Frank Lloyd Wright House In Los Angeles Will Be Auctioned

A 1,200-square-foot house that Frank Lloyd Wright designed to perch on a Los Angeles hillside will be auctioned next month, with most of its contents sold separately.

Los Angeles Modern Auctions will offer the 1939 home, which has a sales estimate of $2.5 million to $3 million, on Feb. 21. The four-room wood-and-brick structure, with tiers of decks, is cantilevered over a slope in the city’s Brentwood section. In 1967 the actor, playwright and librettist Jack Larson and his partner, the director and screenwriter James Bridges, purchased it for $60,000; they restored it, preserving the original furniture and coping with its persistently leaky roof.

The two worked on the house in collaboration with the influential Southern California architect John Lautner, who had supervised the construction for Wright’s clients, George and Selma Sturges. Mr. Bridges died in 1993, and Mr. Larson died last year.

Los Angeles Modern is auctioning the house with two original dining chairs, various built-ins and Mr. Larson’s extensive Wright and Lautner archival material. The rest of its contents will be divided up; stools with X-shaped bases, boxy tables, pyramidal floor lamps and flanged armchairs designed by Wright or Lautner have estimates starting at a few thousand dollars each.

The house has had a series of occupants with scholarly inclinations. Mr. Sturges, a Lockheed engineer and chess aficionado, and his wife spent a decade in the house before hiring the Modernist residential architect Edla Muir to design a more practical home nearby. Edward Lorenz, a meteorologist and chaos theorist, briefly rented the place, and Madeleine Mathiot and Paul Garvin, both linguistics scholars, owned it before Mr. Larson and Mr. Bridges purchased it.

Ms. Mathiot recalled the leaky roof in an interview, recounting that her Russian wolfhound would take refuge under a table when rain seeped in. She and Mr. Garvin sold the property soon after their son was born. “It was beautiful, but unlivable with a baby,” she said. She added that she was saddened to learn that the Wright and Lautner pieces would be auctioned separately.

The plans for dispersal of the furniture have also been lamented in online postings. Janet Halstead, executive director of the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy in Chicago, wrote in an email that the Wright and Lautner pieces, whether original or added later, “certainly contribute to the context of the house, and the conservancy would strongly urge that the house and the furniture remain together.”

“Perhaps there is a very enlightened buyer who will try to do exactly that,” she said.

Elizabeth Portanova, the auction house’s marketing director, said that the proceeds would benefit the Bridges-Larson Foundation, which supports creative endeavors. Because the house will be the first lot in the auction, she added, the winning bidder will have a chance to pursue the furniture.

Source: New York Times, Eve M. Kahn
Photo: The former George and Selma Sturges home, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and built in 1939 in Los Angeles, is to be auctioned on Feb. 21. (Grant Mudford/Los Angeles Modern Auctions)