May 12, 2020

Cal Poly Pomona Renovates Neutra VDL Studio and Residences Historic Landmark

Neutra VDL Studio and Residences. Photography by David Hartwell.

Silverlake might have its share of fine modernist homes, but few are as important—or downright lovely—as the Neutra VDL Studio and Residences, which Richard Neutra built in 1932 and then rebuilt after a fire in 1965. Frank Lloyd Wright, Charles and Ray Eames, J. Krishnamurti, and Linus Pauling all partied there, while Raphael Soriano and Donald Wexler learned the ropes in this textbook example of a glass house.

Arne Jacobsen’s 1960s Eklipta Wall Lamp shines in spun aluminum and hand-blown white opal glass by Louis Poulsen. Photography by David Hartwell.

The National Historic Landmark is now under stewardship of Cal Poly Pomona, whose resident director Professor Sarah Lorenzen has just finished a decade-plus renovation of its 2,100 square feet, including three bedrooms and baths, two kitchens, a penthouse lounge, and a 1,100-square-foot garden house. For the finishing touch, she partnered with Knoll and Louis Poulsen to create exact reproductions of the original furnishings. “While much is built-in, as this was Neutra’s preference,” Lorenzen says, “the loose furniture gives the spaces more defined uses, and scale to the rooms. And when we first put the curtains back in, the house was completely transformed. It became softer and quieter, and also more complex.”

A Vilhelm Lauritzen floor lamp in spun aluminum and brushed brass by Louis Poulsen illuminates Neutra’s Lovell recliner, produced by VS. Photography by David Hartwell.

Simpler was reinstalling much of the original building material, including the VCT flooring used throughout the main house. “It’s still available in the exact same pattern and color,” she says. “It is still the least expensive material out there. This just goes to show that you can produce a great building with inexpensive materials, as long as the architecture is artful and thoroughly considered.” And wasn’t that the crucial lesson of Modernism, anyway?

Vilhelm Lauritzen designed the table lamp in the late 1930s, now in spun aluminum and brushed brass by Louis Poulsen. Photography by David Hartwell.
An original Hans Olsen Bikini chair sits beneath a 1957 Arne Jacobsen spun steel lamp by Louis Poulsen. Photography by David Hartwell.
Poul Henningsen’s 1925 floor lamps are now in high-lustre chrome with white opal glass shades by Louis Poulsen. Photography by David Hartwell.
Florence Knoll’s settee boasts a polished-chrome steel frame and legs and Knoll Textiles Cato upholstery. Photography by David Hartwell.
Neutra’s Boomerang chair, produced by VS, takes pride of place on a patio. Photography by David Hartwell.

Read next: Kettal Helps Rebuild Richard Neutra’s VDL House into a Modern-Day Penthouse

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