An Experiment of Form in West Hollywood

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By Norah Eldredge
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Over a recent long weekend in Los Angeles, CA I dragged my family along for a self-guided tour of an iconic early twentieth century house in the middle of the West Hollywood neighborhood.

Also known as the Schindler Chase House or Kings Road House it is an innovative example of early twentieth century architectural exploration. Designed by architect Rudolf Schindler and completed in 1922 in West Hollywood, CA, it still stands today as a pivotal use of space, indoor-outdoor living and new materials. 

Native plants adorn the poured concrete walls and roofline of the Schindler House.

Native plants adorn the poured concrete walls and roofline of the Schindler House.

Visitors can tour the house, maintained by MAK Center for Art and Architecture, and explore the aggressively human-scale rooms that flow organically from one family’s space to another. 

Schindler found inspiration in Japanese screens to help create indoor-outdoor movement in the house. On the right is a custom copper mantle over a simple fireplace.

Schindler found inspiration in Japanese screens to help create indoor-outdoor movement in the house. On the right is a custom copper mantle over a simple fireplace.

Inspired by a trip Schindler and his wife, Pauline took to Yosemite’s Curry Village in 1921, the house is meant to be a modern living area for multiple families and without a formal, centralized living area. Full of natural light and large, sliding doors, each family had a hearth, custom bathroom, and small bedrooms. 

A light-filled bedroom also displays the delicate press-board walls found throughout. 

A light-filled bedroom also displays the delicate press-board walls found throughout. 

Originally denied permits by local planning authorities, Schindler fought for his radical ideas over many trips to the planning office, eventually securing a temporary permit. Once constructed, with a total cost of $12,500, the Schindlers moved in with friend Clyde Chance and his family. Schinlder built custom furniture, built-in book shelves and revolutionary sleeping decks for hot summer nights. 

The relatively low ceilings and walkways make for a house that is decidedly "human-scale" and cozy, despite traditionally "cold" materials like concrete. 

The relatively low ceilings and walkways make for a house that is decidedly "human-scale" and cozy, despite traditionally "cold" materials like concrete. 

A custom chair in Schindler's living room. 

A custom chair in Schindler's living room. 

Over the next few decades many families move in to experiment with Schindler’s vision for multi-family living. Residents included architect Richard Neutra and his wife Dione and son Frank, novelist Theordore Dreiser, and composer John Cage.

The view from one sleeping porch to another. Accessed from narrow staircases, they over-look grassy courtyards below. 

The view from one sleeping porch to another. Accessed from narrow staircases, they over-look grassy courtyards below. 

Today, it is a wonderful, accessible example of innovative architecture tucked into a bamboo-lined lot–an important reminder of where contemporary architecture came from and where it could still go.  

One of the multiple outdoor fireplaces used year-round for entertaining guests. 

One of the multiple outdoor fireplaces used year-round for entertaining guests.