March 01, 2013

Photo Essay: Hiking Through a Dream Home in the Hills

When my confirmation email for the salon at the John Lautner-designed Sheats-Goldstein residence instructed me to wear flat, non-skid shoes - at a cocktail party, which I would never do - I knew the house tour was going to be good.

In fact, the house itself is built so deeply into the hillside of Beverly Hills, up a steep, narrow, winding road, that my ticket to the party included valet parking, a car shuttle in a fancy new BMW, and a golf cart ride to the front door.

The concrete entryway was dark, mysterious, and inviting...

...and the slippery glass walkway across a fish-filled water pond was the first of many house features with no railing, making the Sheats-Goldstein residence, as Curbed and house docents call it, "the most dangerous house you'll ever be in."

I started laughing giddily and clapping my hands.

This house is awesome. Built in 1963 for the Sheats family, it's considered exemplary of Lautner's style, particularly because he not only designed the concrete, wood and steel building itself, but also its furnishings and operational elements.

Much of its current decor, however, can be attributed to the house's current owner, mysterious multi-millionaire James Goldstein, who procured it in 1972 and worked with Lautner directly on many modifications to it, until his death in 1994. (After that, he has worked with another architect who worked in Lautner's office.)

The remarkable ceiling - the residence's most recognizable feature - is original, and was built for the Sheats to have a kind of "camping under the stars" feeling, typical of Lautner's incorporation of the outdoors into the indoors.

The coffers in the ceiling - which expands over the outdoor pool - have Old Fashioned drinking glasses inserted into them, letting in some light.

If you manage to not fall into the pool while walking along the narrow walkway around its perimeter, you can walk down another narrow outdoor path to get to the two guest bedrooms...

...whose glass doors (and walls) give immediate access to the outside, and at the same time, some privacy...

...with no shortage of leather.

Downstairs, the expansive master bedroom showcases Goldstein's extensive hat collection, Hollywood memorabilia, and photos and portraits of the man himself.

When not self-reflecting, he can look out and down upon the Los Angeles city lights...

...since the house itself is quite dimly lit in the evening...

...adding to the peril of walking around at night.

Incredibly, the house is part of a campus around the property, with labyrinthine walkways leading visitors in flat-soled shoes through ferns, past bamboo and under tree stalks (again, with no railings) to an arch...

...which, for good luck, you must walk under on the way down...

...but can bypass and walk around on the way back.

Finally, the path leads down to an installation by light artist James Turrell...

...which is housed in a skyspace built out of poured reinforced concrete, in collaboration with architect Duncan Nicholson, meant to match the style of the Lautner-designed neighboring building. (In fact, the project was meant to be built with Lautner, who died before he could see it to fruition.)

The skyspace features an opening in the ceiling, which can be seen from both the outside...

...and the inside... the light slowly evolves from one color... another.

The ceiling's aperture is actually retractable, a unique feature of a Turrell skyspace...

...and the addition of the lower window, which looks out at the twinkling skyline or a blazing sunset, depending on the time of your visit, was also a unique request by Goldstein.

The best part? The only thing in the room, besides the windows, is a leather bed, sunken into the concrete floor, upon which one can recline, and from which one can gaze upon a nearly-full moon.

photo by erikneldnerphoto, courtesy Angeleno Modern Luxury
photo by erikneldnerphoto, courtesy Angeleno Modern Luxury

Flashlights recommended on the way up and down.

[Ed: Added 1:13 p.m. PT 3/1/13]
For more on Goldstein himself, and a daylight view of the property, check out this amazing video:

Related Post:
Photo Essay: California Dream Homes

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  1. Wow I love this house. It is almost hypnotic to me. How were you able to get a tour?

    I always love your pictures. You have an amazing eye for angles, shadows and textures.

    1. Actually I bought a ticket to a salon hosted by the A+D Museum here in LA! They are doing a whole mid-century series of events like this in different locations.

      Thanks for the kind words!