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Neutra masterpiece on sale

October 26, 2008|Diane Wedner | Wedner is a Times staff writer.

Richard Neutra, a pillar of 20th century Modernism, is known for his sleek, glass-sheathed designs that take advantage, to beautiful effect, of the surrounding natural landscape.

The Kaufmann house in Palm Springs, commissioned by Pittsburgh department store magnate Edgar J. Kaufmann, was built in 1946 and is considered one of the Viennese-born architect's greatest works. Its sleek form, sliding panels and glass-and-stone aesthetic helped shape the postwar Modernism movement.

When Brent Harris and Beth Edwards Harris bought the property in 1993, however, for about $1.5 million, the home needed a ton of work. It had sat vacant for years after Kaufmann's death in 1955 and had undergone a series of remodels and additions by owners that included singer Barry Manilow. A patio was enclosed and a wall had been removed to create a media room.

Today it is fully restored, down to the stones excavated from the same Utah quarry that Neutra tapped for the original chimney and walls. The couple spent about $11 million on the house purchase, restoration, extensive period landscaping and the purchase of surrounding land. The entire lot is 2.53 acres.

Like other notable Modernist classics -- including multi-month John Lautner listings in Glendale and in La Canada -- this masterpiece isn't fetching the premium it once commanded. In May, it sold for $19.1 million at auction in a deal that fell through. It currently is listed for $12.975 million.

"Markets have their ups and downs," said Crosby Doe, the sellers' agent. "In the 1980s, the price of Picassos suddenly fell, and headlines pronounced the end of high-priced art. It turned out to be a very good time to invest."


To submit a candidate for Home of the Week, send high-resolution color photos with caption and credit information on a CD and a detailed description of the house to Diane Wedner, Real Estate, Los Angeles Times, 202 W. 1st St., L.A., CA 90012. Questions may be sent to



Key features

Location: Palm Springs

Size: Five bedrooms and six bathrooms in 3,162 square feet

About this home: The Harrises hired Santa Monica designers Leo Marmol and Ron Radziner to undertake the four-year renovation. They recovered some of the original drawings and photos and were able to replicate the exterior's inch-thick mica-glazed plaster walls and the kitchen's cork floors and mica-glazed plaster walls. Custom-made aluminum louvers were reproduced by the original manufacturer. The door and window frames and the doorknobs and light fixtures were reproduced. The house has three wings, anchored by public areas in the center. The bedrooms are at the ends of each wing, and the wings frame several outdoor rooms. Huge sliding-glass doors open to a landscaped garden and pool.

Additional features: Several rooms have built-in mirrors, which bring in desert views, and a tall stone chimney extends to an open-air rooftop for entertaining, which Neutra dubbed a "gloriette." The house has a breakfast area, dining and living rooms, a gym and a covered patio. The home has radiant heating indoors and out.

Around the neighborhood: A total of 306 single-family homes sold in the 92262 ZIP Code through September this year, according to MDA DataQuick. The median price was $375,000. From January through December 2007, 457 homes sold, and the median price was $459,000.

Listing agent: Crosby Doe, Crosby Doe Associates Inc., (310) 275-2222



"Bachelorette House"

Location: Agoura

Size: Six bedrooms and 7 1/2 baths in 8,000 square feet

Published on: June 22, 2008

Listed then for: $12.995 million

Reduced to: $8.75 million on Oct. 9, 2008

Midcentury modern-style home

Location: Hollywood Hills

Size: Six bedrooms, six bathrooms in 5,200 square feet. The lot size is half an acre.

Published on: May 13, 2007

Listed then for: $6.8 million

Sold for: $5.85 million on Feb. 8, 2008

-- Diane Wedner

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