The West Hollywood home that architect Rudolf Schindler built for himself and his wife is so in tune with its surroundings that I totally missed it. I used to live just down the road from the Schindler House (pictured), which set the benchmark for so much of Southern California modernism, but it’s only recently that I went inside for an evening to mark its 100th anniversary. Right now it’s just an exquisite wooden shell, a base for the MAK Center for Art and Architecture, which has been seeking donations to safeguard the place and uses its bare interiors to stage exhibitions.
During a Q&A that evening, a member of the audience raised his hand: should the house not be returned to how it might have looked when the Schindlers lived there, he asked, with modernist furniture around. It’s an interesting question. Do we preserve an incredible house as a facsimile of what it was or find new uses as a way to reimagine it?
By contrast, I recently went to the former home of designers Charles and Ray Eames, a mid-century architectural masterpiece on a bluff overlooking the Pacific. It has been left almost as though the couple walked out that morning, with cups in the kitchen, artefacts on the walls and their old Ottoman lounger. There’s a balance to be struck. We can appreciate incredible roof lines and how a house foregrounds nature but ultimately a home is a portal into a life lived. I don’t mean like something you’d find in a theme park but a gentle evocation using furniture, textiles and objects that can endear and enliven these structures for years to come.
Christopher Lord is Monocle’s US editor, based in Los Angeles.