We couldn't help but think of Mad Men when walking inside the now empty home studio/offices of Julius Shulman. A modest dark room tucked in the back of the studio was where Shulman developed some of his most iconic images.
This past weekend fans of midcentury architecture, photography, and Los Angeles history converged via automobile and by foot to six hidden Hollywood hillside homes for the annual MAK Architecture tour (check out last year's tour here). This year's tour was especially of interest for photography buffs, with all six residences on tour having been immortalized in photo throughout the years by the giant in architectural photography, Julius Shulman.
Many of the iconic homes were recognizable not only through the era-defining art of Julius Shulman, but also from appearances in cinema and numerous publications. One of the highlights of the tour, the Lovell Health House designed by R. J. Neutra in 1929, was the imagined residence of shady fop, Pierce Patchett, in the noir flick, L.A. Confidential. Others included R.M. Schindler's Gold House, Neutra's Kun House (in a barely presentable state, but only because the current owner is renovating it slowly to exacting detail), Carl Lewis Maston's 1948 Hillside House, and the vertigo-inducing Gantert House by Pierre Koenig.
But our personal favorite was the possibly the most humble of the six and the first we walked into Sunday morning. The Shulman House, designed by Raphael Soriano, was where Shulman lived and practiced his photography (a surprisingly modest darkroom hidden in the corner of his home studio) and where a beautiful convergence of architecture and landscape filled our heads with images of entertaining friends while also allowing for quiet moments of solitude hidden underneath a canopy of trees.
It was also in this first house we noticed a varying amount of vintage technology and appliances. Shulman's living room showcased an original hi-fidelity era sound system, with a small selection of LPs and stereo speakers built into the wooden headboard behind the seating. The kitchen was still equipped with original cooking and cleaning appliances, reminding us of the era where automation and time-saving devices had just come to the masses. Everything blended in, complementing the whole of the living spaces.
Of course, most of the homes had understandably replaced or upgraded elements with modern day amenities such as HDTVs and home theater equipment, home offices and computing equipment (we like to play the game of "find the wi-fi router" while touring), alongside upgrades to lighting and kitchen appliances. But for the most part, all six residences revealed themselves to be occupied by owners who respected the original spirit and ideals the architects originally intended for those living inside the walls would embody.
Although the majority of us will not live in architecturally significant or historical homes, the idea of thoughtfully integrating and blending in our home technology with the rest of the home is a notable lesson to be learned from the likes of Neutra, Schindler, Soriano, Maston, Koenig, and those who currently reside in the homes, as they were a great part of what we now define as "modern living". We left the tour inspired to choose what we invite into our home more carefully, alongside leaving with a burning desire to scrap up $2.5 million so we could call the Shulman house our own.
The MAK Architecture tour may be finished, but if you're a Los Angeles resident or someone visiting the City of Angels, we can't recommend enough for you to drop into the MAK Center for one of their events or tours. There's a free admission day coming up on the 30th, so here's your opportunity to partake in a little architectural time traveling. More information at the MAK Center website.