The Case Study Houses Program also included the participation of Richard Neutra, who designed the Case Study House #20 (the Bailey House) in 1948.
When the no. 20 was built, Richard Neutra was the most well-known and respected architect taking part in the Case Study Houses program. The main features of this house, simple lines and an extensive use of glass, steel and wood, were the architect signature for most of his late 40s projects.
The assignment was to build an affordable house for a young family, the Baileys, easily expandable over time as the members of the family, and financial resources, were growing.
For the Case Study House #20, Richard Neutra faced two very common issues of that time: a limited square footage and low budget. Two-bedrooms only houses were the rule for young families after the war: keeping the size and budget low was mandatory. However, in this case, the abundance of land surrounding the house allowed for future additions.
For an architect as Richard Neutra, the space-limitation was an easy challenge which he solved designing flexible spaces, furnished with multipurpose pieces and fittings but also borrowing space from the outdoors.
The kitchen, as an example, opens to the backyard which becomes the dining area or can be used for outside house-works. Even the car porch could be eventually closed and roofed to obtain an extra room.
Richard Neutra’s Case Study House #20 has a simple facade on the street side and opens up in the backyard. Sliding glass doors that connect private rooms and common areas directly with the outdoors were a solution adopted for other houses of the project, as the Case Study House 18.
The wide, glass and aluminium sliding doors open the living area to a slate paved terrace, a patio with an amazing sea-view, which helped to gain living areas for its dwellers.
Following the principles of a flexible furnishing, Neutra arranged the beds to get as much natural light as possible while a proper lighting system made them also suitable as sofas, so that people could easily read and relax.
A widely adopted solution to reduce future redecorating costs and maintenance of Mid-century houses, was to use natural materials to panel walls and ceilings. The the Case Study Houses were no exception.
Richard Neutra used different types of wood to decorate each room. Light birchwood for the bedrooms, walnut wood as a contrast in the living room and kitchen to balance its enamel finished fittings. He chose mahogany for the dining area while light elm decorates the entryway.
The common space is lightened by a series of continuous east windows, a large glass front door and a window facing the patio.
Hidden lights in the ceiling and unnoticeable light fittings over the dining table create an highly flexible lighting scheme for different needs and room’s usage. Neutra paid attention to every detail, to optimize the living experience of the Bailey family.
The closet doors were as important as the color of the slate paving, because the whole and the details had to work together to make even a simple two-bedroom house a success.
Photo by Mark Haddawy