The Case Study houses that made Los Angeles a modernist mecca

Mapping the homes that helped to define an era By Adrian Glick Kudler and Elijah Chiland Updated Jan 2, 2020, 3:35pm PST

Los Angeles is full of fantastic residential architecture styles, from Spanish Colonial Revival to Streamline Moderne. But the modernist Case Study Houses, sponsored by Arts & Architecture and designed between the 1940s and 1960s, are both native to Southern California and particularly emblematic of the region.

The Case Study series showcased homes commissioned by the magazine and designed by some of the most influential designers and architects of the era, including Charles and Ray Eames, Richard Neutra, and Pierre Koenig. The residences were intended to be relatively affordable, replicable houses for post-World War II family living, with an emphasis on “new materials and new techniques in house construction,” as the magazine’s program intro put it.

Technological innovation and practical, economical design features were emphasized—though the homes’ scintillating locations, on roomy lots in neighborhoods like Pacific Palisades and the Hollywood Hills, gave them a luxurious allure.

With the help of photographer Julius Shulman, who shot most of the homes, the most impressive of the homes came to represent not only new styles of home design, but the postwar lifestyle of the booming Southern California region.

A total of 36 houses and apartment buildings were commissioned; a couple dozen were built, and about 20 still stand in the greater Los Angeles area (there’s also one in Northern California, a set near San Diego, and a small apartment complex in Phoenix). Some have been remodeled, but others have been well preserved. Eleven were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2013.

Here’s a guide to all the houses left to see—but keep in mind that, true to LA form, most are still private residences. The Eames and Stahl houses, two of the most famous Case Study Houses, are regularly open to visitors.

As for the unconventional house numbering, post-1962 A&A publisher David Travers writes that the explanation is “inexplicable, locked in the past.”

1. Case Study House No. 1

10152 Toluca Lake Avenue
Toluca Lake, CA 91602 Visit Website

J.R. Davidson (with Greta Davidson) designed this house in 1948 (it was actually his second go at Case Study House No. 1). It was intended for “a hypothetical family” with two working parents and was designed to require “minimum maintenance.”

The exterior of a house that is only one level. The roof is flat. There is a lawn and a path leading to the front door. There is a garage with a driveway.
Google Maps

2. Case Study House No. 2

857 Chapea Road
Pasadena, CA 91107 Visit Website

Case Study House No. 2 was designed in 1947 by Sumner Spaulding and John Rex. Arts & Architecture wrote that the home’s layout “achieves a sense of spaciousness and flexibility,” with an open living area and glass doors that lead out to adjoining terraces.

3. Case Study House No. 7

6236 North Deerfield Avenue
San Gabriel, CA 91775 Visit Website

Case Study House No. 7 was designed in 1948 by Thornton M. Abell. It has a “three-zone living area,” with space for study, activity, and relaxation/conversation; the areas can be separated by sliding panels or combined.

The aerial view of a group of buildings. All the buildings have flat roofs. There is a yard in the center of the group of buildings.
Photo by Julius Shulman, courtesy Getty Research Institute

4. Eames House (Case Study House No. 8)

203 Chautauqua Boulevard
Pacific Palisades, CA 90272 Visit Website

Legendary designer couple Charles and Ray Eames designed the Eames House in 1949 and even Arts & Architecture seemed kind of blown away by it. The home is built into a hillside behind a row of Eucalyptus trees on a bluff above Pacific Palisades. It’s recognizable by its bright blue, red, and yellow panels. The Eameses lived in the house until their deaths. It’s now open to visitors five days per week, though reservations are required.

The Eames house with blue, red, and yellow panels on the exterior. There is a large tree outside of the house.
Photo by Stephanie Braconnier |Shutterstock

5. Entenza House (Case Study House No. 9)

205 Chautauqua Boulevard
Pacific Palisades, CA 90272 Visit Website

The Entenza House was built in 1949 and designed by Charles Eames and Eero Saarinen for Arts & Architecture editor John Entenza. According to the magazine, “In general, the purpose was to enclose as much space as possible within a reasonably simple construction.”

The Entenza House exterior. The roof is flat and the exterior has floor to ceiling windows. There are trees surrounding the house. There is an outdoor seating area.
Photo by Julius Shulman, courtesy Getty Research Institute

6. Case Study House No. 10

711 South San Rafael Avenue
Pasadena, CA 91105 Visit Website

Case Study House No. 10 was designed in 1947 by Kemper Nomland. The house is built on several levels to mold into its sloping site. Recently restored, the home sold to Kristen Wiig in 2017.

The exterior of Case Study House Number 10. There is a wide staircase leading up to the house. The house has floor to ceiling windows. There are lights on in the house.
Photo by Shawn Bishop, courtesy Deasy/Penner & Partners

7. Case Study House No. 15

4755 Lasheart Drive
La Cañada Flintridge, CA 91011

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Designed by J.R. Davidson in 1947, Case Study House No. 15 has south walls made of huge glass panels. Its flagstone patio and indoor floor are at the same level for that seamless indoor-outdoor feel. According to the magazine, the floorplan “is basically that of another Davidson house, Case Study House No. 11,” which has been demolished.

8. Case Study House for 1953

1811 Bel Air Road
Los Angeles, CA 90077

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Craig Ellwood’s Case Study House for 1953 is usually numbered as 16 in the Case Study series. It has a modular steel structure and “the basic plan is a four-foot modular rectangle.” But the interior walls stick out past the exterior walls to bring the indoors out and the outdoors in. The Bel Air house hit the market in November with a $3 million price tag.

A photo of a single-story house with frosted panels of glass in front, shielding the house from the street.
Photos by Matthew Momberger, courtesy of Aaron Kirman, Dalton Gomez, and Weston Littlefield/Compass

9. Case Study House No. 17 (A)

7861 Woodrow Wilson Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90046

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Case Study House No. 17 (A) was designed by Rodney Walker in 1947. A tight budget kept the house at just 1,560 square feet, “but more space was gained through the use of many glass areas.” The house also has a large front terrace with a fireplace that connects the indoor living room fireplace. The house has been remodeled.

10. Case Study House No. 17 (B)

9554 Hidden Valley Road
Beverly Hills, CA 90210

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Case Study House No. 17 (B) was designed in 1956 by Craig Ellwood, but “governed by a specific program set forth by the client.” Ellwood took into account the clients’ collection of contemporary paintings and made the living room “purposely undersized” to work best for small gatherings. The house was extensively remodeled in the sixties by Hollywood Regency architect John Elgin Woolf and his partner, interior designer Robert Koch Woolf.

11. West House (Case Study House No. 18 [A])

199 Chautauqua Boulevard
Pacific Palisades, CA 90272

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Case Study House No. 18 (A) was designed by Rodney Walker in 1948. The house is oriented toward the ocean, but set back from the cliff edge it sits on to avoid noise issues. As A&A says, “High above the ocean, the privacy of the open south and east exposures of Case Study House No. 18 can be threatened only by an occasional sea-gull.” The house features a “bricked garden room” separated from the living room by a two-sided fireplace.

12. Fields House (Case Study House No. 18 [B])

1129 Miradero Road
Beverly Hills, CA 90210

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Case Study House No. 18 (B) was designed by Craig Ellwood in 1958. Ellwood didn’t attempt to hide that the house was prefabricated (the magazine explains that he believed “that the increasing cost of labor and the decline of the craftsman will within not too many years force a complete mechanization of residential construction methods”). The components of the house, however, are “strongly defined with color: ceiling and panels are off-white and the steel framework is blue.” According to A&A’s website, the house has been remodeled.

13. Case Study House No. 20 [A])

219 Chautauqua Boulevard
Pacific Palisades, CA 90272

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This two-bedroom house was meant “to serve young parents who find they can afford just that much,” according to architect Richard Neutra’s description. He also wrote that he used several different kinds of natural wood in the house.

A living room that opens out to a patio, where a woman watches a young child ride a tricycle
Photo by Julius Shulman, courtesy Getty Research Institute

14. Bass House (Case Study House No. 20 [B])

2275 Santa Rosa Avenue
Altadena, CA 91001

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The Bass House was designed in 1958 by Buff, Straub, and Hensman for famed graphic designer Saul Bass. It’s “unique in that it was based upon the experimental use of several prefabricated Douglas fir plywood products as part of the structural concept,” including hollow-core plywood vaults that covered the central part of the house.

A house with glass walls and a canopy with an opening to let in sunlight
Photo by Julius Shulman, courtesy Getty Research Institute

15. Case Study House No. 21

9038 Wonderland Park Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90046

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Pierre Koenig designed Case Study House No. 21 in 1958. It was originally completely surrounded by water, with a walkway and driveway spanning the moat at the front door and carport, respectively. The house was severely messed with over the years, but restored in the ’90s with help from Koenig.

A woman sits on a black sofa in a sparsely furnished room. A man standing at a long bureau looks at her.
Photo by Julius Shulman, courtesy Getty Research Institute

16. Stahl House (Case Study House No. 22)

1635 Woods Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90069

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Pierre Koenig’s Stahl House, designed in 1960, is probably the most famous house in Los Angeles, thanks to an iconic photo by Julius Shulman. The house isn’t much to look at from the street, but its backside is mostly glass surrounding a cliff’s-edge pool. Tours are available Mondays, Wednesdays, and Friday—but book well ahead of time, as they sell out quickly.

The exterior of the Stahl house in Los Angeles. There is a swimming pool next to the house with a lounge area. The pool is situated on a cliff edge.
Photo by Julius Shulman, courtesy Getty Research Institute

17. Case Study House for 1950

1080 Ravoli Drive
Pacific Palisades, CA 90272

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The unnumbered Case Study House for 1950 was designed by Raphael Soriano. It’s rectangular, with living room and bedrooms facing out to the view. However, in the kitchen and eating areas, the house “turns upon itself and living develops around a large kitchen-dining plan opening upon a terrace which leads directly into the living room interrupted only by the mass of two fireplaces.” According to A&A‘s website, the house has been remodeled.

A simple, rectangular house with a long flat roof under construction.
Photo by Julius Shulman, courtesy Getty Research Institute

18. Frank House (Case Study House No. 25)

82 Rivo Alto Canal
Long Beach, CA 90803

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The two-story Frank House was designed by Killingsworth, Brady, and Smith and Associates in 1962 and it sits on a canal in Long Beach. A reflecting pool with stepping stones leads to its huge front door and inside to an 18-foot high courtyard. The house sold in 2015 with some unfortunate remodeling.

A white living room furnished with a rectangular sofa and a grand piano. A glass sliding door leads outside.
Photo by Julius Shulman, courtesy Getty Research Institute

19. Case Study House No. 28

91 Inverness Road
Thousand Oaks, CA 91361

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Case Study House No. 28 was designed in 1966 by Conrad Buff and Donald Hensman. According to the magazine, “the architects were asked to design a house that incorporated face brick as the primary structural material to demonstrate its particular advantages.” They came up with a plan for two symmetrical wings joined by glass galleries.

A living room furnished with a green sofa and yellow chairs. A woman on the outside patio looks through the glass doors.
Photo by Julius Shulman, courtesy Getty Research Institute

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