Question: What does Snoop Dogg, John Cleese, Lucy Liu and Jeff ‘The Dude’ Lebowski have in common? Simple, they have all, at some point in time, hung out in the living room of the space-age Sheats Goldstein Residence designed by Frank Lloyd Wright-disciple, John Lautner.
Read more about this amazing house and its unique owner after the break…
Although Snoop Dogg appears to have laid claim, in reality the house is owned by millionaire property-developer and bon vivant James Goldstein. Rarely seen without a snakeskin-suit, stetson or supermodel, the slightly cowboy-esque playboy has been instrumental in both protecting and perfecting this mid-century modernist masterpiece for over thirty years.
When Goldstein set out to find a new LA home in 1970, he knew exactly what he wanted: a view, a pool, outdoor space for his dog and a “Frank Lloyd Wright feel” – having grown up surrounded by Wright houses in Milwaukee, Goldstein had developed an attachment to the architect. The Sheats Goldstein Residence was originally designed by John Lautner for the Sheats family in 1961. However, by the time Goldstein saw it in 1972, it was almost too late; the sixties had happened and the house was filled with stucco, multi-colored paint and expanses of shag pile. Regardless, Goldstein declared that “this was the one”. He bought the house and re-hired Lautner, not with the intention of returning the house to its original state, but to continue with it and perfect his vision.
Lautner had studied under Wright, before becoming a close associate. During his early work, he prioritized craftsmanship and was heavily involved in the design of the draftingroom in Taliesin West. Later upon moving to LA, partly at the behest of Wright, he became infamous in his own right for the futuristic, alien-like, pads he designed for the city’s elite. However, Lautner faded in and out of popularity; his penchant for boundary-pushing meant his complicated designs were often delayed or cancelled before getting to site. At the time that Goldstein contacted him, he was happy to get the chance to work.
The two men appreciated each other’s vision of what “real” architecture was and their collaboration lasted right up until Launter’s death in 1994. Goldstein described, “What made him [Lautner] unusual amongst famous architects, was that he had no ego problem, and unlike many architects who tell their clients what has to be done… he always waited to hear from me first.” Lautner wanted to design houses that stood for everything that, in his mind, LA didn’t: high-quality timeless design, which responded to physical and emotional needs rather than fads. “Many people have said to me that I was his perfect client.” Goldstein continued, ”Budgetary considerations were never a factor. It was, ‘How can it be done to achieve the utmost perfection?’”
The Sheats Goldstein Residence was designed in the “organic style” – a term coined by Frank Lloyd Wright that implied a house that is both one with nature and a unified organism in itself. Simular to his predecessor, Lautner believed the house – and everything in it – should be designed as one.
Embedded in a sandstone ledge, the house is dominated by a concrete, triangular-coffered ceiling, which folds over the living room and terrace to create a cavernous living room that looks out across the LA skyline. To emphasize the connection with nature, the bedrooms are connected by external covered walkways. In addition, the late additions of colored paint and shag-pile were replaced with a palette of hardwood, leather, concrete glass and steel.
Wherever possible, technology was exploited to maximise the connection between inside and out. The frameless glass wall, separating the living room and terrace, was originally just a wall of compressed air. In the master-bedroom, dining room and kitchen, selected glass panels and skylights slide open on hidden rails – an unexpected feature considering most of the furniture is fixed, yet the walls and ceilings move. Then there are the small touches; 750 drinking glasses are cast into the ceiling coffers, creating an array of tiny skylights, while in the bedroom an entirely glass sink was conceived to preserve the view and the living room featured a television, borrowed from an aeroplane, that folds down from a panel in the ceiling.
Surrounding the house is a five acre sculpture-filled garden that has its own exotic micro-climate designed by landscape architect Eric Naglemann. A cantilevered concrete stair winds throughout the site, connecting the house to the Turrell Skyspace. This bunker like room is almost featureless inside, save for the door and two clean openings in its white walls aimed skywards. At dawn and dusk thousands of hidden LED’s illuminate the room, shifting through colors, divorcing the viewer from any context and altering their perception of the sky. Naturally, with Goldstein being the epitome of a bachelor, this is not just an ethereal art installation, there is also leather mattress embedded in the floor and a wet bar outside for guests.
Although the Skyspace was intended to be a collaboration between Lautner and James Turrell, the architect died in 1994. Since then his former apprentice, Duncan Nicholson, continues to work on the house with Goldstein to this day. Currently, a 6,000 square foot entertainment pavilion is under construction. Upon completion, it will serve as a subterranean nightclub and rooftop tennis court.