Iconic Perspectives: John Lautner’s Sheats-Goldstein Residence

As one of John Lautner’s most awe-inspiring works of architecture, the Sheats-Goldstein Residence sits hidden in the curvy hills of Los Angeles and has become an icon on its own.
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Originally designed by the influential architect in 1961, it surely isn’t the same as it once was in the ‘60s. However, a unique collaborative relationship between the architect and the current homeowner has turned it into a one-of-a-kind masterpiece that recalls many of Lautner’s original intentions. 

Watch this video to take a personal tour with James Goldstein—who has lived there for more than 40 years—and continue reading to hear more about how the collaboration took place. 

After Lautner’s house had made its way through the ‘60s and ‘70s, the house had gone through multiple changes by the initial homeowners. In the meantime, as an architecture enthusiast himself, James Goldstein had been looking for the perfect contemporary house in L.A. for two years. When he walked into the house in 1975, he immediately saw the potential and knew he had to have it. Regardless of a number of possible drawbacks—including some outdated changes involving green shag and a bright turquoise bathroom—he lived in the house for a few years before embarking on a journey to bring the house to its fullest potential.

One of the first projects Goldstein and Lautner did together to renovate the house was implement seamless glass throughout the residence, which created a connection to the outdoors that remains consistent throughout the entire property. Many of the windows were updated to open automatically.

In 1979, Goldstein got in touch with Lautner and approached him with the fearless idea of perfecting every inch of the house that had been neglected or changed. The two of them embarked on a collaborative, ever-evolving process that would last for 15 years—until Lautner passed away in 1994.

When Goldstein bought the house, the property only held one tree—which is still there to this day. He made a goal to create his own tropical jungle, which now extends over four acres of the property. 

When we sat down with Goldstein, he explained that Lautner never outwardly offered his vision of the house. "He wanted to know my vision and never suggested any specific improvements. He would wait for me to say what I wanted to improve on, and then would suggest ways of implementing those ideas," he explains. They went from project to project while Goldstein was living there full-time.

In the living room—which has become known as the "Big Lebowski Room"—boasts a curvy concrete-and-leather sofa that resulted from a collaboration between Goldstein and Lautner. The ceiling is covered with sandblasted concrete that still has the original miniature circular skylights.

"Good design is based on careful research of what’s been done before and where design is going in the future. It should be something that has never been done before—and should have no limitations." - James Goldstein

Lautner and Goldstein installed concrete throughout the house, as well as wood on the ceilings—which is what Lautner had originally preferred to do. The glass table in the dining room was a Lautner-designed piece that he created for Goldstein. They installed a skylight above the table that opens up automatically. 

The colossal yard includes L.A.’s only infinity tennis court and looks out to astonishing views. Goldstein mentioned that you can see all the way out to Catalina Island on a clear day.

As we wandered around the house, we were shown a number of elements that have become known as "Lautner signatures" and that represent Southern California architecture. Along with a strong connection to the outdoors, the house consists of a substantial amount of seamless glass, triangles everywhere (with very few right angles to be found), an element of surprise and danger at every corner, tons of concrete, and no division between the interior and exterior.

Throughout the house, we were shown a number of Lautner-designed details. Working with Goldstein, the architect was given the opportunity to design custom furniture pieces, which is something he didn’t normally get the chance to do. His angular, minimalist style was carried throughout—as shown here on a custom swivel desk chair that rotates directly from the floor of the bedroom.

Goldstein reminisced that when Lautner first saw the state of the house in the late ‘70s, he was shocked—and was excited work on reviving the house together. He told us, "The first official project I wanted to do was to replace the glass in the living room. I was inspired by another frameless glass house that Lautner was designing, and knew I had to do it here."

As an aficionado of fashion—along with architecture and basketball—Goldstein visits all of the biggest fashion shows and design houses around the world. He installed an automatic rotating closet that houses his illustrious men's fashion collection. He also proudly showcases his favorite pieces along the concrete shelving in the bedroom.

Goldstein recently announced that he’s donating the house, its contents, and the means to take care of it to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). He decided a while ago to leave it in the hands of an institution that will keep it in the same condition and that will share it with the public—especially with up-and-coming architecture and design students.

To learn more about Goldstein's reasoning behind the decision to donate his beloved residence to LACMA, make sure to watch the video at the top of this story.

Learn more about the 2016 International Iconic Houses Conference here—where we were given the chance to tour this incredible home.


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