Here, Bruce Stahl reflects on childhood in a modernist icon, one of the most famous "Case Study" homes in Los Angeles. Decades after roller skating across the cantilevered concrete floors designed by midcentury architect Pierre Koenig, Stahl and his sister Shari Stahl-Gronwald still own the architectural masterpiece. Recently, the Stahl House formed a partnership with Design Within Reach to furnish the house and collaborate on programming.
"It all started with my parents’ dream and their search for an architect who was willing to take on the project. They purchased a lot up in the Hollywood Hills. My dad built the scale model of what he wanted. They interviewed three architects. The first two turned him down and said what they wanted was unbuildable on the lot that they had. The third architect was Pierre Koenig. And the way my parents found Pierre? There was a Sunday pictorial section on him in a local newspaper and they thought he would be a good fit for what they were doing.
My dad’s goal was pretty simple: He wanted a view from every room.
As a kid, I didn’t really take notice or think anything different of it because that was my only reference point. This was my home. That’s the only thing I knew, so there was nothing to gauge my living in that home versus any other.
When I was in high school and starting college, I realized the impact of the house and how famous it is. All my high school friends thought it was the coolest place they’d ever seen. I think when I learned about what professionals, other architects, and articles were saying about the home, how they were describing it and putting it on a pedestal, it made me realize what my parents actually did. It wasn’t by design. Their design was just a dream house. That’s all they wanted. My dad’s goal was pretty simple: He wanted a view from every room.
As time has gone by, the house has become more and more famous. I think Julius Shulman’s picture of the two girls sitting in the corner living room captivated a lot of people and propelled it to a level of iconic status. It would be a dramatic house even if it was nestled in the woods, but I think the city really is the opposite of the house.
Christmastime at the house was always magical because of the way my parents decorated. My mom went overboard with trinkets. Every part of the house was filled with something. My dad put up lights around the house, above the windows, so they would reflect all of the lights everywhere. It was like we had three times as many lights as really we did. The tree sat in the corner of the living room, in the spot made famous by Shulman’s photograph. It was fully dressed and lit with lights, which seemed to be everywhere because of the way the lights bounced off of the glass.
The moments I cherish the most are when we have people come in for the first time. As an adult you don’t get too many "first-time" moments. You have them when you’re young all the time. When people have a passion to see the home in person, and they walk through that door for the first time, it’s like watching a little kid in a candy store seeing a lollipop the size of a basketball. You know it’s truly amazing and I enjoy it, because they’re having a first-time wow moment and that, to me, is very gratifying that this house can offer that, even after all these years."
For Home Sweet Home, Curbed talked to 30 engaging personalities across a range of industries to learn about where they grew up and what home means to them. Learn more about the Stahl House here, and follow Design Within Reach on Instagram.