The Stahl House is known widely as an architectural marvel. It’s a beautiful centerpiece nestled in the Hollywood Hills. Four walls completely made of glass encase what’s considered to be the pinnacle of Mid Century Modern architecture.
But what about the family that lived there?
An Avant-Garde American Dream
Buck and Carlotta Stahl were a hardworking couple pursuing what can only be described as the “American Dream,” even though they had a rather avant-garde interpretation of the house with the white picket fence.
They were living in a modest, one-bedroom apartment that Buck had been renting. While most of Los Angeles had been smothered with flats, the Hollywood Hills had remained blanketed with trees and lots for sale. As the result of a serendipitous encounter with one of the lot’s owners, the Stahls bought the space (for $13,500) that would later house their home.
Building a House
They had the land, but now, the Stahls needed a house.
Finding an architect was proving difficult, because many considered it impossible to build a house that would hang over the edge of a cliff.
They needed a cost-effective miracle … and it came on April 1, 1959. John Entenza, the editor of Arts & Architecture magazine, sent a typewritten letter to Buck and Carlotta. In it, he offered to make their house a Case Study House tentatively called “Case Study House No. 22.”
“The magazine will attempt, wherever possible, to secure discounts on materials specified for the project,” Entenza wrote. “These savings, whenever obtainable, will be passed on to you.”
They accepted the offer and soon after, they hired Pierre Koenig to design their dream home. The magazine offer stipulated that when the house was finished, it would be staged with furniture approved by the editor and the architect. The last condition was that before they moved in, the house would be opened for public tours.
Making it a Home
On a misty summer day in June 1960, the Stahls parked their Cadillac in their carport and slid open the glass door to meet the cool concrete floor. They spun around to take in the panoramic view of their new home.
The house shaped Bruce and Shari Stahl’s childhood. They moved in when they were just toddlers. Their first-born, Bruce, would grow up “building a labyrinthine of blanket forts in the living room and waking up to blinding sunshine stabbing through the cracks between the blankets.”
And every morning started with a routine of strapping a life vest over their pajamas and running across the concrete bridge over the pool to reach the kitchen. Sleeping in wasn’t an option. “Living in a glass house, you didn’t get to sleep in too late,” Bruce remembers.
They would spend their days around the famed pool. Before long, the kids were amphibious and teaching Mark, the youngest, how to swim as well. The space became Carlotta’s entertaining haven, the children’s wonderland and Buck’s pride.
While the Stahl house has boasted many exhibitions and film appearances, the Stahl family is nothing short of a marvel in its own right. After all, it’s the people who make a house a home.
Read on for more on architect Pierre Koenig, and explore more of his stunning designs such as the Beagles house. And of course, don’t forget to follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest for more Mid Century Modern inspiration!