The Bailey house—one of Richard Neutra’s four Case Study designs for Arts & Architecture—forms one of five Bluff houses, standing high above the ocean. The brief was to create a low-budget home for a young family, with just two bedrooms, but offering the possibility of expansion as time went by (which did in fact transpire; additional Neutra-designed wings were later built).
Neutra employed the same indoor-outdoor philosophy that can be seen at work in his unbuilt Alpha and Omega houses, using large sliding glass doors to create light and a visual sense of space, as well as ensuring that the house physically opened up to, as he put it, “borrow space from the outdoors.” With this sunny Californian ocean-view setting, it made perfect sense to use the back garden and terrace as living and dining room.
Space constraints in the bedrooms were compensated for in two ways: first, through access to the outside area, where planted divisions between the garden areas in front of each bedroom provided privacy, enhancing the sense that those areas were truly a part of the house. Second, through ample light—both natural light, coming from the glass fronts and long, high windows above the beds, and carefully placed artificial light to ensure comfortable use of the beds for reading and making the bedroom a multipurpose living space. It’s interesting to note that even in such a small house, Neutra provided a small dressing room beside the master bedroom. Nowadays a second bathroom would be given higher priority.
Inside the house, space and budget considerations continued to drive design choices. Natural materials (such as slate tiles and wooden paneling) ensured low maintenance costs, while creating an earthy aesthetic that played up the beautiful surroundings. The range of woods used—from mahogany in the dining room, to birch for the bedrooms—made for a spectrum of moods, even in this small house. In the living areas, recessed and concealed lighting at various points was carefully designed to ensure “illuminative interest” and to maximize the potential for different uses.
Neutra was also motivated to test a new logistical solution to save costs, a “prefabricated utility core” housing the plumbing and heating installations, flanked by the kitchen and bathroom. From there the kitchen opened into a “service yard” designed to be more than just that; like the other outdoor spaces, it offered additional, partly enclosed space, to offer privacy at the same time as enabling residents to enjoy the open air. It also connected with the carport, where preparations were in place for later roofing and full enclosure, once the owners were ready for expansion.
Moving through the Bailey house, using Archilogic’s 3D model, one can experience a key moment in 20th-century architecture. Introducing this design in Arts & Architecture, Neutra described the challenge of this house, the need to put every detail to work to make even a small home successful, “one of the great problems of our day.” Maximizing light, ensuring flexible use of space, and using quality materials have all become standard strategies in meeting this challenge, as they were for Neutra. However, it’s hard to imagine a modern home in which budget constraints could be allayed by an extravagant ocean-view site!