Photos: Case Study House No. 22: The story behind L.A.'s original dream home
By Barbara Thornburg
Case Study House No. 22 may be one of the most photographed homes in the world. Julius Shulman took this iconic shot of the house on the warm evening of May 9, 1960. The two young women seen chatting, Cynthia Tindle and Ann Lightbody, were not the owners but students whom Shulman recruited to be models. All the furnishings were staged for the shoot, supplied by furniture firm Van Keppel-Green but only temporarily. My mom told me she wished they would have left the furniture, says Shari Stahl Gronwald, who grew up in the home. It was all part of the editor of Art & Architecture magazines Case Study House program to promote modernism. Many of the owners received cost breaks on building materials in exchange for allowing photos to run in the magazine. They were also required to open their doors to the public for a month.
The view looking toward the kitchen shows its floating cooking and bar islands. Expanses of glass windows enclose the house on three sides and give the L-shape pavilion a 270-degree mountain-to-ocean panorama. A prefabricated fireplace acts as a focal point for the living room.
C. H. Buck Stahl stands near a terrace he built at the back of his hillside property from concrete reclaimed from construction sites. My dad spent almost every weekend for two years building walls around the property line, son Mark Stahl says. Theres only two levels of the back terrace left, but the rest of the wall is still there.
C.H. Buck Stahl sits with nephew Bobby Duemler and a model of his glass dream house that cantilevered over the hillside. The photo was taken in July 1956; in 1958, Stahl commissioned architect Pierre Koenig, whose design bears a resemblance to the model and is considered a masterpiece of 20th century architecture.
The Case Study House program played a major role in the idea that modern houses could be built with industrial materials such as steel. Steel beams with the columns attached were delivered and assembled like a giant erector set in a single day at the Stahl property. (The name Stahl, coincidentally, translates to steel in German.) The family moved into the house in June 1960, nine months after construction started.
C.H. Buck Stahl, a former pro football player, sits with his kids Shari and Bruce on the pool diving board. When they got a bit older, the children often dove in from the roof. My grandfather used to throw coins in the deep end for us to go and get, Bruce says.
The original prefab fireplace designed by Pierre Koenig featured drywall painted white; later Buck Stahl would clad the fireplace with stone. We use to hang our Christmas stockings on the rocks, Shari Stahl Gronwald says.