I had the opportunity recently to attend a showing of the Stahl House, Case Study #22 in the Hollywood Hills. The house was made famous by Julius Schulman’s iconic photo of the house with two women sitting in the living room. The case study contest was started by Art & Architecture Magazine after WWII in an effort to inspire architects to design beautiful simple modern homes for the middle class.
The story of the Stahl house is as intriguing as the property. Buck Stahl and his wife purchased the land in the late 50’s. The land was almost unbuildable due to the severe slope and site conditions. Buck and his wife would scavenge cement pieces from construction sites that they would load up in their Cadillac convertible and drive up to the property each weekend. They used the cement pieces to build retaining walls and shore up the hill side. Buck had a vision for land that one day it would one day be the site of a modern family home. He built a model of his ideas, hired Pierre Koening to help develop and implement his vision. The house was completed in 1960. To this day the home is owned by the Stahl family.
The story behind the house, the site, and history of the case study movement inspired me to visit and experience the house. When the opportunity came to attend a showing I jumped at the chance. We were able to get a night viewing, which further excited and intrigued me; the thought of experiencing the sunset at the Stahl was exhilarating. The day came and we set off to the house. As we drove up through the winding hills of Hollywood towards the home you couldn’t see the city. It felt almost like a wooded forest road dotted with homes. When you wind around the last corner you could see a vista of the city – it was breathtaking. The city is rolled out in front of you and it goes on forever. We pulled into the carport and anxiously waited behind the stone wall to enter the home. After signing the appropriate paperwork the door opened. You enter the home from the back side onto the patio pool deck. The home is 1000 feet above the city floor and is cantilevering off the edge of the hillside. It feels as though you could jump off and fly. It was everything and more than I expected! Stunning.
The home is perfectly kept without any design changes from the day it was built. It’s everything that is right with design and architecture. Clean open simple spaces. The entire main area of the home, which is one large room, is surrounded on all sides by glass. There is a kitchen which becomes a dining area with a center fire place then an open living room. The home has two bedrooms. All of these areas surround the pool which overlooks the city as its back drop.
When we arrived we saw the house in the bright day light, then the sun began to set and city lights came to life. It was as though the back drop of the house was switched, from day to night. Two different scenes – both were memorizing and beautiful. It evoked the feeling one feels while staring at the ocean; calming, intriguing absolutely magical!
We still talk about the house and what an amazing awe-inspiring place it is.