Sheats Goldstein House by John Lautner | Yellowtrace


Writing about this house is a bit like chucking in my two cents about Meryl Streep. Occupying a realm beyond mere fame, the scene-stealer of countless movies, you all have an informed and long-developed opinion, and nothing I have to say will surprise you very much. I have, however, had the good fortune to have recently been inside this house. It is highly unlikely I will ever be able to say the same about Meryl Streep.

To Lautner, to Lautner…


Sheats Goldstein House by John Lautner | Yellowtrace

Sheats Goldstein House by John Lautner | Yellowtrace


Tucked into a hillside above Los Angeles is this temple to concrete and greenery, where fabulousness has ribbed ceilings and where, more than in any other house I’ve visited, the line between what’s inside and what’s outside is so obscured you’re not sure if you’re coming or going. Built in the early 1960s for the Sheats’ – she an accomplished artist, he a doctor – the house was conceived as a modest-sized dwelling with a studio for Mrs Sheats’ artwork downstairs. It’s one of those prosaic briefs which results in a jaw-droppingly poetic realisation.

Invisible from the street, the house is slow to reveal itself to the visitor. Stepping through a low portal and following a dog-leg corridor, one arrives in a magical watery courtyard. To your left, water sheets down a low wall, a continuous waterfall which penetrates the window of the living room beyond, extending inside the house. Carp and turtles flash through the water below you, and a series of generously sized stepping stones lead you to the front door. The scale of the whole is human and domestic, but you are aware that you have entered the realm of ‘capital a’ Architecture. It’s thrilling.


Sheats Goldstein House by John Lautner | Yellowtrace

Sheats Goldstein House by John Lautner | Yellowtrace

Sheats Goldstein House by John Lautner | Yellowtrace


Through the door, the living space one enters is justifiably famous. Cave-like in its form and primitive in expression, it shelters and soars. Beyond the wedge-shaped pool glitters the skyline of Los Angeles. Dispersed about the room are angular built-in sofas of surprising comfort. It’s very hard to be in this room and not feel like a rock star. Our guide (as gloriously fab as the house she was walking us through) informed us that the little points of light studding the ceiling were glass jars placed by Mrs Sheats herself. The effect is one of countless stars – I suppose this befits the Beverly Hills setting. In the original scheme there was no glazing (oh my!), just an air curtain. This wasn’t practical and in the end was replaced by a glass wall. The frameless glass seen today is a recent refinement, a bit closer to the original concept.

In the middle of the house is the kitchen, a block of concrete and stainless steel possessed of a severe gravitas. The valley views lighten the effect of this considerably. Two bedrooms lie beyond, self-contained timbered rooms with the aforementioned panorama of the city. I’m sure on a clear day you could have seen the cast of ‘Baywatch’ running in slow-motion in far off Malibu.


Sheats Goldstein House by John Lautner | Yellowtrace

Sheats Goldstein House by John Lautner | Yellowtrace


The studio, now the bedroom of the house’s present owner, is reached by leaving the main house and dropping down a magical flight of stairs. These stairs twist on and on down into the garden. I’m not sure if the design is the work of Lautner himself or of Duncan Nicholson, his disciple who took on design work at the house following Lautner’s death in the nineties. The studio itself occupies a wedge that sticks out over the garden, its corner opening up so that the interior bleeds outwards into space. Three deep-set windows pierce the swimming pool below the water level, allowing Mrs Sheats to keep an eye on her children at play, while she worked.

The house feels prehistoric, monolithic, and built to endure. Modern additions include a James Turrell skyspace of spare beauty, and substantial additions by Nicholson in the spirit of Lautner. Over these we shall draw a veil and enjoy the mid-century concrete kernel of brilliance in a spectacular Californian estate.

If ever you get the chance to see this house yourself, take it.

Text by Luke Moloney for Yellowtrace.

Previous Sheats Goldstein House cameo appearance on Yellowtrace.


Check out the video of Snoop Dogg with Pharrel Williams at Sheats Goldstein House. Pimpin’!


[Images via of designboom, High Excess & Haute Living.]


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6 Responses

  1. Karen McCarteny

    It is a truly incredible house. We had an impromptu tour last year with Jimmy Goldstein which was memorable indeed.


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