Designer architect homes tend to crop up in the movies quite a bit; after all, years of work have already gone into creating these aesthetically pleasing and intuitively laid out spaces, it’s almost like a shortcut for filmmakers. It’s also unsurprising then that many of these 20th century architectural gems are located in the City of Angels, where larger-than-life personalities befit such extravagant dwellings, both on-screen and off.
From the fathers of modernism to their overachieving pupils, the last century brought us great advances in architecture and nowhere is this legacy recorded better than on the silver screen. So without further ado, here are the 15 most famous 20th century architectural homes featured in cinema.
Architect: John Lautner Location: Beverly Crest, Los Angeles, California Movie: The Big Lebowski
The Sheats-Goldstein Residence is not merely a background character, it’s a bonafide star in its own right. Designed by mid-century modern maestro John Lautner (get to know his name, you’ll see it a lot on this list) for original owners Helen and Paul Sheats between 1961 and 1963. Almost 10 years after completion, the house was bought by Jim Goldstein (yes, the eccentric millionaire NBA superfan) who worked with the architect in “perfecting” the house over the next two decades.
Most memorable as pornographer Jackie Treehorn’s house in the Coen Brothers’ classic The Big Lebowski, the residence has since made cameos in Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, Bandits, Snoop Dogg, G-Eazy and Azealia Banks music videos, not to mention countless fashion editorials. It also boasts a light installation by artist James Turrell.
Architect: Frank Lloyd Wright Location: Los Feliz, Los Angeles, California Movie: Blade Runner
Incidentally, only one scene from Blade Runner was filmed at Ennis House, utilizing Frank Lloyd Wright’s 1920s-era Mayan revival aesthetic as the façade of Rick Deckerd’s apartment block, with the interiors recreated on a soundstage. It’s mostly remembered for this, but the house has played host to numerous other films and TV shows including Vincent Price’s House on Haunted Hill, The Day of the Locust, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and too many fashion editorials to count.
With a design based on ancient Maya temples, Ennis House is truly one of a kind, making it unsurprising that it’s one of the top 10 L.A. houses of all time, as chosen by the Los Angeles Times.
Architect: John Lautner Location: Hollywood Hills, Los Angeles, California Movie: Body Double
Lautner’s other most notable house on the list, Chemosphere (or Malin House, after the original owner) is a true feat of engineering—built in 1960, the octagonal house sits perched on a 45-degree slope in the Hollywood Hills. Perhaps the best example of the architect’s ability to design around any site problem imaginable, the house sits on a 30-foot concrete pole and is reached by funicular.
Brian De Palma’s Hitchcock-inspired 1984 thriller Body Double propelled the house to fame, while Troy McClure’s house in The Simpsons is an obvious replica. It also provided inspiration for Eric Knox’s house in Charlie’s Angels. The current owner is publishing magnate Benedikt Taschen and the house itself has been declared a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument.
Ben Rose House
Architect: A. James Speyer and David Haid Location: Highland Park, Illinois Movie: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Immortalized on screen in the 1980s John Hughes classic Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, the Ben Rose House became the perfect setting to introduce Ferris’s neurotic best friend Cameron Frye. The isolated, ravine-set house was built in 1953 and exudes a cold modernism – thanks to architect A. James Speyer’s time studying under minimalist master Mies van der Rohe.
Speyer’s student, David Haid, worked on the main pavilion, which incidentally was designed for the original owner’s luxury sports car collection. Just one year after the film came out the house was declared an official local landmark.
Architect: Charles Deaton Location: Denver, Colorado Movie: Sleeper
Built in 1963 by Charles Deaton, the futuristic Sculptured House provided the perfect setting for Woody Allen’s early sci-fi comedy Sleeper. A few television appearances since then, including MTV’s Extreme Cribs, has ensured on-going exposure for the architectural gem.
John Gillin Residence
Architect: Frank Lloyd Wright Location: Dallas, Texas Movie: Bottle Rocket
Constructed in 1958, the Gillin Residence is Frank Lloyd Wright’s final completed home before his death. His only Dallas project ever, the house was built in the architect’s so-called “Usonian” style. Used to describe houses and city planning that felt truly representative of the United States as opposed to other parts of North America, undoing the generic “American” descriptor.
The Gillin Residence features in Wes Anderson’s debut film Bottle Rocket, proving that the director had an eye for design-conscious locations even back then.
Stahl House (Case Study House #22)
Architect: Pierre Koenig Location: Hollywood Hills, Los Angeles, California Movie: Galaxy Quest
Arguably quite a few of the Los Angeles homes on this list could be deemed the most iconic from the city, but it’s the Stahl House that is undoubtedly the most quintessentially L.A. of the bunch. Low-set, modernist lines merging indoor and outdoor space? Check. Expansive hillside views offset by floor-to-ceiling glass walls? Check. A centerpiece pool that doubles as an entertaining area? Check. It’s the simplicity of the house’s stellar design and location that elevates it to more than just your standard Hollywood Hills abode.
Part of a series of Case Study Houses, the Stahl House was designed by Pierre Koenig and built in 1959. Most notably featured in the late ‘90s sci-fi comedy Galaxy Quest, the list of film, TV, music video and fashion shoot appearances the Stahl House can credit is longer than most actors’ IMDb lists.
Architect: Lloyd Wright Location: Los Feliz, Los Angeles, California Movie: The Aviator
Frank Lloyd Wright’s eldest son Lloyd Wright is the architect behind this ‘20s-era Mayan-influenced L.A. home. Commonly referred to as the “Jaws House” since the cave-like apex at its front entrance resembles a great white shark’s open mouth, the residence is the last of the Wright family’s textile block houses.
However, its sinister appearance is more than just a façade. One of the previous owners, Dr. George Hodel, was rumored to have perpetrated the infamous Black Dahlia murder at the site – a claim his own son has backed. A star turn in Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator has cemented the iconic dwelling’s reputation of old-Hollywood glamour.
Architect: John Lautner Location: Palm Springs, California Movie: Diamonds Are Forever
Another movie, another Lautner. You’d be forgiven for thinking the Elrod House was created as a set for a typical Bond villain’s lair. In reality it’s one of Lautner’s many Palm Springs designs and is yet another stellar example of his concept of “free architecture,” where architecture and the surrounding nature are combined in harmony. Upon surveying the site, large boulders were found buried in the soil and then incorporated into the final design, with construction completed in 1968.
Architect: Richard Neutra Location: Los Angeles, California Movie: L.A. Confidential
This late-1920s design from Austrian-American architect Richard Neutra is a well-known take on the International Style. With a keen interest in industrial production –allegedly what drew the European architect to the United States – the Lovell Health House as it’s also known, was the first steel frame house stateside.
Prominently featuring as businessman and prostitution ring head honcho Pierce Patchett’s abode in the sultry neo-noir L.A. Confidential, the house also appears in the film Beginners.
Architect: John Lautner Location: Glendale, California Movie: A Single Man
An early 1949 build of Lautner’s, the Schaffer Residence is a minimal two-bedroom home immortalized in Tom Ford’s directorial debut A Single Man. Fabulously filmed, the house – as well as the set design, costumes, actors – are to-die-for good looking.
Designed soon after Lautner began working independently from mentor Frank Lloyd Wright, it’s a perfect marriage of their two styles—Wright’s horizontal planes alongside Lautner’s organic modernism.
Architect: Bertram Goodhue Location: Montecito, California Movie: Scarface
Translating to “little paradise” or “pleasure gardens,” El Fureidis is an apt name for the sprawling estate designed by architect Bertram Goodhue and built in 1906. A unique mix of various European and Middle-Eastern styles, the estate houses Persian gardens and a yearlong Mediterranean vibe.
Best known as the exterior of Tony Montana’s residence in Brian De Palma’s drug epic Scarface, the current owner is reported to be Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban.
Architect: Richard Neutra Location: Hollywood Hills, Los Angeles, California Movie: The Anniversary Party
A mid-century Neutra design, the Schaarman Residence played a very large role in the early 2000s indie flick The Anniversary Party – in fact, the entire film was shot on location there. Co-written and directed by Alan Cumming and Jennifer Jason Leigh, the two friends also star in the film alongside a who’s who of Hollywood talent.
The residence is a classic L.A. design centered on a pool, views and the merging of indoor and outdoor space. Sophia Coppola used to own the place, while this year saw none other than visvim designer Hiroki Nakamura take over the lease, proving that his taste extends far beyond just fashion.
Architect: John Lautner Location: Hollywood Hills, Los Angeles, California Movie: Lethal Weapon 2
By now it’s little surprise to see John Lautner’s name on this list, with the famed architect behind one-third of the houses mentioned. What’s most incredible about his career is how unified his aesthetic is, while at the same time each house is striking in its own unique way.
The 1962-built Garcia, or Rainbow, House is known for its colored stained glass windows and large sloping roof, and a star turn in Lethal Weapon 2 – as the haunt of some Hollywood bad guys (surprise, surprise). Lesser known is that actor Vincent Gallo once owned the house and perhaps some of you remember this vintage Oliver Peoples ad starring Devendra Banhart?
Architect: Le Corbusier Location: Paris, France Movie: French Postcards
Swiss-born architect Le Corbusier was one of the early pioneers of modern architecture, with his International Style masterpiece Villa Savoye dating all the way back to 1930. Situated on the outskirts of Paris, the minimalist dwelling was co-designed with the architect’s cousin Pierre Jeanneret. Surprisingly, it was designated as a French historical monument while Le Corbusier was still alive, and was recently named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
It set the backdrop for 1970s comedy French Postcards, in which a group of American exchange students live in the house while spending a year abroad. The film juxtaposes French and American design to full effect, making the house a key storyteller in culture clash.
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