Habitable Artwork: You can own it

Grant Mudford, courtesy Crosby Doe

Grant Mudford, courtesy
Crosby Doe

R.M Schindler, the Austrian emigrĂ© architect, anticipated Frank Gehry in his use of humble materials and his brilliantly inventive manipulation of form and space. The Tischler house, completed in 1950, was one of his last and best: an inspired response to a steep site in West Los Angeles. The original owners lived there for more than six decades: now it’s up for sale at $1.7 million. This is an opportunity to acquire a unique work of art at a tiny fraction the price of a currently fashionable bauble. Which would you rather: a Jeff Koons balloon dog, produced in quantity for status-seeking collectors, or a house that could change your life? Of course there are no walk-in closets or spa-like bathrooms, for Americans lived frugally in the post-war decade. But the basics are there; a two car-garage, a studio above, and a soaring, translucent tent of living space plus three small bedrooms, all with Schindler’s built-in storage units. They open onto a level garden that is screened from neighbors by a bamboo grove.

Schindler was constantly experimenting, and the gable roofs of blue corrugated fiberglass were problematic from the start and have been partly covered with plywood. That presents a challenge to a sensitive restoration architect to find a technologically advanced alternative that provides a watertight, thermal barrier while admitting abundant light. And the interior finishes of gray-green wood could be subtly enhanced and imaginatively furnished to channel the spirit of the master and give the house a new lease of life. Los Angeles abounds in contemporary modern houses that can work as well today as when they were built, with the bonus of a period patina. Few offer so great a potential as the Tischler house. For information contact Ilana Gafni, ilana@crosbydoe.com.

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