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Kaufmann House

by habituallychic

03 . 03 . 08

My last post about J. Crew using Kaufmann House in Palm Springs as a backdrop for their latest catalog shoot had me going back for more. Designed in 1946 by Richard Neutra, it is a wonderful example of mid-century modern architecture.

The house was commissioned by Edgar J. Kaufmann Sr. who also commissioned Frank Lloyd Wright to build Fallingwater. It’s interesting how both homes clearly embrace their environment and blur the line of indoors and out.

Both homes employ glass corners so as not to obstruct the views and horizontal stone walls, but were designed by different architects 10 years apart. Therefore, one has to wonder how much influence the Kaufmann’s had on the designs.

According to The New York Times, “Neutra was known for catering sensitively to the needs of his clients, so that their houses would be not only functional but would also nurture their owners psychologically.” So maybe the Kaufmann’s were influential in the design.

“The house stood vacant for several years after Kaufmann’s death in 1955. Then it went through a series of owners, including the singer Barry Manilow, and a series of renovations. A patio was enclosed, one wall was broken through for the addition of a media room, the sleek roof lines were interrupted with air-conditioning units, and some bedrooms were wallpapered in delicate floral prints.”

“After purchasing the house and its more than an acre of land for about $1.5 million, the new owners removed the extra appendages and enlisted the architects Leo Marmol and Ron Radziner.They sought out the original providers of paint and fixtures and even reopened a long-closed section of a Utah quarry to mine matching replacement stones.”

The new owners also bought several adjoining plots to more than double the land around the 3,200-square-foot house, restoring the desert buffer that Neutra envisioned.

Kaufmann House was just one Palm Springs home made famous by photographer Julius Shulman and will be part of 150 photographs of structures by architects such as Richard Neutra, John Lautner, A. Quincy Jones, Paul Williams, E. Stewart Williams, Albert Frey, William Cody, Donald Wexler and Palmer & Krisel, in the new exhibition Julius Shulman: Palm Springs that runs through May 4 at the Palm Springs Art Museum and also in the beautiful book by Rizzoli, Julius Shulman: Palm Springs.

But Julius Shulman wasn’t the only famous photographer to shoot the famed Kaufmann House, Slim Aarons shot these two iconic photos of the home in 1970 and were obviously the inspiration for J. Crew. Oh, and don’t forget that the house can be yours for approximately $25 million if you feel like bidding at Christie’s on May 13. Bonne Chance!

Comments Closed

  1. An Aesthete's Lament March 3, 2008 | 11:17 pm

    Interesting back story. According to an article published in 2003 in The New York Times, once the Neutra house was completed, Kaufmann’s wife, Liliane, wrote Frank Lloyd Wright: ”I feel sure that by now you will have seen Edgar and will have gathered that the house in Palm Springs will in no sense have anything to do with me. Edgar and I will never share a house. That also means that when he returns I must leave Fallingwater which is a great sorrow to me.” Her husband, a notorious philanderer, had fallen in love with his nurse, Grace Stoops, and installed her as his mistress at the Palm Springs house; Mrs Kaufmann died of an overdose of painkillers in 1952, and at the funeral, Kaufmann’s mistress acted as the hostess. She became Mrs Kaufmann two years later and was left the Neutra house upon her husband’s death in 1954.

  2. An Aesthete's Lament March 3, 2008 | 11:18 pm

    Re Kaufmann’s death … I meant to write 1955.

  3. Habitually Chic March 3, 2008 | 11:32 pm

    An Aesthete’s Lament, That story was definitely not a part of the tour at Fallingwater! Naughty Mr. Kaufmann!

  4. Brilliant Asylum March 4, 2008 | 4:15 am

    It is interesting to read about a mid-century home being so lovingly, and accurately restored. I think this property in both it’s illustrious history and new-found fame is simply stunning.

  5. Suzy March 4, 2008 | 5:30 am

    How fascinating! Love the back story – thanks to you and Aesthete! Pity the house won’t be opened to the public, its very iconic.

  6. Habitually Chic March 4, 2008 | 3:05 pm

    BA, I agree. It is a bit sad that though that it is going to be sold at auction instead of opened up to the public. I would love to tour it!

  7. Habitually Chic March 4, 2008 | 3:06 pm

    Suzy, I know. Maybe some nice billionaire will buy it and make it a museum. Lol.

  8. Be the change..... March 4, 2008 | 3:47 pm

    I’ve been to fallingwater numerous times but never heard that backstory! How interesting!!
    This is such a perfect house -how lucky for the kaufman’s to have this AND fallingwater!!

  9. An Aesthete's Lament March 4, 2008 | 4:33 pm

    For even more backstory (EJ Kauffmann was a pretty loathesome man), the best book about Fallingwater and the Kauffmans is: FALLINGWATER RISING : Frank Lloyd Wright, E. J. Kaufmann and America’s Most Extraordinary House
    By Franklin Toker
    Illustrated. 479 pages. Alfred A. Knopf. $35

  10. Alice Olive March 4, 2008 | 5:29 pm

    Great post. Love all the backstory too!

    I especially love the fourth photograph – all those clean lines interlocking and the light. Beautiful.

    And yes, could some lovely billionaire buy and gift back to the public? I’d tour it in a second too!!

  11. emily@designsmack March 5, 2008 | 12:21 am

    Wow! I did not know that lovely little backstory to the Kaufmann’s – yikes. Very nice look at the Kaufmann residence! I think the J. Crew/Shulman photos/Klein spread of Pitt and Jolie in W are all very visually interesting images. There is a new book out about the midcentury modernist period called Birth of the Cool by Elizabeth Armstrong that sounds good.

  12. Decorno March 5, 2008 | 1:34 am

    The outfits in the last photo are bomb! LOVE the hair and the white pants on that woman. Mental note: be her for Halloween.

  13. franki durbin March 5, 2008 | 1:56 am

    Oh I’ve long adored this home!!! How great of you to feature it. Is it me, or is J. Crew really beefing up their hip factor? It’s an all-out assault on our senses lately.

    But this home is so iconic. It’s history begs to be told. Thanks for introducing others to its streamlined beauty 😉

  14. All Things Bright and Beautiful... March 5, 2008 | 4:33 am

    OH I love that white crochet crop top and pants number in the last photo!

    I have a yellow number the same – its sleeveless and not cropped!!!

    I know – I shouldn’t be confessing these sort of things!!!

  15. pve design March 5, 2008 | 9:47 am

    Cleverly- J.Crew is raising the chic factor. I live in a mid-century modern home (not $25 million) but I love the light that a mid-mod home exudes. ( In my house hunt, I thought that I wanted a Center Hall Colonial )

    Guess, I will need to re-mod my ward-robe!
    Slim Aarons makes my heart skip beat faster.
    Be still my heart!