A 1974 Masterpiece Is Put on the Market by a Family Friend of the Late Julius Shulman

By Gabrielle Golenda
Midcentury architect J. Herbert Brownell built a number of organic modern homes in Southern California that are coveted by modernist enthusiasts to this day—and you can now own one of his ranch-style homes for $4,298,000.

Upon first glance, 611 Allview Place is completely intertwined with the natural landscape of Laguna Coast Wilderness Park in Southern California. Built in 1974, the residence unfolds inside a hexagonal structure that's clad inside and out with a combination of unfinished woods including redwood, cedar, and Douglas fir. Inside, the design leans toward organic architecture, featuring pebble-seeded concrete floors, a sculptural fireplace made with imperial plaster and concrete block, built-in furniture, and Franciscan tile. The overall effect results in a sort of hyper-real immersion between inside and outside, where the nature-inspired elements paired with picturesque views induce an experience where the line between indoors and outdoors is blurred. 

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Beyond the design details, it’s the story that really makes the Smoke-Lyster Residence a pivotal part of California’s architectural history. We spoke with the second owner, Brock Lyster, who took great pride in restoring and updating the home while living in the house with his family of four.  

Ever since Lyster's childhood, he was surrounded by pivotal members of California's midcentury architecture scene, thanks to his father’s successful roof truss company. The family and their close friend J. Lamont Langworthy, who also happened to be a midcentury architect who was pioneering prefab structures at the time, designed their new family home. As the story goes, acclaimed photographer Julius Shulman was persuaded by Lyster’s father to photograph their family home, The Diamond Street House. After which, they were both invited into Shulman’s home to see all the houses he ever photographed in Laguna. 

In this photo of the Diamond Street House taken by Julius Shulman, Brock Lyster (left) stands next to his brother on his father's roof truss. 

In this photo of the Diamond Street House taken by Julius Shulman, Brock Lyster (left) stands next to his brother on his father's roof truss. 

Fast forward 30 years of working in construction and architecture, and Lyster found the Smoke Residence for sale in 2001. Thanks to his breadth of knowledge and experience, he was already aware of Brownell and was actively in search of a home that would accommodate his personal history with modern architecture. 

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