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.
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.
"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.
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.
"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.
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.
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.
"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."
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.
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.
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.
"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."
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.
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.
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