGHT HERE BRO THIS SHIT RIGHT HERE

Curbed (excellent article about the house, you should read it)

I didn’t know that when I visited the place. I learned that sitting in the living room, as the only black person in the room too. I mental five’d my ass off, giggling.

Back to the everyday people thingy: the Stahl family is a simple, humble family. You would think that they are all about tuxedos and martinis, they are not. Like the very nice tour guide Andrew said, they were more about “beer cooler and kids jumping in the pool from the roof” type of folks, which you know, feels right. And yet out of character when you look at Julius Shulman’s outstanding and timeless pictures.

This is the most widely published architectural picture in the world

Now my review of the house. The house itself, the volumes, the amenities, size, furniture, floor to ceiling windows… It’s pretty much perfect. I love how they lowered the ceiling in the kitchen while providing non-direct light to the islands. The most striking effect is how the house itself disappears: you live in a beautiful space and don’t really feel like in a box like we feel like in traditional houses. It’s soothing and elegant. I can’t get enough of that modern feeling. That horizontal, wide, cinematographic, no limit vibe.

On the other hand well, building on top of a hill is, I think, not that great. Yes, you have an absurd 270° view of Los Angeles. You also get all the wind, all the cold, all the sun, all the time. That can be harsh sometimes. And it’s of course, pretty cumbersome to drive all the way up there. I can imagine that living up there and commuting can be alienating and isolating.

Having said that, once you sit down next to the pool, looking over the sun going down while the city turns into black and lights, the hum slowly dying down… It’s wonderful and calming like no other places I’ve been to.

Thank you SO much dear Stahl family for letting strangers in instead of selling the place for dozens of millions of dollars. It’s very much appreciated and I look forward to do the same once my custom-made house is built and attracting peasants I mean, everyday people.

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