This story was originally published by Curbed before it joined New York Magazine. You can visit the Curbed archive at archive.curbed.com to read all stories published before October 2020.
Location: South Pasadena, California
Year built: 1949
Architect: Richard Neutra
Specs: 3 beds, 3 baths, 2,980 square feet, 0.73 acres (guest house: 2 beds, 2 baths, 800 square feet)
By far the most prominent of the approximately 30 architects who participated in the midcentury Arts & Architecture magazine’s Case Study House program, Richard Neutra produced plans for four of the project’s 36 homes. For many years, it was believed that only two were ever actually constructed, and of those, only No. 20, the Bailey House — currently on the market for $20M in a package deal with a Marmol-Radziner-designed contemporary mansion — is officially recognized as a Case Study House; the second of the two, variously identified as No. 19 and No, 21, was disavowed by both the architect and Arts & Architecture’s editor, John Entenza, when it was built with changes to the design and materials.
However, in the early 2000s, after being hired to oversee the restoration of a South Pasadena Neutra known as the Wilkins House, architect John Bertram began to wonder if the property might actually be one of Neutra’s “unbuilt” Case Studies. To investigate, Bertram brought in architectural historian and Neutra expert Barbara Lamprecht, who conducted a comparative analysis of Neutra’s plans for Case Study No. 13, designed in 1945, and the working drawings for the Wilkins House, drawn up two years later. The two sets of plans turned out to be virtually identical, with only a one-inch discrepancy on a wall approximately 23 feet long.
Using Neutra’s drawings and photographs of the Wilkins House taken by Julius Shulman in 1950, Bertram and the homeowners — a film art director and production designer — tackled the challenge of undoing alterations (including painted ceiling beams and a few enclosures), and restoring the home to the architect’s original plan.
Located a couple of blocks east of Arroyo Park at 528 Hermosa Street, the single-story residence sits at the end of a long driveway, and is hidden behind green breeze-block walls. Following an L-shaped plan, it has a sloping roof with a deep overhang, redwood tongue-and-groove ceilings, cork and terrazzo floors, a double-sided Roman brick fireplace, built-in furniture, walls of glass, and casement windows with specially designed hinged panels for ventilation.
Past a shaded terrazzo patio is a large flat lawn bordered by a flagstone path that leads to a swimming pool surrounded by neatly trimmed shrubs and mature trees. The property, which last sold in 2001, includes a detached guest house, also designed by Neutra, which is currently rented out on Airbnb.