Tag Archives: Lloyd Wright

Lloyd Wright Architectural Tour: Sowden House, Derby House, Gainsburg House

This past weekend we had the opportunity to tour of three Lloyd Wright architectural homes here in Southern California.  It was organized by the Friends of the Gamble House – a group that everyone who loves architecture should join!

We started at the Sowden House, built in 1926 for John & Ruth Sowden, who were Hollywood elite back in the day.  The house was of the steel reinforced Textile Concrete Block period in Wright’s career and the house was grand in every scale.  Designed around a courtyard, it was said that the Sowden’s would put on theatrical performances utilizing the several doors along the narrow hallways to enter and exit the “stage”.  Although rather impressive still today, the topic of conversation among the many friends and colleagues on the tour was the shock of how much had been stripped away from this grand house.  At what point does a Lloyd Wright house stop being a Lloyd Wright house?

Lloyd Wright Sowden House, view from street

Lloyd Wright Sowden House Courtyard

Next on the tour for us was the Derby House.  Built around the same time as the Sowden house, the Derby house was another of the Textile Concrete Block period.  It appeared to be mostly original which was a breath of fresh air.  You could see Lloyd Wright’s Art Deco influence with the skyscraper and floral motif’s repeated in the wrought iron garage door (image below), the fireplace grill and they many window coverings throughout the house.

Derby House, Textile Concrete Block detail

Derby House Concrete Block, backyard

Derby House, Garage Door

Lastly was the Gainsburg House.  Built in 1946 this house was lovely brought back to its original condition by the current owners with painstaking attention to detail.   It was designed by Wright while he was building the Wayfarers Chapel and you can see the many Usonian similarities.  It was said that Wright and the Gainsburg’s had a falling out and a portion of the house was never completed.  However, this impressive house was the highlight of our day.  Every room in the house is a modified parallelogram and retains the Usonian principal: using native materials, perfectly positioned rooms and windows for passive air cooling utilized by the large cantilevered roof.

Gainsburg House, view from backyard, outdoor barbeque area

Lloyd Wright House Tour with LACMA Decorative Arts and Design Council

Yesterday afternoon, as members of the LACMA Decorative Arts and Design Council, we took exclusive tours of two Lloyd Wright houses and the legendary Castillo del Lago.  The first Lloyd Wright house we visited was the Lloyd Wright Studio on Doheny Drive in West Hollywood. The exterior cement surrounding the house has been recently restored, as well as the cactus detailing above the entrance. The interior was also repainted and restored with a kitchen to make the space more livable. The kitchen can be taken down very easily to maintain the purity of the original structure. The outdoor connecting patio also saw some minor adjustments with the help of Eric Lloyd Wright, Frank Lloyd Wright’s grandson, who has authority over revisions to the house. The outdoor patio now features a sitting bench, designed by Eric Lloyd Wright in the style of his father Lloyd Wright. The second level has two bedrooms and one bathroom. The studio/home now acts as a production studio.

Exterior of Lloyd Wright Studio on Doheny Drive

Living Room and Patio of Lloyd Wright Studio

Next on the tour was the Lloyd Wright Taggart House, which was built for his wife’s mother in 1922. The house resides in Los Feliz and has also seen much restoration.  The cement surrounding the house has been repaved, most of the redwood detailing on the exterior had been replaced, and various succulents were specially added to enhance the landscape.  The interior has also been recently decorated with French 1950s furniture. We particularly enjoyed the living room space that flowed into the outdoor pool area. We also noticed that this house reminded us of the Frank Lloyd Wright Sturges House in Brentwood, CA.

Lloyd Wright Taggart House, Exterior of Living Room

Lloyd Wright Taggart House, Outdoor Pool

Detail of Lloyd Wright Built-In Bookshelf

The last house on the tour was the legendary Castillo del Lago famously tucked away in the Hollywood Hills. The house was originally built in 1926 for Patrick Longdon an oil explorer and then taken over by Bugsy Siegel, who reportedly turned the house into a speakeasy in the late 1930’s.  In the 1950’s the house fell into disrepair, and in 1993 Madonna bought the house and with the help of her brother turned it into what it is today, a house reminiscent of an Italian church. The new owner had some minor changes, but left the original structure in tact.  The views were breath-taking, especially from the top of the tower, it felt like we were in another world, definitely not Los Angeles. The furniture and interior decorating were also impressive. The most impressive furniture we saw was the outdoor furniture by Claude Lalanne. There were hidden chairs and benches, as well as a dining table set with chairs. At the end of the tour we had a small champagne toast and we could not be more thankful to the owner for letting us tour his beautiful home.

This tour is similar to many activities and group outings specially set up for members of  the Decorative Arts and Design Council. If you are interested, please sign up here on the LACMA website.