Earlier this year I spotted a post-war Henry Dreyfuss-designed Crane Drexel sink in Alvin Lustig’s Wanye House (top). The owner told me it was original. So when it came time to replace our bathroom sink—a crappy 1990s Kohler with leaking IKEA fixtures—I knew what I had to do: find a Drexel of my own and drop it into our existing vanity.
It took some luck and finagling but I think it turned out very nicely indeed.
Outside looking in.
Neutra and Lustig, 1954.
At 18, Lustig was “smitten by the look of the new modern homes in the Silver Lake district of Los Angeles designed by Richard Neutra. On impulse, Lustig telephoned Neutra, expressing his admiration and explaining that he was interested in modern art and architecture but could not find books on the subject. Charmed by Lustig’s forthrightness, Neutra gave the young man access to his personal library.”
Because we don’t have Lustig’s original plans and specifications, our restoration is in many ways a Lustig-Neutra mashup.The space is Lustig’s, but the colors and materials are Neutra’s: the natural redwood trellis, the silver fascia board and window frames, the ivory exterior paint (taken from Neutra’s Kaufmann Desert House, among others), the pale yellow interior walls.
We’re guessing that Lustig, smitten as he was by the look of those new modern homes in Silver Lake, would approve. That’s all we can do.
Some recent developments, clockwise from top left:
1) Set up the dining “room”: Greta Grossman chairs, Vista of California table, some Tackett, Hickman, and Ackerman ceramics, and a little Danish fruit/bread stand.
2) Finally built the George Nelson CSS unit. Now I just have to unpack our books and records and miscellaneous objects. Someday.
3) Stripped decades of paint from the slat screen that lines the stairway to our balcony and front door, exposing the lovely clear-heart redwood underneath.
4) Reconstructed the original trellis—which had rotted and was about to fall down—with matching clear-heart redwood. (So $$$ these days.) Now we just have to seal/stain both structures and we’ll be good to go.
Original red oak floors: finally refinished. And now, one month after I arrived in Los Angeles, I move in.
I spent yesterday morning checking out the original blueprints for Lustig’s June Wayne house (Dec. 1949).
Lots of fascinating details—especially re: materials, which we’ll use to guide any renovations we make in the future. For example: Lustig specified Carrara glass for the bathroom countertops; if we ever remodel our bathrooms, we’ll try to get our hands on some. Same goes for Arcadia sliding glass doors.
Especially intriguing was the name listed below Lustig’s on the plans: Kenneth Acker, consulting architect. Turns out Acker also consulted on a few other projects. You may have heard of them. The Eames House. The Herman Miller Showroom. The unbuilt Billy Wilder House.* All designed with some fellow named Charles Eames.
Perhaps Acker also consulted on our house… ? Time for a new research project! There’s no information about Acker online, but I’m following a couple of leads. Will report back soon.
* NB: Lustig was actually Wilder’s first choice for this project. According to Steven Heller,
Lustig was commissioned in the early 1940s [sic?] to design a new home for film director Billy Wilder, from whom he received a rent-free studio in the garage of his house on North Beverly Drive. His relation to Wilder was of the true patron to willing artist. “Just to show you what kind of guy he is,” Lustig wrote in an undated letter to James Laughlin, “I am to spend up to $200 for any architectural books that I think might interest him.”
At the outset, the project was on a good trajectory, but Lustig wrote, “I think I frighten him just a bit. He is not sure if I am a genius or a screwball. He thinks he wants what I want but he gulps and swallows sometimes. He is a wonderful guy… ”
Lustig’s plans nonetheless stalled, and Charles and Ray Eames (whom Lustig introduced to Wilder) were commissioned to design a 4,600-square-foot house for a hilltop locale above Sunset Boulevard. The house was to be the epitome of Modernism, sleek and airy, almost totally glass. But Wilder’s wife, Audrey, decided she couldn’t be bothered with the upkeep and put an end to the folly.
Not sure when Lustig started working on the Wilder project, but by January 1949, the Eameses (and Acker) had taken over. Their last drawing is dated August 1949. By December of the same year, Acker and Lustig had finished designing the Wayne House.
It would be great to get the full story from Acker himself—and to ask if he knows anything about our comparatively modest house in Silver Lake. Hope he’s still kicking.