It’s rare for an important architectural home to come up for sale anywhere in the U.S., and rarer still if it’s a Frank Lloyd Wright—let alone the only house he ever built on the West Side of Los Angeles.
Known as the George Sturges Residence, the property is also the only Usonian dwelling Wright constructed in LA (Usonian was a term he coined for more modest, middle-American homes—as in, “United States-ian”). The 1200-square foot property is expected to sell for $2.5 to $3 million. It’s not selling through a traditional real estate listing, but instead at auction (in conjunction with Sotheby’s International Realty) — like a work of art.
Los Angeles Modern Auctions (LAMA), a fine-art auction house that has specialized in mid-century Modern art and furnishings for 24 years, won the right to sell the house from its trustees in a sale that will be held on February 21st.
Fortune had the exclusive first-ever video access to the Brentwood property. It was owned from 1967 to 2015 by the late Jack Larson (who, among many accomplishments, played Jimmy Olsen in the popular ‘50s TV show “Adventures of Superman”) and his late partner, James Bridges (a film director whose credits include The Paper Chase, The China Syndrome, and Urban Cowboy). The structure — which they purchased for $60,000 — is built of steel, concrete, brick and redwood. Although small by today’s standards, it is surrounded by a deck that makes use of the house’s hillside perch and its views of the distant Pacific.
Photograph by Grant Mudford; Courtesy of LAMA
Wright, who built the house in 1939 with the help of his apprentice John Lautner who was based in LA, later called the Sturges home “one of the simplest things we have done and one of the best.” The final cost: $11,000.
All the signature Wright details are in plain sight, from repeating rectilinear patterns in brick to deceptively simple wooden panels and recessed lighting that adds airiness to the home’s low ceilings (and George Sturges was 6’3”, testament to Wright’s consistent refusal to alter his original designs for creature comfort). It is both democratic and simple in its size and materials and yet grand and important in its overall design and aesthetics.
The structure is in need of careful restoration/refurbishments, which will not be cheap—all the more delicate given its official historical status of an Historic Cultural Monument, which it earned from the city of Los Angeles in 1993.
With the sale of the property, however, come a few boons: an extensive archive of the property dating back to its commission. A 17,000-square-foot lot with room to expand. And on that note, sets of plans—one from Wright and others from Lautner later—for a considerable extension. In Lautner’s proposal from the ‘80s (he worked with the home’s several owners to customize it to their needs over the years), there’s a cantilevered lap pool, among other features.
Peter and Shannon Loughrey, the owners of LAMA, also hunted down several pieces of furniture to sell separately but hopefully with the house. There are two chairs (originally there were eight) that Wright and Lautner designed for the property, as well as leather armchairs, tables and a lamp that Lautner designed in the style of Wright for other, similar projects.
Photograph by Mario de Lopez; Courtesy of LAMA
Larsen and Bridges also collected art, and several works will also be auctioned, including a portrait of Bridges by David Hockney; and Andy Warhol’s portrait of Jane Fonda, among others.
Proceeds from the sale of the house, furniture and art will go to the Bridges/Larsen Foundation, which for nearly two decades has given scholarships to students in the motion picture/television and arts industries and supports such institutions as UCLA School of Theatre, Film and Television, KCET and the USC School of Cinema-Television.