[ad_1]

Slavin House in Santa Barbara has it all: impeccable mid-century modern lines. An outdoor pool with an expansive ocean view. A star designer — Richard Neutra — who was “one of the most influential architects of the twentieth century,” according to the LA Conservancy

This legendary mid-century modern home is up for sale in California’s Central Coast, but even in the state’s breakneck real estate market, Slavin House is languishing. 

A desert house in Palm Springs designed by Richard Neutra for Edgar J. Kaufmann. Lita Baron, far left, approaches Helen Dzo Dzo, left, and Nelda Linsk, wife of art dealer Joseph Linsk.

Slim Aarons/Getty Images

Other rare gems are highly sought after, and snapped up for a premium before they even get a chance to hit the market. Yet there’s no signs of a new owner on the immediate horizon for 1322 Dover Road, asking $10.5 million.

The placement of the home alone should draw interest without the marquee name attached. The property is seemingly suspended in midair, with panoramic views, and perched high above the Pacific. It’s set back from the street on a private nearly 1-acre parcel on the most desired road in the Riviera neighborhood — just a 10-minute walk downhill to Santa Barbara Bowl and the State Street commercial corridor. At night, the downtown lights twinkle before it. During the day, the home is flooded with natural light. And every sunset into the Pacific comes at you in something slightly better than CinemaScope. 

So why is this Neutra not selling? 

‘He was, in a word, impossible’

The architect himself had a storied reputation. Known for the homes he designed for wealthy clients, he was also the stereotype of a temperamental artist. 

Austrian American architect Richard Neutra. Vienna. 1969. Photograph by Nora Schuster. 

Austrian American architect Richard Neutra. Vienna. 1969. Photograph by Nora Schuster. 

Imagno/Getty Images

Richard Neutra, Alex Ross wrote in a sprawling deep dive into the ego-driven, quirky and ever-more-recognizable mid-century icon in the Sept. 20, 2021, issue of the New Yorker, “is one of those artists, like Gertrude Stein and Mark Rothko, who present a fundamental contradiction between their personality and their work. The houses are tranquil and graceful; the man who made them could be pompous, overbearing, needy, exasperating.”

“He was, in a word, impossible,” Ann Brown, the original owner of a 1968 Neutra in Washington, D.C., told Ross. 

But for all his hubris and personal foibles, Neutra’s work in recent years has been pushed into prominence, preserved and embraced. 

In the trendy Los Angeles neighborhood of Silver Lake, hipsters snap photos of the Neutra VDL, a converted residence with dramatic lines and comfy interior. The National Historic Landmark houses a nonprofit and features architectural and artistic exhibits, as well as installations and performances. 

Issues with the Slavin House

Neutra’s other homes have sold for even more than what the Slavin House’s owner is asking. In 2020, Tremaine House in Montecito was picked up in an off-market sale for a cool $12 million in 2020 by Franz von Holzhausen, the designer behind the 1997 Volkswagen Beetle. Today, he helms Tesla’s design team and is responsible for its fleet, including the brutalist Cybertruck.

The view from the pool at the Slavin House in Santa Barbara's Riviera neighborhood. The house has sat on the market for months. The home, listed for $10.5 million, partially burned down last year, but the original plans were spared.  

The view from the pool at the Slavin House in Santa Barbara’s Riviera neighborhood. The house has sat on the market for months. The home, listed for $10.5 million, partially burned down last year, but the original plans were spared.  

Photo Courtesy of Jim Carr

The Tremaine House fits in with the latter’s aesthetic. In sharp contrast to the low-slung and sprawling Spanish and Tudor and ranch house compounds that dot the Montecito hills and valleys, the Tremaine House is poured blocks of concrete, a medium Neutra had the foresight to use and protect the compound against the area’s inevitable fires and floods. The use of unfinished concrete in the interiors has now become a staple in contemporary architecture. The home is often described as a “stunning example” of Neutra’s work. 

A home designed by famed architect Richard Neutra photographed on Friday, Dec. 21, 2018, in San Francisco. 

A home designed by famed architect Richard Neutra photographed on Friday, Dec. 21, 2018, in San Francisco. 

San Francisco Chronicle/Hearst N/San Francisco Chronicle via Gett

So, once more, why isn’t the Tremaine House’s counterpart, the one with the actual views, creating so much as a stir? 

“I don’t know, I don’t really have the answer,” Jim Carr, the Slavin House’s current owner as well as the real estate agent representing himself as the seller, told SFGATE. “Neutra’s considered by many as being up there in modern American history, him and Frank Lloyd Wright are No. 1 and No. 2. I don’t know why it sits.”


The answer likely lies in the state of the home itself, which Carr is happy to address. The biggest issue: a fire at the home on May 8, 2021, that took out much of the original 1955 structure.

Acting Santa Barbara Fire Department division Chief Mike DePonce told Noozhawk at the time of the incident that most of the Slavin House went up in smoke in the span of a single morning. 

Perhaps more forebodingly, the fire also revealed the home was built in a precarious and difficult-to-access area. There were “pretty extensive hose lays to get up the hill to the structure,” DePonce said.

“I can tell it was a challenging … deployment for them,” he added. 

Neutra VDL located at 2300 Silver Lake Blvd. was built in 1932. 

Neutra VDL located at 2300 Silver Lake Blvd. was built in 1932. 

Sylvain GRANDADAM/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

The good news is the original plans for the building survived the blaze. “Miraculously,” real estate agents Molly and Randy Haden said in an August 2021 statement following Carr’s acquisition of the burned-out Slavin House for $2.7 million, “the new owners … have a passion for architecture, intend to restore and rebuild this local landmark home to its original glory.” 

While Carr estimates the footprint of the entire property, including home, foundation, landscaping and pool is 50% or less intact, the actual building is 10% to 20% of what it was pre-blaze. 

Still, he sees the fire as more of an inconvenience in the big picture of the property’s significance. 

“The value is more in the way art is evaluated,” he says. “It’s not about how much the paint costs and paintbrush and canvas, the thing that makes it valuable is the artist who created it. There’s an element of that conceivably or potentially in this property.” 

Carr’s assessment might not be too far off. Most mid-century gems, including the Neutra VDL and the Tremaine House, have undergone significant renovations and upgrades to be brought up to seismic and structural code as well as to be in line with current ADA standards.

A Richard Neutra house in the Hollywood hills, like many Neutras, has been restored back to the way it was when built. 

A Richard Neutra house in the Hollywood hills, like many Neutras, has been restored back to the way it was when built. 

Ricardo DeAratanha/Los Angeles Times via Getty Imag

As such, Carr says he’s currently spending “a long time, a really a long time …with the city to obtain a permit and demolish the burned-down [part of the] building.”

He says he’s also working on obtaining the building permit and is, right now, committed to completing the restoration work should the right buyer not come to light. “I’m a real estate broker, and so I choose to advertise it for sale while I do this,” he says. “I’m pressing forward to build the house and … if somebody else just has to have it, then they can talk to me.” 

Paying a big premium for a fixer-upper

Beyond the task of completing major work on the property and agreeing to restore the building to spec, there is a matter of price to consider. 

Built by architect Richard Neutra, the VDL house in trendy Silver Lake is seen as the epitome of California living. Its innovation and staying power has bolstered Neutra's reputation in recent years. 

Built by architect Richard Neutra, the VDL house in trendy Silver Lake is seen as the epitome of California living. Its innovation and staying power has bolstered Neutra’s reputation in recent years. 

ANN JOHNASSON/NYT

Carr originally listed the building for $10 million on March 16. He then bumped the price up to $10.5 million on April 3. If he gets what he’s asking, the 3,580-square-foot main home would run the new buyer $2,933 per square foot — and that’s before the cost of renovations. To put that into perspective, the price per square foot in Manhattan, currently the most expensive in the world, is $1,611. 

Is Carr simply asking too much? Maybe. The market in Santa Barbara, like much of the rest of California, has spiked in the pandemic era. Because of the continued desirability of the area and low inventory juxtaposed with inflation and the uptick in interest rates, Santa Barbra is currently experiencing wild swings

Still, Carr is not far off from what real estate websites say the home is worth. The Zillow estimate currently values the home at $10,184,200. However, there’s at least one current mid-century comp in the neighborhood, albeit without the history and the architect, and it’s listed for considerably less. It’s also still fully intact. 

Have we ruined mid-century modern? 

Beyond the fire and the price tag, there’s the question of whether we’ve exhausted our appetite for mid-century modern, and how that, if anything, might inform the interest in the Slavin House.

Donald and Ann Brown's Washington, D.C., home was designed by architect Richard Neutra and constructed in 1968. 

Donald and Ann Brown’s Washington, D.C., home was designed by architect Richard Neutra and constructed in 1968. 

The Washington Post/The Washington Post via Getty Im

“I absolutely have opinions on this,” Melissa Warner Rothblum, a principal at Massucco Warner, an LA- and Seattle-based design firm with roots in San Francisco, tells SFGATE. “There can be questions in a potential owner’s mind: Does this house fit my needs and what’s happening now? And does this house feel too architecturally important? 

“Right now — as they tend to — tastes are changing.”

Rothblum says the current mid-century modern revival is losing steam after more than a decade. People are starting to move on. “I feel like five, six, seven years ago this kind of the cool thing to do,” she says. “The hip trendy thing was to have a that very brand of mid-century style in your home.”

But now that style has been filtered and watered down. “You recognize it instantly,” Rothblum notes. 

“The tapered leg, the sheepskin throw, the neutral colors,” she continues. “People took mid-century and they made it kind of ranchy — it’s now really the norm. I think when it becomes too mainstream everywhere, every coffee shop, everything — it’s not exciting to your eyes anymore.

“It’s been a dark time and something that’s bright, that is nice and colorful — people are starting to look beyond what we’ve been seeing.”

Rothblum says people are currently into “more color and pattern and layering.”

A view of Richard Neutra-designed Lovell House in 1991 in Los Angeles. 

A view of Richard Neutra-designed Lovell House in 1991 in Los Angeles. 

Santi Visalli/Getty Images

“Now we’re moving from the 1950s and ’60s into the ’80s and ’90s in terms of decor. We’re seeing big round legs on things, bolder colors, brighter patterns. It’s funny I feel like clients have us do walk-throughs asking what they can do with a space — and I haven’t … I haven’t walked anything truly original mid-century in a while.”

‘These projects can be scary’

Rothblum says interior standards are increasingly less rigid when it comes to refurbishing notable spaces like the Slavin House. That being said, she acknowledges those types of endeavors always end up on the difficult end of the spectrum.

“Those projects can be scary,” she says, “Scary in a sense that any time you’re working on a home with historical significance you’re trying to understand what is the history of this home. Why did they do this? Why is something a little quirky and how does it make sense? It’s a mystery. Understanding the back story and doing a little more homework is part of it.”

Current owner Carr agrees. And for now he believes the perfect buyer hasn’t surfaced on the Slavin House because, frankly, not everyone has the appetite for the amount of homework, paperwork and actual restoration — or even an appreciation for the home’s simple, boxy style in the first place.

Architect Richard Neutra on the Aug. 15, 1949, cover of Time Magazine

Architect Richard Neutra on the Aug. 15, 1949, cover of Time Magazine

Photo Courtesy of Jim Carr

“For me, I don’t care what the house looks at from the outside,” he says. “I care what it looks like from the inside out — that’s why I like the 100% glass on this Neutra. But, I don’t think a glass house is attractive compared to a Tudor for example — there’s not much you can do. It can look like a 7-Eleven from the outside but the magnificence is on the inside you have the most unimaginable living, the beautiful view and it’s just remarkable — it’s a wonderful way to live.”

But the question remains, whether the work is completed by Carr or an as-yet-unknown buyer who steps up; is the Slavin House lost to a fire and changing tastes, or can it find new life as a stunning example of mid-century modern in Santa Barbara?

“Of course,” Carr says. “It already is.” 



[ad_2]

Source link