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Los Angeles’s Iconic Film Houses by Wright, Neutra, Lautner, & more

Sometimes Los Angeles essentially feels like one sprawling studio backlot. We have some of the most iconic movie and TV houses in the world. It doesn’t hurt that some of these were designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, Richard Neutra, or John Lautner. Below are 9 of the 10 most recognizable, architecturally significant, scene stealing houses in Tinseltown. The 10th was recently demolished so it didn’t make the cut. That’s show business (or real estate) for you.

The Ennis House by Frank Lloyd Wright
Los Feliz
1924
Featured in Blade Runner, Game of Thrones, House on Haunted Hill, The Day of the Locust, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Twin Peaks, The Karate Kid Part III, Black Rain, The Glimmer Man, The Replacement Killers, Rush Hour, and The Thirteenth Floor.

The Ennis House may be the most prolific co-star of any house on this list. It has appeared in over 50 films and television shows, most notably in the 1980s in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner and most recently in Game of Thrones. Located in the Los Feliz Hills, the house was built by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1924 for Charles and Mabel Ennis. Now known as the Ennis House, the design is based on ancient Mayan temples. At more than 6,000 square feet, Ennis House is the largest of Wright’s four “textile-block” houses in Southern California. Although used as a shooting location as early as 1933, the house first acquired morbid fame providing the exterior facade for the House on Haunted Hill in 1959. Because the house is situated in the increasingly exclusive Los Feliz neighborhood, tensions have arisen over in recent years in regard to film production crews, as well as the streams of tourists and restoration construction workers. Ennis House became a National Historical Monument and was last purchased in 2011, after languishing on the market for years and many price reductions. One stipulation of that sale was that the house would be open to the public for at least 12 days every year, so if you were hoping to make a pilgrimage to your favorite film location or architectural monument, you still have your chance.

The Sheats-Goldstein Residence by John Lautner
Beverly Crest
Featured in The Big Lebowski

Courtesy of LACMA.

The Sheats-Goldstein Residence is the only house on this list that was actually donated to a museum. It also marks the first appearance of John Lautner, who seems to be Hollywood’s favorite architect. The glass and concrete house clings to the side of a canyon and you may recognize it for its appearance in the Coen Brothers’ much admired Los Angeles comedy The Big Lebowski. The current owner James Goldstein worked with Lautner until the architect’s death in 1994 on what they called “perfecting” the house. Goldstein will presumedly live in the house until his death when it will then change hands to LACMA. Being LACMA’s first piece of architecture, no one is quite sure what they will do with it. High up in a house, you get a bird’s-eye, panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean, Fox studios and downtown Los Angeles. The view is so bird’s-eye, in fact, that actual birds sometimes fly inside. The Sheats Goldstein Residence is one of the best known examples of John Lautner’s work; he designed not only the house, but the interiors, windows, lighting, rugs, furniture, and operable features. The Dude seemed to enjoy it.

The Schaffer Residence by John Lautner
Verdugo Hills
Featured in A Single Man

Courtesy of Joe Fletcher from Ranch Houses: Living the California Dream.

Yes, another one by Lautner. The Schaffer Residence is located in the Verdugo Hills neighborhood of Glendale. The Schaffer Residence performed as a singular location for A Single Man, most of the film taking place at the house. Shortly after filming wrapped on A Single Man, the house was listed in 2008 for $1,960,000. It didn’t sell for nearly five years because it is “oddly located” according to Curbed LA. Its very remoteness would seem to be part of the appeal to me, as it must have to Colin Firth’s damaged character in the Tom Ford movie. The house did end up selling in 2012 at a reduced rate of $1.395 million. Certainly a steal for such a beautiful home and a Lautner to boot.

The Lovell House by Richard Neutra
Los Feliz
Featured in L.A. Confidential, Beginners

The Lovell House designed by Richard Neutra is often described as the first steel frame house in the United States. Built between 1927 and 1929, the Lovell House was a turning point in Neutra’s career and is now considered one of the great monuments of International Style.  The house was depicted in the film Beginners  as the home of Ewan McGregor and Christopher Plummer’s c characters. But it is perhaps best known as the home of wealthy pimp Pierce Patchett played by David Strathairn in 1997 the Oscar winning neo-noir L.A. Confidential.

Chemosphere by John Lautner
Hollywood Hills
1960

Featured in Body Double, Charlie’s Angeles, Tomorrowland, The Simpsons

Just one more by John Lautner, we promise. Chemosphere was built in 1960 and became known for Lautner’s innovative solution to the house’s site that, with a slope of 45 degrees, was thought to be unbuildable. Chemosphere is perched atop a 5-foot-wide pole nearly 30 feet high. Because of Lautner’s foresight and brilliance, the house has been able to withstand earthquakes and heavy rains. You may recognize Chemosphere as a location in the 1984 film Body Double directed by Brian de Palma and starring Melanie Griffith.  In 1976, the house’s second owner, Dr. Richard Kuhn, was stabbed to death at his home in a robbery by two men, who were subsequently convicted and sentenced to life in prison. Since 1998, it has been the Los Angeles home of Benedikt Taschen, of the German publishing house Taschen, and has been restored many times over the years and retrofitted with sustainable technology that did not exist when Lautner completed it. It also appeared in a Simpsons episode with a sign “For Sale by owner,” a joke due to its unique design being a difficult sell causing it to sit on the market for over ten years as a rental property

The House of the Seven Dwarfs by Ben Sherwood (Also known as The Snow White Cottages)
Silver Lake
1931
Featured in Mulholland Drive, inspiration for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

These Tudor style cottages were built in 1931 near the first Disney Studios and rumored to be the architectural inspiration for the 1937 animated film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs because Disney animators lived in them. These days the cottages are perhaps best known as the temporary home of Naomi Watts’ new-in-town actress in David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive. The eight half-timbered, steep-roofed cottages are built around a courtyard and are excellent examples of the Storybook Architecture that flourished in LA in the 20s and 30s.  While the cottages are readily visible from the street, since Mulholland Drive a large “Private Property – Keep out!” sign is plastered on the gate, warning film fans to leave the residents alone.

Courtesy R. Daniel Foster, Los Angeles Times

Silvertop by John Lautner
Silver Lake
1957 – 1963
Featured in Less Than Zero

Courtesy Cameron Carothers.

Okay, we lied before, but really, here’s the last Lautner on this list. Silvertop, started in 1956 and finished in 1976, is a favorite of many Lautner fans the world over. Commissioned in 1956 by Kenneth Reiner, Lautner built elements into the home specifically to Reiner’s specifications. Originally it was only to cost $75,000 but ended up bankrupting Reiner who had to sell the house. The buyer sin 1974 lived in the home for forty years, when it was listed for $7.5 million and sold overasking for $8.15 million. In 1960, the Saturday Evening Post called Silvertop “the darnedest house ever seen around Southern California.” The mansion overlooks the Silver Lake Reservoir, and supposedly had the first ever infinity pool. In 1962, Life Magazine called the pool, “spookily engineered so there seems to be no rim, just water to the edge,” which is perhaps what attracted the filmmakers of Less Than Zero to the residence as the dwelling of a lead character in the dark ’80s teen drama. 

Sowden House by Lloyd Wright
Los Feliz
1926
Featured in The Aviator

Designed by Lloyd Wright, the son of legendary Frank Lloyd Wright, in 1926, this Mayan-inspired home is often known as the “Jaws House.” Not because it appeared in the 1975 film Jaws,  but, well, you can see why. It’s the shape of the window, built using ornamented concrete blocks, which looks a bit like the mouth of a Great White Shark. The Sowden House certainly bears a striking similarity to Ennis House, as both have Mayan themes and the textile block construction. Most recently, The Sowden House portrayed one of the many homes of Howard Hughes in Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator. Sowdwn is also well known as the home of Black Dahlia murder suspect Dr. George Hodel. A Los Angeles physician, Hodel’s own son, a retired Los Angeles homicide detective, would later write that Hodel has tortured, murdered, and dissected Elizabeth Short inside of the Sowden House in January 1947. Even that bit of hearsay LA history hasn’t seem to decrease the house’s value. It last sold in 2014 for 5 million.

Courtesy Kellie and James

Greystone Mansion by Gordon Kauffman (Also known as the Doheny Mansion)
Beverly Hills
1928
Featured in There Will Be Blood, Gilmore Girls, The Big Lebowski, Death Becomes Her, Dead Ringer, The Dirty Dozen, Flowers in the Attic, The Prestige, The Social Network, The Witches of Eastwick, X-Men, and many, many more.

The Greystone Mansion may rival The Ennis House as Los Angeles’s most-filmed in home. While now a public park that you can visit daily, The Greystone Home has been the location for countless film and television shoots including the infamous bowling alley scene in There Will Be Blood, as Rory Gilmore’s snooty private school in Gilmore Girls, another private school for mutants in the X-Men series, and many more. Also known as the Doheny Mansion, the house is a Tudor Revival mansion on a landscaped estate with distinctive formal English gardens and now owned by the city of Beverly Hills.  Architect Gordon Kaufmann designed the residence and ancillary structures, and construction was completed in 1928. The estate was a gift from oil tycoon Edward L. Doheny to his son, Edward “Ned” Doheny, Jr., and his family. The house’s descending staircase is one of the most famous sets in Hollywood.


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One Response to “Los Angeles’s Iconic Film Houses by Wright, Neutra, Lautner, & more”

  1. Great site. Cheers for posting.


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