10 Iconic Case Study Houses in Southern California

The midcentury residential architecture experiment shaped American home design much beyond the postwar era.

Architectural photographer Julius Shulman’s iconic image of Pierre Koenig’s 1960 modernist masterpiece, the Stahl House—also known as Case Study House #22—shows the Hollywood Hills residence overlooking the sprawling City of Angels. It turned the photogenic Stahl House into the virtual "poster child" for a series of homes centered around the greater Los Angeles area known as the Case Study Houses.

The homes in the Case Study House Program were built between 1945 and 1966 when Arts & Architecture magazine commissioned the major architects of the day to create inexpensive and replicable model homes to accommodate the housing boom in the United States caused by the flood of returning soldiers at the end of World War II. The resulting experiment in American home design involved many of the great architects of the day, such as Richard Neutra, Charles and Ray Eames, and Eero Saarinen—and had a major impact on modern residential architecture. 

Of the 36 houses and apartment buildings that were commissioned, only a couple dozen were built, with around 20 still standing today. Ten were added to the National Register in 2013. While most of the homes are still private residences, some—like the Eames and Stahl Houses—are open to the public for tours. Here are some of our favorite Case Study Houses, in no particular order.

Renowned architectural photographer Julius Shulman’s famous photos of Pierre Koenig’s Stahl House helped make it one of the most famous designs from the Case Study House program.

The Stahl House (Case Study House #22)

Pierre Koenig’s Stahl House remains one of the most famous Case Study Houses, and one of L.A.’s best-known midcentury residences. In the years since it was completed in 1960, the Hollywood Hills home been featured in numerous films, fashion shoots, and advertising campaigns. (Renowned architectural photographer Julius Shulman’s iconic photos of the glass-and-steel house are credited with helping to immortalize it.)

Pierre Koenig also designed the midcentury-modern Bailey House for the Case Study House program.

Pierre Koenig also designed the midcentury-modern Bailey House for the Case Study House program.

The Bailey House (Case Study House #21)

Lesser known than Stahl House, but equally representative of the Case Study House program vision, is Koenig’s Bailey House, also in the Hollywood Hills. Completed in 1959, the simple, flat-roofed, one-story box is built mostly of steel and glass. Koenig oriented it on a north/south axis to trap the sun’s warmth in the winter and screen it out during summer. 

Charles and Ray Eames built the 1949 Eames House as their home and studio.

Charles and Ray Eames built the 1949 Eames House as their home and studio.

The Eames House (Case Study House #8)

Located in L.A.’s Pacific Palisades neighborhood, the Eames House is a landmark of midcentury-modern architecture. Constructed in 1949 by husband-and-wife team Charles and Ray Eames, the modular house consists of two glass-and-steel rectangular boxes: one served as their longtime residence, while the other was their studio. The facades are comprised of black-painted grids with different-sized glass inserts (clear, translucent, or wired), Cemesto panels, stucco, aluminum, and specially treated panels, some painted white or in primary colors that lend a Mondrian-style touch to the exterior.

Saul and Dr. Ruth Bass pictured poolside at Case Study House #20B in Altadena, California.

Saul and Dr. Ruth Bass pictured poolside at Case Study House #20B in Altadena, California.

The Bass House (Case Study House #20B)

The 1958 Bass House in Altadena, California, differs from other Case Study Houses of the late ’50s in that it was built primarily out of wood, instead of steel. Architectural firm Buff, Straub, and Hensman worked closely with the owners, renowned graphic illustrator Saul Bass and his wife, biochemist Dr. Ruth Bass, for the design of the post-and-beam construction. The architects were interested in the possibilities of wood as it pertained to mass production in home building.

Case Study House #1 by Julius Ralph Davidson was not actually the first home completed for the program. 

Case Study House #1 by Julius Ralph Davidson was not actually the first home completed for the program. 

Case Study House #1

Despite its numbering, this 1948 home designed by Julius Ralph Davidson was not the first to be completed as part the Case Study House program. (Davidson’s Case Study House #11, completed in 1946, actually won that distinction, but was later also unfortunately the first to be demolished.) The 2,000-square-foot residence, constructed on a gently sloping lot in L.A.’s Toluca Lake neighborhood, incorporates architectural elements that came to characterize the program, including floor-to-ceiling glass, a flat roof, an open floor plan, and multipurpose rooms.

Craig Ellwood’s Case Study House #16 sits in the hills of L.A.’s Bel Air neighborhood.

Craig Ellwood’s Case Study House #16 sits in the hills of L.A.’s Bel Air neighborhood.

Case Study House #16

This one-story, flat-roofed home was the first of three Case Study Houses designed by Craig Ellwood. The steel, glass, and concrete residence was completed in 1952 in L.A.’s Bel Air neighborhood. Today, it’s the only surviving, intact example of Ellwood’s designs for the program.

Charles Eames and Eero Saarinen designed the Entenza House adjacent to the Eames House.

Charles Eames and Eero Saarinen designed the Entenza House adjacent to the Eames House.

The Entenza House (Case Study House #9)

Designed by Charles Eames and Eero Saarinen and completed in 1949, the Entenza House is situated on a flat bluff in the Pacific Palisades overlooking the Pacific Ocean (adjacent to the Eames House). The modular home features a steel frame construction concealed with wood-paneled cladding.

The West House by Rodney Walker marks the first of four adjacent Case Study Houses on Pacific Palisades’s Chautauqua Boulevard.

The West House by Rodney Walker marks the first of four adjacent Case Study Houses on Pacific Palisades’s Chautauqua Boulevard.

The West House (Case Study House #18)

Rodney Walker’s West House, completed in 1948, was the first of four adjacent Case Study Houses on Chautauqua Boulevard in Pacific Palisades. The neighboring Case Study Houses #8, #9, and #20 were completed within the next two years. The 1,600-square-foot home takes full advantage of panoramic ocean views with floor-to-ceiling glass panels. 

Richard Neutra’s only built Case Study House design is the Bailey House in Pacific Palisades.

Richard Neutra’s only built Case Study House design is the Bailey House in Pacific Palisades.

The Bailey House (Case Study House #20)

Built in 1948, the two-bedroom Bailey House marks the only Case Study House designed by Richard Neutra that was actually built. Working with limited square footage and a low budget, the architect employed a classic midcentury layout: open, with flexible living areas, and large, floor-to-ceiling glass sliding doors.

Case Study House #23A, completed in 1960, marks the largest of three adjacent single-family homes intended to be a pilot project for a large tract of houses in San Diego’s La Jolla area.

Case Study House #23A, completed in 1960, marks the largest of three adjacent single-family homes intended to be a pilot project for a large tract of houses in San Diego’s La Jolla area.

Triad (Case Study House #23A)

Case Study House #23A is the largest of three adjacent single-family residences that form the Triad in San Diego’s La Jolla neighborhood, completed in 1960. The three homes, designed by the architectural firm of Edward Killingsworth, Jules Brady, and Waugh Smith, were planned to be the pilot project for a large tract of houses, but only the Triad was ever built. The goal for the three homes was to design in a manner that created a close relationship between the houses, while still maintaining privacy.

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Top photo of the Stahl House by @christineevi

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Jennifer Baum Lagdameo
Dwell Contributor
Jennifer Baum Lagdameo is a freelance design writer who has lived in Washington DC, Brooklyn, Tokyo, Manila, and is currently exploring the Pacific Northwest from her home base in Portland, Oregon.

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