How Richard Neutra’s Lew House Broke the Mold and Became a Midcentury Icon

How Richard Neutra’s Lew House Broke the Mold and Became a Midcentury Icon

By Alex Temblador / Photos by Dwell Creative Services
Brought to You by Genesis
Richard Neutra designed the Lew House in 1958 to suit his clients’ lifestyle and well-being with an open floor plan, wall-to-wall glazing, and a gleaming glass carport.

Dwell Escapes is supported by Genesis. We selected this escape because its design represents a new idea of luxury that breaks from the past, and it shares a spirit of progressive possibility with the Genesis GV80.

Richard Neutra’s Lew House is the definition of a midcentury gem. Set high up in the Hollywood Hills overlooking Downtown Los Angeles, it features jaw-dropping views, an innovative floor plan, and a minimalist yet warm interior crafted from high-quality materials. Dwell’s own executive editor Jenny Xie recently visited the Lew House to bring us inside this legendary home—read on for a closer look. 

The trilevel home spills onto a grassy knoll that overlooks the Hollywood Hills and Downtown Los Angeles.

Built in 1958 by Richard Neutra, the Lew House is a testament to its hilltop location and the culture of Los Angeles in the 1950s, which saw the rise of automobiles and a budding new science called psychotherapy.

Sunlight illuminates the main bedroom, which features a platform bed and built-in bookshelves.

"The Lew House is absolutely different from anything else that came before it. You can really see how Neutra incorporated all of his philosophies about architecture," explains Xie.

One can glimpse hillside views at the back of the house through the glass paneling of the carport, where a Genesis GV80 sits.

From the street, the Lew House looks like any other midcentury modern house on the block—but pull into the carport, and Neutra’s vision becomes apparent. The Austrian-American architect used glass for two of the carport walls, establishing clear lines of sight between the neighborhood, the carport, and the living and dining spaces.

Dwell’s executive editor, Jenny Xie, steps out of the Genesis GV80 into Richard Neutra’s Lew House.

"The carport is encased in glass, which adds this layer of transparency, translucency, and openness so that there’s an interaction between what’s happening inside the home, the car in the carport, and what’s happening on the street," says Xie.

The Genesis GV80 sits in the glass-encased carport, which speaks to the importance of automobile culture in Neutra’s time.

But why do this? "Neutra really wanted to address clients’ lifestyles in the ’50s," notes Xie. "And in the ’50s, everything was about cars—as it still very much is in L.A. today."

Although it appears to be a single-story residence from the street, the house unfolds over three levels, with the carport, kitchen/living/dining area, and one bedroom on the top floor, two bedrooms on the floor below, and a guest suite with a patio and pool on the ground floor. Large windows dominate the walls that face Downtown L.A. and the Hollywood Hills, offering stunning views from nearly every nook and cranny.

The Lew House offers a wealth of outdoor spaces to enjoy, including a patio with a pool.

Today, we talk today about the psychology of design, and how it can be a beneficial asset to our mental and emotional well-being—but Neutra was doing this 70 years ago when psychotherapy was still in its infancy. To determine how to design homes for the benefit of his clients’ well-being, Neutra administered detailed questionnaires. The clients’ answers can be seen in the design of the house today.

Richard Neutra drew upon psychotherapy, a new science in his time, to design homes that would contribute to his clients’ overall well-being.

"Homes prior to this point tended to be more compartmentalized, with the kitchen being more screened off from the rest of the home," explains Xie. "Richard Neutra wanted to blow that whole idea apart and have the living spaces flow seamlessly into the dining spaces and the kitchen, so that the circulation is unencumbered. He really saw the home as a sort of womb that would add to your well-being and benefit human development."

Neutra was a trailblazer in reorganizing the traditional home layout to include open-plan living areas.

Xie speaks about Neutra’s detailed architectural plans, which showcase how he thoughtfully chose where to place rooms, closets, and partitions. "There are spaces that are a little bit more introspective, like the downstairs bedrooms, where the scale is a bit smaller, and it’s a little bit more private so that you can seek out the kind of space that you’re in the mood for," she says.

Although the Lew House is over 60 years old, it’s been remarkably well preserved. Midcentury modern details like warm colors and platform beds can be found throughout the home.

In working with practical materials like steel, glass, and wood, Neutra created a warm and soothing environment that’s anything but ostentatious.

"Everything in this home is pared back to its most elemental sense—and that’s what makes it timeless. It’s not playing to any trends. It’s really responding to how people live, and how people connect with each other—and that spans decades," Xie says.

The sheets of glass along the back of the house mirror the carport glass, creating a sense of transparency in the home.

Strong horizontal lines hint at the home’s broad, open plan.

Furthermore, the materials were affordable—a necessary facet, as Neutra’s clientele at the time were middle-class families working with budgets that ranged from $5,000 to $15,000.

Richard Neutra was a pioneer in opening up living spaces so that they could serve as communal gathering spots.

"He was working with middle-class clients who were clawing their way out of the Great Depression and post-war turmoil," says Xie. "Everything was practical and functional, but also beautiful by virtue of the craftsmanship and the materials chosen."

With a stairway placed to the left of the entryway, it almost appears as if the carport (where a Genesis GV80 is parked) is floating

In the 62 years since Neutra built the Lew House, the home has received updates from Los Angeles–based firm Marmol Radziner. The architects added the lower-level guest suite and pool, and they also updated the finishes in keeping with Neutra’s original vision, including swapping the living room carpet for chocolate-stained white oak. The interior design remains largely midcentury modern, with a warm color palette and comfortable furniture.

While parked in the carport, automobiles become a part of the interior design. Here, the Genesis GV80 can be seen from the dining area.

Los Angeles–based architecture firm Marmol Radziner added an entire third floor to the home during a renovation.

Like many Angeleno homes of the 1950s, the Lew House has aged into a luxurious dwelling, but look closely, and you’ll notice that Neutra’s spirit and philosophy still live on in this home that sits but a car’s drive from downtown in the high rolling hills of Los Angeles.

Dwell executive editor Jenny Xie surveys the view from one of the Lew House’s balconies.

Project Credits:

Architect of Record: Richard Neutra

Renovation Architect: Marmol Radziner / @marmolradziner

This content was created by Dwell Creative Studio, the brand marketing arm of Dwell.


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