A Neutra in the Neighborhood

I had the pleasure of touring a Richard Neutra mid century modern masterpiece home that is for sale in my area.  I didn't even know it existed, hiding in plain site behind a cathedral, a grand estate and a college.  It's a story of a titan of business, a family fortune and a famous 20th century modernist architect in an unlikely place.


I was freaking out at the front door!  Before we talk about Richard Neutra we must mention Feodor Pitcairn, the original homeowner and his grandfather, industrialist John Pitcairn Jr.  John Jr. co-founded Pittsburg Plate Glass, and also had his hand in other ventures during the gilded age.

The Pitcairns (John Jr. and his wife Gertrude) settled in the area and went about creating the magnificent home Carinwood and an equally beautiful gothic church, Bryn Athyn Cathedral.  It is such a rich, fascinating history that involves magnificent homes!  I will follow up with another post on that later, but back to Richard Neutra and Feodor Pitcairn.

It is said that Richard, Feo and Feo's wife came to this 10 acre site not far from his ancestors mansions before there was anything there; no road, nothing, just land.  The Pitcairn's loved Richard's work and summoned him to the area in hopes of building a Neutra of their own.  The story goes that the three sat on a rock and informally framed out a home from the perspective below.  This is about 1,000 or so feet looking up, their back to the woods, towards the front of the house.  The collaboration made perfect sense, since Richard's designs were mostly composed of glass and Feo's family money came from the Pittsburg Plate Glass company.  They developed double pane thermal windows a few years prior to the home's completion.  They also were able to incorporate seamless corner pane windows that would have been cost prohibitive in 1950's without the family ties.

This is what they came up with ~

The home is in perfect harmony with the site; 10 acres and that is surrounded by an 800 acre nature preserve.

"His environmental design philosophy is tuned in such a way that he places architecture directly across nature’s path, so that its materials and systems may absorb, reflect, entrap, or simply allow energy to pass through.  In effect, the architecture of Neutra took on the characteristics of a living organism, such as breathing and requiring a core temperature, so that the organisms living within its skin could do so         comfortably."

You had me at the entrance.  I was at a loss for words!
The minute you step onto the blue stone slate floor you really have to do a double take.  You are looking at magnificent cantilevered steps gracefully curving upward, but underneath the steps tucked into the corner extending to the glass wall separating the indoors from the outdoors is a little lap pool.  Pools, ponds and sources of water are another Neutra trademark.

As you begin to climb the stairs the space is so intertwined with its environment that you really need to study the architecture and materials.  The optical illusion is created when mirror is applied to the upper, outer facing stairway and back wall in the entrance that then reflects the outdoors back.  You are just immersed in the surroundings.  I was transfixed.  This is another famous characteristic of Neutra's designs.  The lines are blurred between the in and the out.  Nature is invited and welcomed in.

Notice that each step is made out of oak, again to make it seamless and speak to nature.  Metal cylinders in every other step give the illusion that the steps are additionally anchored and therefore more supported (which they are not).  They are adequately supported by steel rods under the steps that are driven into the curved railing.


Neutra's famous signature spider leg was incorporated into the fire screen.  He often embellished and pronounced the interior and exterior by using these spider legs, often in multiples.  I asked the realtor about this.  We are accustomed to seeing this detail in many of his California. designs on the exteriors.  It creates a rhythm, grounding the home into its surroundings, especially in the desert.

ph: Julius Shulman, La Jolla,CA

You can tell Richard was inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright; he worked for Frank for a time.  There are some similarities. Built in furniture that furthers Richard's design is employed, but less so than what Lloyd Wright is known for.

Platform bed frame, night tables and built in desk in master ~

View from a tub ~

An U shaped footprint allows for more family cohesiveness.  Here's the view from the living room and master suite looking toward the guest/kids wing

The warm wood and natural textures not only shift the perception of the interplay between indoors and out, but with each vist and each season there are surprises.  Neutra was inspired by the moonlight as well, so the shifting light (and dark) was considered.



Good bye sweet Pitcairn estate.  If only I had 3 million dollars (down from 6 million) to own ya.

Interested?    Realtor's website               I'll welcome you with a casserole : )

* ph: via Open House Magazine

Om for the Home

I am busy tweaking my talk scheduled for Thursday April 20th.  I am equal parts nervous and excited.  Nervous because I have never done much public speaking, but excited because I plan on doing more!  I want to "think big, play big."  If I talk to 12 or 1200, no matter.  I am going to do the best I can coming to it professionally and with integrity.  I titled it "Om for the Home" because when we hear the word Om we think of balance and a state of zen.  It's a strong vibrational word.  Vibrations are energy and energy is what our home houses.  The beauty is, we get to decide what this energy looks like.

I read a quote  once that said, "If  we go around chanting the word Om, the air around us will sparkle."  I do love sparkles!

Wish me luck!

An "I Can Do It" Attitude

I had a sense of this sculpture.  I had never seen it until I attended The Affordable Art Fair.  When I turned the corner and saw it, it stopped me in my tracks.  There it was, the wooded wall sculpture I had heard about that inspired my girlfriend to say, "I can make that," and DID!

Artist Pascal Pierme, a Frenchman who lives in Santa Fe, NM has art hanging in private collections, museum exhibitions and has garnered international recognition.  He was inspired by what he saw his grandfather do with a piece of wood.

Inspired by what Pascal did with a piece of wood, imagine the audacity of my girlfriend who saw one of Pascal's pieces in an art exhibit, fell in love with it and said to herself, "I can do that," and DID!  How many times has each of us seen something and said those very words?  How many of us said that and then actually went out and did it?  She knew with the right tools and know how she could make a similar wooden wall hanging.  First things first, she enrolled in a woodworking class.  Along the way she researched different types of wood and picked up a few wood working tools of her own so she could work on her project at home, because she grew impatient waiting in line for equipment at the studio.

This is the piece that started it all.  She soon got to work.  With enthusiasm, power tools and the drive to be productive, my girlfriend proudly hung her art on her guest room wall in no time.

 How do you think it makes her feel every time she looks at it?  Is there anything you said you could or would do but haven't?  What gets in the way?  Fear of failure, time constraints, lack of self confidence?  Whenever you are intimidated to do something, think about how good you will feel after it's done.  Use "as if" (you did it already) as the motivating factor.  The sense of self accomplishment, pride, confidence, courage, empowerment, you would feel.  The worst that can happen is it doesn't come out the way you had envisioned, but that's not really the point, is it?  Taking ACTION is the name of the game.  One step leads to the next step leads to the next, sometimes figuring it out along the way.

What's that saying?  We don't regret the things we've done, we only regret the things we didn't do when we had the chance.  My girlfriend is moving on to sculpting in stone as we speak.




Power to the People

Pink "pussy hats" as they are known with their pointed corners, came to represent solidarity and women's rights when they (we) marched on Washington.  The handmade knitted hat first became a thing for the pussyhat project  and took off from there.  They were all the rage at Missoni!  From political to spiritual, grassroots to runway, we are consciously making our intentions known!  Whether exploring feminism, immigration, global warming, spirituality, mysticism and more, there is a smorgasbord of messages to be explored.

Ashish,: Matteo Volta

Good examples of when mixed messages make sense!

Versace,ph: Gio Stainao

Francesca Liberatore

Political, ethical, sustainable was the name of the game at TOME.  The clothes were recycled from seasons past and the Peruvian alpaca applied to some of the clothing was hand knitted by women in the Andes.  Giving back has become a personal anthem by many feeling the effects of practicing gratitude and wanting to be part of a larger conversation.

#tied together is a message started by The Business of Fashion.  It was all over the runways, especially at Tommy Hilfiger.  If you see white bandanas tied around a wrist on the street, you'll know it is most likely statement making.  It is a message of unity, inclusiveness.

Michael Tommasiello with his large social media following helped speed the message that was near and dear to his heart.

ph: Adam Tschorn for LA Times

Subtle, inconspicuous messages are on trend as well.  Maybe you don't want to "hit someone over the head" with a statement making message.  Designers gave us a lesson in spirituality with their designs or the accessories that accompanied them.

The dragonfly is a symbolic spirit animal because it represents traveling between different realms.  Wearing it close to your throat means that it is to speak with an inner voice.  We are all connected to what is happening all around us.  Gucci gets it.  It is not dissimilar to wearing something red near your throat.

I have been looking for a reason to bring out my feather earrings from a few years ago.  Lanvin is doing it, so I am too!  Feathers represent an angelic realm, especially if you randomly come across one.  They move gracefully through the wind and the wind means change of direction.  Clarity and communication, like the wind move us in different directions.

Richard Tisci of Givenchy was going back to basics.  Women are fighting for empowerment all over the world, not just in America he said.  He wanted to get grounded and went back to basics ~ mother nature.

Fashion speaks volumes, literal or not.  The winds of change, magical in meaning, might make this the year of statement dressing!  Fashion does shy away from controversy.  Designers dive right in, explore and deconstruct topics of interest and inspiration and this past fashion week was as subversive as I can remember.   Show after show, models strutted their stuff dripping in slogans or symbols.   Whatever your message, there is a T-shirt for that or hat or scarf or coat or bag...

In the words of Lin Manuel Miranda, "Love is Love is Love is Love"