One of my favorite accounts to follow on Instagram belongs to a 61-year-old house. The house—more precisely, the Taylor House—is the handiwork of Richard Neutra, the Vienna-born architect who rose to influence during the modernist movement. It is tucked away in a wooded hillside in Glendale, just a few miles from Los Angeles. The Taylor House holds a special appeal to me—a marvel of expansive glass walls and floating ledges that manages to squeeze every drop out of the Californian landscape that surrounds it.
"The sense of harmony between the house and the site really struck me," the former owner, a retired film producer, recalled to The New York Times Magazine back in 1998. "There is a grace and lightness to the house, but from every room, you can see trees, sky, and mountains, so you feel you're living with nature."
This connection to nature was a frequent motif of Neutra's, among many others. Quite often, nooks and porches felt tailored to the landscape as if the house sprouted from the earth. He also possessed an uncanny ability to design homes the felt both spacious and compact. He achieved that dual feat through his affinity for unadorned, open space—usually at the forefront of the home's interiors. To him, this open-floor concept was a way to "stretch space," delivering smaller homes that still packed a hefty aesthetic punch.
Before the open-floor concept was bashed into banality by one HGTV decorator whose flagship qualifications seem to be a folksy origin story and communications degree, it was an architectural signature of post-1920s modernism. (Although, I’ll concede that removing a bunch of walls without rhyme or reason does make for a very dramatic before and after sequence.) In a Neutra house, the openness he proposed was never haphazard. It was always geometric and exacting. Without this care, an open-floor plan can sometimes make a space feel overexposed—that was never the case for Neutra. His gravitation towards the open floor came from a sense of idealism, less forcing airiness into a humdrum suburban home. His clever trick was to design a home where the entertaining space unfolded into wings for rest and relaxation. All these nooks and corners and indoor-outdoor patios would provide seclusion and security in equal measure. He was known to give his clients with detailed questionnaires, mining their dreams and desires like a psychoanalyst to help create the perfect blueprint for a more fulfilling life.
"I try to make a house like a flower pot, in which you can root something and out of which family life will bloom," Neutra often said.
The current owner, the one who is currently mid-restoration and running the Instagram account, purchased the house in July of last year for nearly $1.7M. The Taylor House was last sold in 1997 for $321,500, from the original owners (Maurice and Marceil Taylor) to the aforementioned retired producer, who oversaw his own truthful restoration of the property in the 2000s.
On Instagram, you can watch the current owner track down original facet handles or catch a peek as an arborist inspects the 280-year-old oak tree that feels as much a part of the house as the front door. (There is decidedly less sexy stuff to look at, too, like fixing water damage.) Her passion for her house radiates from each post and each caption, and it has been a welcome addition to my usually mindless scrolling over the past year. She has also mentioned her son lives in the Treetop apartment in LA's Silver Lake neighborhood, a building designed by Richard's son, Dion. A love for Neutra seems to be a family affair.
I have been thinking about what I find so appealing about this home. Perhaps it was the impossible fantasy I had last year of buying the house and moving back to my home state. Or perhaps, it is simply the sun-drenched breakfast nook, staged with the perfect pairing of Isamu Noguchi’s Cyclone table and two bright Eames shell chairs. I can close my eyes and see myself sitting there. I’d imagine it’s the kind of corner where even if my coffee is too bitter on a particular morning, the warmth of a new day is still the top note that hits my senses.
In an essay, Barbara Lamprecht, a writer who has authored two books on Neutra, said of the house, “it is indeed a free-standing rectangular box of 1,350 square feet, but as a work of architecture it demonstrates how the act of perception can be altered to create feelings of expansion.”
In that very nook, looking out into a hillside soaked by the warmth of the west coast, I bet it feels like looking out into endless possibility. This is a house with unabashed openness that forces a wide-eyed perspective. “I can think clearly here. My quiet time at home is terrific,” said the previous owner. I’ll never know what looking out at that hill will feel like, but anytime a photo from the Taylor House pops up on my feed, I can’t help but feel a ping of California sunshine.