September 08, 2011

Photo Essay: A Real Fixer-Upper

At under $600,000, the cost to buy a midcentury single family home, designed by a renowed architect, in the canyon foothills of the Angeles National Forest is less than that of a typical, modest Manhattan studio apartment a fraction of its size.

When I saw that there was an open house for The Scott House designed by Pierre Koenig this past weekend, I had to go. I'm not in the market to buy a place (and I'm not up for forking over a downpayment without robbing my 401K and pushing the debt envelope too far), but it sounded like a dream house, and surprisingly affordable (by New York standards anyway).

Upon arrival, I realized that this was not my dream.

I suppose some people dream of moving into a historic property (or at least an early-career example of architectural innovation) and fixing it up, but I need off-the-rack clothing that's ready to wear, and I need a place that's ready to move in. It's sad when you see a place that hasn't been taken care of just enough so that it's not a ruin, but with missing floorboards and burned-out fireplaces, it's not exactly liveable either.

The Scott House is billed as being "virtually unaltered," a euphemism for nothing having been fixed, or cleaned much.

Yet its steel and glass structure is still a thing of beauty...

...though it doesn't make much use of outdoor space, save for the ramshackle front yard littered with rusted junk and encased in a rusted chainlink fence.

Inside, each of the two bathrooms (unusual at the time for a house of this size) are a tight squeeze...

...and one is situated oddly right off the carpark, separated only by a flimsy plastic wall.

In fact, the entire interior could use a more open floor plan...

...the main hallway running long and narrow, and the lack of natural light throughout the house forcing a reliance on incandescent lighting fixtures.

So there was no love connection between me and this house. Maybe I identified with it too much. Maybe subconsciously I felt like I was some human equivalent of a house like that: a little bit old, a little bit neglected, a little bit damaged.

But I don't think it's a lost cause. Someone will fall in love with this house for what it is now, for what it once was, and for what it might someday be. It just needs someone with the passion, interest and devotion to pay enough attention to it.

Related reading:
California Dream Homes

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