Imagine a story that combines: 1) a meticulously restored Richard Neutra in the Hollywood Hills; 2) the founder of the rock band Devo; 3) a Modernist aficionado in Belgium. We couldn’t make this stuff up.
John Aaroe Group recently represented Devo singer/bassist Gerald Casale in the sale of his Richard Neutra gem in the Hollywood Hills. Designed in 1936 for Los Angeles Examiner printer Josef Kun and designated a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument in 2011, it’s a superb example of the Internationalist style that made Neutra a Modernist icon. (It also launched the career of master architectural photographer Julius Shulman, whose amateur snapshots of the property impressed Neutra and led to the young beginner’s first professional assignments. But we digress.)
This was the second time the agent, Aaroe Estates President Aaron Kirman, had worked with the Kun House — he’d sold it to Casale in 2007. The sale was a decades-long dream come true for the musician, who’d been all set to go into escrow on the home in 1985 (list price: $250,000) when a record deal fell through. When he finally snapped it up for $2 million in 2007, he formed a collaboration with Modernist preservationist and artist James Rega and designer and researcher Christopher Steele to restore every detail to 1936 perfection. They also used Neutra designs for the home that hadn’t been built.
How painstaking was it? It took more than seven years, the first three for research and planning alone. Nothing was overlooked, from knobs to register grates. When period pieces couldn’t be found, replacements were fabricated to perfectly match the originals. Behind the scenes, a new central HVAC system and a heated floor were installed, and the original plumbing was restored.
Featured in last October’s issue of Dwell, the three-and-a-half story home has bands of windows facing in every direction, framing spectacular city and ocean views and bringing the outside in. You enter through an airy pavilion that leads to a top-floor deck with an uninterrupted panorama of the city and the Pacific beyond. This patio and the wraparound decks on the other levels are Neutra signatures, used to blur the line between indoor and outdoor spaces.
The three-level home measures a modest 1,732 square feet, which somehow feels just right. “Neutra developed these proportions based on a regular human being, not the oversized dimensions we have today,” Casale notes. “Here’s how much space you need to walk through a door. Here’s how much you need to turn around. Here’s how much you need to lie down. And no more.”
OK, but what about the European buyer? “Modernist homes — especially by world-renowned architects in desirable locations like Hollywood — are avidly sought by sophisticated buyers around the world,” Aaron explains. “Once I alerted my international contacts, the home was snapped up by a buyer from Belgium who’d been in the market for an LA Neutra. That’s part of the joy of what I do: find the one buyer who’s going to treasure a particular home more than anyone else in the world.”