Recently I was thrilled to find a midcentury modern house open to visitors to draw inspiration for a new project. You all know that I love a great house museum and I always seek out the very best ones before arriving in any new city. So on a quick visit to the West Coast, I made certain to head for the Hollywood Hills to check out Stahl House.
Stahl House is instantly recognizable as “that cool glass house in LA” that has been featured in over 1,200 magazines, newspapers, books, tv and movies and is perched above the famous Chateau Marmont Hotel. The 2,200 sq. ft. home was completed in 1960 just over a year after construction began. It’s glass on three of its sides and the home literally hangs ten feet over the hills on its cantilevered foundation. This is exemplary American midcentury design!
The house is not a fancy one but it remains a shrine to the concept of open living – and this being Southern California – it’s also a great example of the indoor/outdoor lifestyle. The rooms are bright and open, and the walls of glass mean that nature is the backdrop rather than artwork. Rooms flow seamlessly, but in an orderly fashion to ensure that every space is used to its fullest potential.
The Stahls were a self-described, “blue collar family living in a white collar house”. Buck Stahl and his wife Carlotta purchased the plot of land on the side of a hill and dared to dream of the cool home that stands there today. At first they couldn’t find an architect willing to take on their project, but then Pierre Koenig came along and everything fell into place. This is a classic example of a client and professional beautifully working together to create a really striking home.
Having prepped by going through old photo shoots of the house, I was amazed to see how the Stahl’s currently furnish the house today. It’s very “normal” and not the temple of mid century design furniture and decor we see in the glossy photo shoots and television commercials. This is still a family home designed with the comforts of a modern family in mind. Their son Mark told me that for the original photo shoots for Architectural Digest, all the furniture was loaned by designers because his parent’s modest budget wouldn’t allow them to outfit the home in picture perfect fashion.
So I come away from Stahl House with some great ideas to use in my own project. I love that the family is proud of their home and willing to share it with visitors. It’s always interesting to me to see how other people embrace their living spaces and to see it in iconic architecture like this is priceless. So next time you’re heading to a new city, do your research so you don’t miss a fabulous find like the Stahl House in LA.
Richard Rabel is a New York Interior Designer and Principal at Richard Rabel: Interiors+ Art, a studio offering residential design, decorating and art advising.
image credit: Stahl House – various – from top to bottom – Luis Garcia Quinteiro; OVS, Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons; MBTrama via Wikimedia Commons; MBTrama via Wikimedia Commons; Steve R via Yelp; MBTrama via Wikimedia Commons