Frank Lloyd Wright designed the Sturges House in 1939 and it cost about $11,000 to build (plus $10 for the spacious hillside site in the Brentwood district of Los Angeles). Prices have climbed since then, and this unique house is estimated at $2.5-$3 million for the February 21 auction. In current terms, that’s a bargain, for Wright described the house as one of the best he had done. It also marks the debut of John Lautner, who apprenticed to Wright in the 1930s, moved to LA to launch his own practice, and supervised construction of the Sturges. Wright designed the house as a variation on his low-budget Usonian, but added a redwood deck that cantilevers off the hillside as dramatically as those of Fallingwater, which was completed in the same year. The deck and roof terrace double the size of the 1,200-square-foot house, and give it an indoor-outdoor character that exploits the benign climate of southern California.
It’s likely to find an appreciative owner, since it’s being sold by LAMA (LA Modern Auctions), which Peter and Shannon Loughrey have built into a powerhouse for modern art and design. Their expertise has secured many treasures, and it’s a logical progression from furniture and artworks to a classic modern house. Two of the original FLW dining chairs will be separately auctioned, along with several custom reproductions and pieces by Lautner. The house itself is in good structural condition (Lautner returned in the 1960s to fix a leaky roof and install inventive cabinetry) and the redwood has acquired a pleasing patina. By contemporary standards, the interior is a snug fit, and it has the character of a ski lodge. One hopes that the lucky buyer will maintain its integrity by hiring a well-qualified architect to make the few needed improvements. —Michael Webb