Charged with revamping a classic Los Angeles home by California modernist John Lautner, a former apprentice to Frank Lloyd Wright, architect Ron Radziner, FAIA, opted for a sensitive reworking rather than a slavish re-creation of the 1962 home.
Radziner, principal of LA firm Marmol Radziner, was inspired by Lautner’s own belief that homes should take advantage of the best technology available at the time. That, coupled with the clients’ desire to honor the home’s past while bringing it up to date for the modern age, drove the design process. That process began in 2004 with the initial renovation, and continued with the addition of a pool in 2012, and a remodel of the kitchen in 2018.
The house sits on V-shaped supports 60 feet above the canyon on Mulholland Drive. Its eye-shaped design features a curved roofline that swoops down at either end above walls of windows looking out over the city. The original house was designed for Russell Garcia and his wife Gina and was split into two halves—one half a space for entertaining, the other a private space with a study where Garcia, a musician, could work without being disturbed when his wife had friends over.
“Lautner was one of the most adventurous, futurist architects practicing, and this is an iconic home in LA. We were excited by the opportunity to bring it back to more of its original design,” Radziner says. “Our original brief was about the bedroom side of the home, the side no one sees very much. The owners wanted a bedroom suite, library, and powder room.” Over the years, a succession of owners made changes, and the transparency of original section had been filled in.
“We wanted to get that center space open again, and the owners were open to that.” They restored the transparency by removing interior walls and adding glazing.
The Lautner-Garcia house is unusual, because even in modern architecture you don’t have to go outside to get to the other part of the house, as you do here, Radziner says. The curving central staircase serves as a main link between the public and private wings of the residence.
Thanks to this in-and-out design, the house has a strong connection to the landscape, as its inhabitants go outside onto patios and down staircases that lead through terraced gardens. “When you descend the small staircase at the end of the living area, you find yourself on a hillside winding down to the pool,” Radziner explains. “We tried to keep the native plants that already existed on that area, adding others, as well as some Mediterranean plants. Additionally, as you are taking this path, at one point you are under the house itself, and in this zone, it’s a shade garden, with shade tolerant shrubs and native ferns.”
The elliptical pool, part of Lautner’s original design for the house, was never built, but the current owners decided to add it.
But the most recent tweak to Lautner’s modernist gem is the kitchen update. Because the kitchen is part of the main living space, though two steps above it, the architect wanted nothing to distract from the view, so upper cabinets were relegated to the pantry tucked behind the kitchen. Dark gray painted custom cabinetry in a simple Sixties style provides a perfect complement to the squared off, minimalist look of the Dacor appliances.