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Case study house 16 for sale

A rare Case Study jewel sells amid Bel-Air’s mansions

The home’s simple wall of translucent panels shields bedrooms — a light-infused modernist ornament amid Bel-Air’s mash of mansions and pillared gates.

In a rare transaction, a Case Study House in Bel-Air has sold for nearly $3 million after its owner, who lived in the two-bedroom property since the late 1950s, recently died.

Rarer still is Case Study House No. 16’s condition: pristine. For 52 years, New York transplant Muriel Norton didn’t mar or bend any of the crisply set rectilinear lines in the steel, concrete and brick structure artfully clad in glass (Norton bought the property in 1967, most likely after having rented it the previous decade).

The 1953 home remains a light-infused modernist ornament — modest at 1,664 square feet — amid Bel-Air’s mash of mansions, stone walls and pillared gates.

Rarest of all, however, is the architect who designed the modular property for his former employer, Henry Salzman. The onetime Johnnie Burke was a Texas transplant who SoCal-reinvented himself as Craig Ellwood, snatching his new moniker from L.A.’s Lords & Elwood liquor store.

The living room’s Palos Verdes stone-clad fireplace continues through the glass, creating a second outdoor patio hearth anchored by three ancient eucalyptus.

The living room’s Palos Verdes stone-clad fireplace continues through the glass, creating a second outdoor patio hearth anchored by three ancient eucalyptuses.

Dubbed the “Cary Grant of architecture” by a business associate, the bon vivant (“He could charm the birds off the trees,” said another associate) reportedly could not draft, draw or grasp structural engineering (he tried to catch up by taking UCLA engineering extension night classes).

Ellwood’s bent for self-promotion and his visionary style — the “less is more” essential clarity of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, fused with a jaunty L.A. aesthetic — made him dashingly famous.

Tooling around Hollywood in his red Ferrari with its VROOM license plate, the nattily dressed Ellwood was lauded by architects of the day; German modernist Konrad Wachsmann compared him to Picasso and Stravinsky.

His greatest sin, however, was failing to credit the adept architects and student draftsmen who largely realized the Ellwood brand. Those details are found in “California Modern,” a fascinating 2002 Ellwood biography by Neil Jackson.

The living room is made deceptively larger by wall dividers that appear to float, halting a foot or more from the ceiling with bases painted black.

If all that sounds like a madcap midcentury Netflix series outfitted with Mrs. Maisel-worthy costumes — you’re right, and you’re also out of luck. Television writer Kit Boss is already pitching a pilot script drawing from Ellwood’s life as detailed in Jackson’s book. Boss is a former journalist and sponsored No. 16’s Historic-Cultural Monument application, approved by the city in 2017.

Until Ellwood’s made-for-TV life hits your screen, a tour of his Bel-Air number will suffice; Compass agent Dalton Gomez recently gave an early morning showing. Along with Gomez, Aaron Kirman and Weston Littlefield of the Aaron Kirman Group at Compass hold the listing; the sale is expected to close escrow by year’s end.

After a serpentine drive up Bel-Air Road, a wall of translucent panels that shield bedrooms appears at a crest’s bend; as dusk falls, the home appears as a luminous hilltop lantern. To the right, a low brick wall delineates the entry from the carport. More frosted panels are placed further back.

The foyer and various other walls are lined with grooved vertical Douglas fir that matches exterior siding. To the right is the boxy kitchen with white-enameled steel cabinets, its far counter overlooking the dining room. Joined, the rooms are a tidy package, save for a window’s hulking view of an adjacent three-story, six-bedroom manse listed for nearly $7 million (which includes renderings for a proposed 12,000-square-foot replacement).

Given such surroundings, the Ellwood home “is a bit of a white elephant for that pocket,” said Kirman, whose last Case Study House sale, finessed with Gomez, was in February: No. 21 for $3.26 million.

Straight ahead and to the right, the foyer opens to the vast living room, its glass walls fitted with Steelbilt sliding doors that, when opened, emit an ear-splitting screech. “They need some work,” said Gomez, opening a door framing a west-facing vista of far hills. The south elevation boasts a similar view; there, a steel pergola painted burgundy (a color used throughout) extends from the home’s fascia.

To the rear, a steel pergola, painted burgundy (a color used throughout), extends from the home’s fascia; a squat brick wall is fitted with climbing bars.

The space is made deceptively larger by wall dividers that appear to float. The panels halt a foot or more from the ceiling, allowing for open space; their black-painted bases further the illusion that there’s no floor or ceiling connection. The home’s wide overhangs also augment the space.

The living room’s Palos Verdes stone-clad fireplace continues through the glass, creating a second outdoor patio hearth anchored by three ancient eucalyptuses. A squat brick wall is fixed with climbing bars “that also act as a minimalist sculpture,” states the National Register of Historic Places registration for the home.

Besides No. 16, Ellwood created other standouts, including Malibu’s 1957 Hunt House, designed with Jerrold Lomax, as well as Pasadena’s Art Center College of Design.

Completed in 1976, the Art Center’s “bridge building” traverses an Arroyo Seco canyon. Though described as Ellwood’s swan song, his associate James Tyler, a former adjunct professor at USC School of Architecture, is now credited as the building’s principal designer.

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Craig Ellwood’s Bel Air Case Study House No. 16 goes up for sale

From 1945 to 1966, Arts & Architecture magazine ran the Case Study House program, a radical experiment in American residential architecture which commissioned major architects to design and build efficient and affordable model homes to accommodate the postwar housing boom. Modest in size compared to its local counterparts, the 1,750-square-foot Case Study House No. 16 in Bel Air has been put on the market for $2.9 million by Aaron Kirman, Dalton Gomez, and Weston Littlefield of Compass.

The magazine commissioned over 30 homes during the program, designed by architects including Richard Neutra, Charles and Ray Eames, and Eero Saarinen. Completed in 1953, the Case Study House No. 16 was one of three that engineer Craig Ellwood built for the program. According to the Los Angeles Conservancy, it is the only intact example of his designs, as the No. 17 and 18 have both been drastically remodeled. While the home, a city landmark, had its floors replaced 50 years ago, the building is largely in its original condition.

The two-bedroom, two-bathroom home is an archetypal example of midcentury modern architecture, with its modular steel and concrete construction, expansive walls of glass, fir siding, natural rock fireplace, and cantilevered roof. It sits perched atop a Bel Air hillside, offering broad views of the city while appearing as a floating glass pavilion from the street. A wall of frosted glass surrounds the home and provides a level of privacy for the otherwise completely transparent house.

The home was listed on the N ational Register of Historic Places (NRHP) in July 2013 for its significant association with the Case Study House Program, the “innovative use of exposed steel structural framing,” and it’s “high level of integrity of design, materials, and workmanship” according to the 2013 NRHP registration form. This is the first time the home has been on the market in 50 years.

Craig Ellwood’s Case Study House No. 16 seeks $3 million in Bel-Air

Built in the ‘50s, the 1,664-square-foot home holds two bedrooms, two bathrooms and a scenic open floor plan anchored by a natural stone fireplace.

For some of the most stunning Midcentury architecture in L.A., look no further than the Case Study House series. Created by Arts & Architecture magazine after World War II, the program employed some of the era’s most noted architects to explore aesthetic and affordable housing prototypes.

Architects including Richard Neutra and Pierre Koenig mocked up 36 designs, and roughly two dozen were built. No. 16, a floating glass pavilion built by Craig Ellwood, just hit the market for $2.995 million.

It’s one of three homes Ellwood designed for the series and the only one still intact, according to the Los Angeles Conservancy. The other two (such as the onetime Beverly Hills residence of baseball great Hank Greenberg) have been altered through remodels.