Nearly Slated For Destruction, a Restored Neutra in West Covina Asks $1.8M

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By Jenny Xie / Published by Dwell
Featuring the architect’s iconic “spider legs,” a Neutra-designed midcentury modern that was meticulously revived after years of damaging neglect now returns to the market.

The last time the J.M. Roberts Residence, designed by Richard Neutra in 1955, was on the market, things were looking grim. In 2014, the property description suggested that the new owner should raze the home and build subdivisions on the lot—and indeed, most of its nine bidders intended to tear down the midcentury modern. Thankfully, the dwelling did not meet its demise. Instead, the new owners brought in architectural historian Barbara Lamprecht and master craftsman Eric Lamers to conduct a thoughtful restoration that stayed faithful to Neutra’s original design. Today, the four-bedroom, three-bath house is shaded by eucalyptus, pine, and oak trees on 3.5 acres in West Covina, California. With its own kidney-shaped pool and floor-to-ceiling windows that frame views of the San Gabriel Mountains, the rescued gem is a genuine expression of California living.

Nearly Slated For Destruction, a Restored Neutra in West Covina Asks $1.8M - Photo 1 of 8 - Originally sited on 14 acres of avocado and lime trees, the 2,580-square-foot residence was designed by Richard Neutra for James Roberts, a successful businessman in the manufacturing business, and his wife in 1955. A horse and several sheep roamed the property. Listing agent Nate Cole shares this anecdote: "Mrs. Roberts was an avid golfer, and she enjoyed driving golf balls out into the surrounding orchards. She would apparently send the kids out with buckets to retrieve them."

Originally sited on 14 acres of avocado and lime trees, the 2,580-square-foot residence was designed by Richard Neutra for James Roberts, a successful businessman in the manufacturing business, and his wife in 1955. A horse and several sheep roamed the property. Listing agent Nate Cole shares this anecdote: "Mrs. Roberts was an avid golfer, and she enjoyed driving golf balls out into the surrounding orchards. She would apparently send the kids out with buckets to retrieve them."

Nearly Slated For Destruction, a Restored Neutra in West Covina Asks $1.8M - Photo 2 of 8 - In the mid-fifties, modern residential architecture was suspect in the Eastern San Gabriel Valley. The Roberts family requested a ranch house, but Neutra steered his clients towards his vision. Mrs. Roberts wanted a low plaster ceiling throughout the home, which Neutra refused, choosing tongue-and-groove Douglas fir boards instead. He compromised with a plaster ceiling in the living room, pictured above. "Neutra wanted the roof flat, but Mrs. Roberts wouldn't have it, so it slopes just slightly on the north and south sides," says Cole.

In the mid-fifties, modern residential architecture was suspect in the Eastern San Gabriel Valley. The Roberts family requested a ranch house, but Neutra steered his clients towards his vision. Mrs. Roberts wanted a low plaster ceiling throughout the home, which Neutra refused, choosing tongue-and-groove Douglas fir boards instead. He compromised with a plaster ceiling in the living room, pictured above. "Neutra wanted the roof flat, but Mrs. Roberts wouldn't have it, so it slopes just slightly on the north and south sides," says Cole.

Nearly Slated For Destruction, a Restored Neutra in West Covina Asks $1.8M - Photo 3 of 8 - From the kitchen, you step out onto a side patio, which has an opening cut into the roof to allow sunlight to fall on a planter. The previous owners, in an attempt to remodel the house in the Spanish style, had gutted the kitchen. Eric Lamers rebuilt the space with cabinetry based on elevation drawings found in Neutra's "spec book," making changes according to practicality and building codes. Barbara Lamprecht helped the homeowners choose Porous Stone by Dunn Edwards for the paint. Believing that Neutra would have chosen modern fixtures, they installed a GE Monogram built-in refrigerator, wall oven, and induction cooktop. A KWC Suprimo faucet and Blanco sink complete the kitchen.

From the kitchen, you step out onto a side patio, which has an opening cut into the roof to allow sunlight to fall on a planter. The previous owners, in an attempt to remodel the house in the Spanish style, had gutted the kitchen. Eric Lamers rebuilt the space with cabinetry based on elevation drawings found in Neutra's "spec book," making changes according to practicality and building codes. Barbara Lamprecht helped the homeowners choose Porous Stone by Dunn Edwards for the paint. Believing that Neutra would have chosen modern fixtures, they installed a GE Monogram built-in refrigerator, wall oven, and induction cooktop. A KWC Suprimo faucet and Blanco sink complete the kitchen.

Nearly Slated For Destruction, a Restored Neutra in West Covina Asks $1.8M - Photo 4 of 8 - A stand-alone Texas shellstone fireplace divides the living and kitchen areas. The stainless steel wood storage boxes had been removed, so the current owners had it fabricated to Neutra's specifications. They also scraped off the "popcorn" or "cottage cheese" ceilings and went so far as to hunt down Schlage Plymouth door knobs and locks in bronze. Under Lamers' direction, a team of carpenters sanded each ceiling board, custom-milling and replacing about 20 percent that were beyond repair, and removed dark stain from the birch wall paneling.  

A stand-alone Texas shellstone fireplace divides the living and kitchen areas. The stainless steel wood storage boxes had been removed, so the current owners had it fabricated to Neutra's specifications. They also scraped off the "popcorn" or "cottage cheese" ceilings and went so far as to hunt down Schlage Plymouth door knobs and locks in bronze. Under Lamers' direction, a team of carpenters sanded each ceiling board, custom-milling and replacing about 20 percent that were beyond repair, and removed dark stain from the birch wall paneling.  

Nearly Slated For Destruction, a Restored Neutra in West Covina Asks $1.8M - Photo 5 of 8 - Situated on the eastern end of the residence, the master bedroom boasts a mitered glass corner window that overlooks a koi pond and a Live Oak tree. 

Situated on the eastern end of the residence, the master bedroom boasts a mitered glass corner window that overlooks a koi pond and a Live Oak tree. 

Nearly Slated For Destruction, a Restored Neutra in West Covina Asks $1.8M - Photo 6 of 8 - "The three original bathrooms were each designed in a different pastel color: pink, yellow, and blue," says Cole. These were mostly intact, though the homeowners reinstalled the colored Crane toilet in the master bath, pictured above. The restorers polished the original terrazzo flooring.

"The three original bathrooms were each designed in a different pastel color: pink, yellow, and blue," says Cole. These were mostly intact, though the homeowners reinstalled the colored Crane toilet in the master bath, pictured above. The restorers polished the original terrazzo flooring.

Nearly Slated For Destruction, a Restored Neutra in West Covina Asks $1.8M - Photo 7 of 8 - Ten of Neutra's signature spider-leg supports jut out from the house. Benjamin Moore's Coconut Grove and Van Buren Brown were applied to the exterior.

Ten of Neutra's signature spider-leg supports jut out from the house. Benjamin Moore's Coconut Grove and Van Buren Brown were applied to the exterior.

Nearly Slated For Destruction, a Restored Neutra in West Covina Asks $1.8M - Photo 8 of 8 - To the north is a view of Mt. Baldy and the San Gabriel Mountains, which become snow-capped peaks in the winter.

To the north is a view of Mt. Baldy and the San Gabriel Mountains, which become snow-capped peaks in the winter.

The J.M. Roberts Residence is being offered for $1,795,000. For more information, visit the property co-listed on Unique California Property and Crosby Doe Associates.

If you know of a property for rent or sale that should be featured, send it to our tipline at jxie@dwell.com.

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