Thinking Ahead: The Stahl House


Laura Cornell

Inspired by the sale of a Rudolf M. Schindler house in our neighborhood, we took a tour of LA’s most famous mid-century modern home, the Stahl House. You know the one – it’s in countless movies and ads and stands out as an iconic statement of LA style.

We’ve been familiar with the images of the house because it was made famous by the late, great Julius Schulman, who photographed the house in 1960 at the start of his stellar career as an architectural photographer of the Case Study Houses (of which the Stahl House was #22). Laura Cornell did this illustration for Kids Off the Couch, in 2007, when The Central Library put on a retrospective of Schulman’s photography, imaging kids in the photo instead of the elegant models.

The image itself is so famous that just last week, Time Magazine named Julius Schulman’s photograph of the Stahl House as one of the 100 most influential photographs of all time. Why? Here’s what they said about the image:

“For decades, the California Dream meant the chance to own a stucco home on a sliver of paradise. The point was the yard with the palm trees, not the contour of the walls. Julius Shulman helped change all that. In May 1960, the Brooklyn-born photographer headed to architect Pierre Koenig’s Stahl House, a glass-­enclosed Hollywood Hills home with a breathtaking view of Los Angeles—one of 36 Case Study Houses that were part of an architectural experiment extolling the virtues of modernist theory and industrial materials. Shulman photographed most of the houses in the project, helping demystify modernism by highlighting its graceful simplicity and humanizing its angular edges. But none of his other pictures was more influential than the one he took of Case Study House No. 22. To show the essence of this air-breaking cantilevered building, Shulman set two glamorous women in cocktail dresses inside the house, where they appear to be floating above a mythic, twinkling city. The photo, which he called “one of my masterpieces,” is the most successful real estate image ever taken. It perfected the art of aspirational staging, turning a house into the embodiment of the Good Life, of stardusted Hollywood, of California as the Promised Land. And, thanks to Shulman, that dream now includes a glass box in the sky.”


Case Study House #22

Julius Shulman, Selected Images of Case Study House #22, Los Angeles (Stahl House by Pierre Koenig), 1960

The Stalls were thinking ahead: What we didn’t know was the story behind the house – which you can read here. It’s a whimsical story of one couple’s dream:  Buck and Carlotta Stahl bought an impossible piece of land and hired architect Pierre Koenig to build something on the dramatically cantilevered property. Along the way, the project became one of the now-famous Case Study Houses. With Koenig, they had a crazy idea, which for 1959 was radically new and now, over fifty years later, feels just as novel.

To tour the house, you need to think ahead: We visited on a beautiful sunny day, and thoroughly enjoyed the chance to tiptoe through the now-famous house and gawk at the killer views. Just as Buck and Carlotta Stahl had a vision of the future, you’ll have to think ahead to make plans to visit the house, which was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 2013. Three tours a day are available on four days of each week and the day-to-night tours book up a few months in advance, but any chance to explore the house will be a treat.

Touring the famous site is absolutely a treat for adults, and for kids old enough to appreciate the special event. Make an event of this outing – it will provide memories for the ages. To sign up for a tour, click here. The Stahl House closes from December 18, 2016-January 2 2017 and is booking fast.

Simpsons 2009

Homer Simpsons stops by the Stahl House during season premiere of The Simpsons in 2009

Here are details you might want to know before the tour – including information about photography (you can only use a cellphone, and can’t publish them without permission), wheelchair access, and pricing.

The Stahl House : 1635 Woods Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90069