Up next in the series, let’s take a look at architect Craig Ellwood’s “Hoffman House,” built as Case Study House 17 in 1956. At almost twice the size of all previous Case Study homes, the expansive layout included five bedrooms, three bathrooms, and featured a U-shaped plan that provided easy access to the pool terrace from all areas inside.
But, the lavish amenities included in this residence are what really topped the other Case Study homes built up to this point. The house came tricked out with a swimming pool, tennis courts, maid’s quarters, and a protected courtyard adjacent to the children’s bedrooms. It also came equipped with built-in ceiling lights to illuminate artwork in the main entrance, which doubled as a small gallery of contemporary paintings. The lighting created the perfect ambiance for large works of art that shine best amid gallery-style simplicity.
The luxe amenities don’t quite fit with the overall minimalist aesthetic of homes in the Case Study Program, but given Ellwood’s over-the-top personality, they make perfect sense.
Craig Ellwood built his career through charm and self-promotion while living the epitome of a Hollywood lifestyle. He drove a red Ferrari with the license plate “VR00M,” and his succession of wives brought him top dollar clients while expanding his social circle. Although he never graduated as an architect and held no professional license, his achievements stand as undeniable proof of an innate talent for good design.
A fiction of his own making, even the name Craig Ellwood itself was an invention. Born Jon Nelson Burke on April 22, 1922 in Clarendon, Texas, Ellwood moved west with his family and finally settled in Los Angeles. After he graduated from Belmont High School, Ellwood, as Johnnie Burke, joined the U.S. Army Air Corps with his brother Cleve and served as a B-24 radio operator based in Victorville, California until his discharge in 1946.
Shortly thereafter, he joined forces with his brother and two friends they met in the Army, the Marzicola brothers, to start the “Craig Ellwood” construction firm, named after a liquor store called Lords and Elwood located in front of their offices on Beverly Boulevard in LA.
By the 1950s, Ellwood had a thriving practice, and emerged on the national and international scene when three of his designs were included in the Case Study Program: Case Study House 16 (Salzman House) in Bel Air, Case Study House 17 (Hoffman House) in Beverly Hills, and Case Study House 18 (Fields House) in Beverly Hills. He was named one of the “three best architects of 1957” along with Frank Lloyd Wright and Mies van der Rohe.
His rise to public fame led to numerous commissions, and his subsequent residential designs won professional acclaim for fusing the stark “International Style” of Mies van der Rohe and the steel, cage-like structure of Charles Eames with a laid-back sensibility unique to California modernism. His open and elegant floorplans demonstrated a lifestyle which was both inspirational and distinctly attainable.
Before Case Study House 17 even became a reality, the original client voiced reservations about Ellwood’s preference for stark furnishings paired with glass and steel construction. According to Ellwood, the client’s rigid limitations sullied his original design to the point that he considered it the least good of his three Case Study Homes.
When the house changed hands in 1962, house decorator John Woolf and his son, Robert Koch Woolf, were not so shy about expressing their disinterest in Ellwood’s spartan design. They immediately ripped out the interior and added Doric columns to the steel uprights “in order to give this beautifully made contemporaneous building a patina of age.” The once unassuming exterior was transformed into a Greek temple with a Hollywood Regency street facade, and by the time they were done, the massive remodel altered the house beyond recognition.
House Beautiful magazine published photos of the reimagined house with rave reviews. Meanwhile, when asked about this building, Ellwood balked at the rinky-dink makeover.
“The new buyer for the Case Study House had bought it for speculation really, and he turned it into — if you know the Trousdale area of Los Angeles — this kind of phony, bastard modern style. They put pots on top of my steel columns and painted the nice brickwork pink, as I recall. I haven’t seen the house in many years. Last time I saw it, it was chaos,” he said.
Yet, the remodel did more to emphasize the simple genius behind Ellwood’s original blueprint than it did to obscure it. The “before” and “after” versions of the interior courtyard differed more in style than in content, and ultimately showcased the neoclassicism latent in Mid-Century design.
Jane Patton received a B.A. in journalism from Columbia College, and studied graphic design in the continuing studies program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She grew up in Southern California, and is a passionate enthusiast and collector of Mid-Century art and furniture.
The Case Study Houses were experiments in American residential architecture sponsored by Arts & Architecture magazine, which commissioned major architects of the day, including Richard Neutra, Raphael Soriano, Craig Ellwood, Charles and Ray Eames, Pierre Koenig, Eero Saarinen, A. Quincy Jones, Edward Killingsworth, and Ralph Rapson to design and build inexpensive and efficient model homes for the United States residential housing boom caused by the end of World War II and the return of millions of soldiers.
The program ran intermittently from 1945 until 1966. The first six houses were built by 1948 and attracted more than 350,000 visitors. While not all 36 designs were built, most of those that were constructed were built in Los Angeles, and one was built in San Rafael, Northern California and Phoenix, Arizona each. Of the unbuilt houses #19 was to have been built in Atherton, in the San Francisco Bay Area, while #27 was to have been built on the east coast, in Smoke Rise, New Jersey.
A number of the houses appeared in the magazine in iconic black-and-white photographs by architectural photographer Julius Shulman.
List of Case Study Houses
|Number||Name||Architect(s)||Publication||Constructed||Status||Address||City||Arts & Architecture|
|1||J. R. Davidson||February 1945||1945||Unbuilt||CSH#1|
|1||J. R. Davidson||February 1948||1948||Extant||10152 Toluca Lake Avenue||North Hollywood||CSH#1||VGT|
|2||Sumner Spaulding and John Rex||August 1947||1947||Extant||857 Chapea Road||Pasadena||CSH#2||VGT|
|3||William Wurster and Theodore Bernardi||March 1949||1949||Demolished||13187 Chalon Road||Los Angeles||CSH#3||VGT|
|4||Greenbelt House||Ralph Rapson||September 1945||1989||Exhibit: Museum of Contemporary Art of Los Angeles||CSH#4|
|5||Loggia House||Whitney R. Smith||April 1946||Unbuilt||CSH#5|
|6||Omega||Richard Neutra||October 1945||Unbuilt||CSH#6|
|7||Thornton Abell||July 1948||1948||Extant||6236 North Deerfield Avenue||San Gabriel||CSH#7||VGT|
|8||Eames House||Charles and Ray Eames||December 1949||1949||Extant||203 Chautauqua Boulevard||Pacific Palisades||CSH#8||VGT|
|9||Entenza House||Charles Eames and Eero Saarinen||July 1950||1949||Extant||205 Chautauqua Boulevard||Pacific Palisades||CSH#9||VGT, VGT|
|10||Kemper Nomland and Kemper Nomland, Jr.||October 1947||1947||Significantly Altered||711 South San Rafael Avenue||Pasadena||CSH#10||VGT|
|11||J. R. Davidson||July 1946||1946||Demolished||540 South Barrington Avenue||West Los Angeles||CSH#11|
|12||Whitney R. Smith||February 1946||Unbuilt||CSH#12|
|13||Alpha||Richard Neutra||March 1946||Unbuilt||CSH#13|
|15||J. R. Davidson||January 1947||1947||Extant||4755 Lasheart Drive||La Cañada Flintridge||CSH#15||VGT|
|16||Rodney Walker||February 1947||1947||Demolished||9945 Beverly Grove Drive||Beverly Hills||CSH#16|
|17A||Rodney Walker||July 1947||1947||Extant||7861 Woodrow Wilson Drive||Los Angeles||CSH#17||VGT|
|17B||Craig Ellwood||March 1956||1956||Remodeled Beyond Recognition||9554 Hidden Valley Road||Beverly Hills||CSH#17|
|18A||West House||Rodney Walker||February 1948||1948||Extant||199 Chautauqua Boulevard||Pacific Palisades||CSH#18||VGT|
|18B||Fields House||Craig Ellwood||June 1958||1958||Remodeled Beyond Recognition||1129 Miradero Road||Beverly Hills||CSH#18||VGT|
|19A||Don Knorr||September 1947||Unbuilt||CSH#19|
|20A||Stuart Bailey House||Richard Neutra||December 1948||1948||Extant||219 Chautauqua Boulevard||Pacific Palisades||CSH#20||VGT|
|20B||Bass House||C. Buff, C. Straub, D. Hensman||November 1958||1958||Extant||2275 Santa Rosa Avenue||Altadena||CSH#20|
|21A||Richard Neutra||May 1947||Unbuilt||CSH#21|
|21B||Walter Bailey House||Pierre Koenig||February 1959||1958||Extant||9038 Wonderland Park Avenue||West Hollywood||CSH#21||VGT|
|1950||Raphael Soriano||December 1950||1950||Remodeled||1080 Ravoli Drive||Pacific Palisades||CSH1950||VGT|
|1953||Craig Ellwood||June 1953||1953||Extant||1811 Bel Air Road||Bel-Air||CSH1953||VGT|
|22||Stahl House||Pierre Koenig||June 1960||1960||Extant||1635 Woods Drive||Los Angeles||CSH#22||VGT|
|23||Triad||Killingsworth, Brady, Smith & Assoc.||March 1961||1960||Extant (23A and 23C), 23B Remodeled Beyond Recognition||2329 (C), 2342 (A) and 2343 (B) Rue de Anne ||La Jolla||CSH#23||VGT|
|24||A. Quincy Jones and Frederick E. Emmons||December 1961||Unbuilt||CSH#24|
|25||Frank House||Killingsworth, Brady, Smith & Assoc.||December 1962||1962||Extant||82 Rivo Alto Canal||Long Beach||CSH#25||VGT|
|26||Harrison House||Beverley "David" Thorne||January 1963||1963||Extant||177 San Marino Drive||San Rafael||CSH#26||VGT|
|27||Campbell and Wong||June 1963||Unbuilt||CSH#27|
|28||Case Study House #28||C. Buff and D. Hensman||September 1965||1966||Extant||91 Inverness Road||Thousand Oaks||CSH#28||VGT|
|Apt 1||Alfred N. Beadle and Alan A. Dailey||September 1964||1964||Extant||4402 28th Street||Phoenix, Arizona||CSApts#1||VGT|
|Apt 2||Killingsworth, Brady, Smith & Assoc.||May 1964||Unbuilt||CSApts#2|
- Entenza, John (January 1945) "Announcement: The Case Study House Program". Arts and Architecture
- McCoy, Esther. "Case Study Houses". 2nd edition. 1977, ISBN, Hennessey & Ingalls
- Smith, Elizabeth A. T. (1989). Blueprints for Modern Living: History and Legacy of the Case Study Houses. Cambridge: MIT Press. ISBN.
- Smith, Elizabeth and Peter Goessel (2002). Case Study Houses: The Complete CSH Program,. Taschen. ISBN.
- Smith, Elizabeth A. T. (2007). Case Study Houses. Taschen. ISBN 978-3-8228-4617-9.
- Travers, David (January 2007) "About Arts & Architecture" Arts & Architecture website - accessed March 3, 2009