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John Lautner's Silvertop
Curated Mid-Century Modern Homes Listings
The Silvertop Residence represents an incredibly ambitious undertaking, even by architect John Lautner’s standards. The home, overlooking Silver Lake Reservoir in Los Angeles, was commissioned in 1956 but stalled out for years during construction. The project reportedly bankrupted Lautner’s original client, industrialist Kenneth Reiner, who was sadly never able to call Silvertop home. After a foreclosure in 1970, the property was acquired and completed by Dr. Philip and Jacklyn Burchill, although not precisely to Lautner’s original specifications.
Lautner, Silvertop’s visionary, although somewhat under-appreciated during his career is recognized today as modernist master. We highlighted his enigmatic Chemosphere house in a previous post. Over a fifty-five year career, Lautner designed 50+ structures in Southern California alone, leaving a meaningful mark on the region (not to mention his influence on contemporaries and generations of architects to follow).
Silvertop exemplifies Lautner style; organic, expressive, and boundary-pushing. A massive, arching concrete roof over a wall of glass opens the interior of the home to the views all around, while mimicking the curvature of the hillside. Just below, a cantilevered swimming pool appears to flow directly into the Silver Lake Reservoir.
In 2014, the Burchills sold Silvertop to music industry exec Luke Wood who, like them, envisioned calling the unique property home for the long-term. Driven by a deep appreciation for Silvertop’s architectural significance, Wood embarked on a two-and-a-half-year rehabilitation project. The team, led by Barbara Bestor, meticulously restored the home to its original glory, adhering to the vision of Reiner and Lautner. They replaced crumbling and stained ceiling panels with cork sourced from Portugal and restored original features like terrazzo flooring and the motorized pass-through from the kitchen to the living room.
The kitchen, which had undergone a number of alterations, was brought back to Lautner's original open design. To distinguish the new wood paneling from the original, the team employed a vertical orientation and different-sized cuts.
The preservation of Silvertop is an inspiring story of stewardship and the enduring legacy of Lautner’s architectural innovation. Historic homes, even of this caliber, can be vulnerable. Lautner’s 1951 Shusett House in Beverly Hills was demolished in 2010, and Paul Weston Work Center (1979) in Woodland Hills was proposed for demolition in 2014. An undisputed success story, the Silvertop restoration project was awarded a Conservancy Preservation Award in 2018.
GEMS FOR SALE THIS WEEK
6630 Heartwood Dr, Oakland, CA 94611 (Brubeck House)
3816 Lockerbie Ct, Glendale, CA 91208 (Neutra - For Lease)
3304 Roxanne Ave, Long Beach, CA 90808 (For Lease)