Tag Archives: mid-century modern design

Long Beach’s illustrious architect Edward Killingsworth

New Year’s Resolution No. 22: Check my hometown newspaper out more often. Included in the Los Angeles Times end-of-year roundup on “The 11 most popular home and garden stories of 2016,” was a piece I had missed that contained some intriguing back story on a house and garden that has been casually mentioned on the blog a couple times. That cool little house I’ve been admiring on countless dog walks happens to have been built by Long Beach’s most famous architect Edward Killingsworth (1917-2004). Never heard of him? I hadn’t either. Unlike other MCM Case Study architects like Eames, Neutra, and Saarinen, Killingsworh hasn’t become a household name. From what little reading I’ve done so far, I get the sense that branding just wasn’t where he focused his energies.


 photo la-hm-long-beach-photos-20161010-002.jpg

(photo Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times)

Not that this is a Case Study house, that experiment in residential architecture sponsored by Arts & Architecture magazine in the post-war years.
The Frank House in nearby Naples holds that enduring honor.
Strangely enough, my dog-walk house wasn’t meant to survive at all, but was hastily constructed in the 1950s to function as a temporary design model for a proposed project, the 12-story “Marina Towers.”
The Marina Towers condo project was ultimately abandoned, but Killingsworth couldn’t bear to tear down the little model house, so it was rented for a time then ultimately sold.
Apparently, subsequent rehab attempts were not kind to the architect’s vision.

The above photo shows the view of the house I’m familiar with from the vantage point of dog walks on the park across the street. That Yucca rostrata always catches my eye.

From a December 2013 post:

What they say about good bones for faces and houses applies to gardens too. Good bones will see you through some tough times. I’ve posted just a couple photos on this sweet little house and garden before. The front facade is entirely of glass, so one can’t be too obnoxious with the camera under such circumstances. But walking Ein on the park across the street from this house a couple days ago, I noticed that the landscape was being worked on, and heaps of aloes and agaves were strewn on the walkways. I gave the leash to Marty and looked closer. The house was empty. No more George Nelson bubble lamps or butterfly chairs on the balcony. The house had sold! And what on earth were the new owners doing to the garden? Did they have a deep-seated aversion to desert plants? If so, I needed to talk to them about those enormous Yucca rostrata ASAP.”

 photo la-hm-long-beach-photos-20161010-005.jpg

(photo Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times)

View through the front of house to the offshore oil islands and Bluff Park, where we used to walk the corgi. (Now 14, Ein sticks pretty close to home.)

More from the December 2013 post:

I am normally not an overly bold person, but I found myself striding across the street and up to a couple of surprised men standing amongst masses of discarded Agave attenuata. It was the new owner and the gardener, who wasn’t removing the plants but merely thinning them. The owner was an architect and loved the house and garden but said both were in terrible shape. He told me he had been seduced by the furniture seen through the glass wall, too, but when it was all removed and he gained ownership of the house, his heart sank. The magic was gone. Now he wondered if he hadn’t made a terrible mistake. The place was a mess and had not been well cared for. Amazing what a spell all the classic mid century modern furnishings had cast, and how well even a neglected desert garden looks after itself. I told him it had always been my favorite house among the much bigger mansions that lined the street opposite the park, and this seemed to brighten him up considerably. He even showed me into the backyard, which was graveled and already had mature privacy screens of clumping bamboo. It was a gem, even if the interior’s cork floors were in terrible shape. The new owner was knowledgeable about plants (clumping vs. running bamboo) and energetic. There might be a few more dragons to slay than he bargained for, but the house and garden would no doubt surpass what was here before.”

(Check out the Los Angeles Times’ slide show on the stressful but ultimately happy renovation here.)

 photo la-hm-long-beach-photos-20161010-010.jpg

(photo Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times)

The backyard in 2016.

The new owner/architect I interrupted that day in 2013 was Ted Hyman, a partner in the firm Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Architects.
He and his wife Kelly found out the house was for sale in 2013. At that point, conventional waterfront real estate wisdom was in favor of a teardown.
But the Hymans resisted the teardown route and embarked on an arduous restoration.
So I have the Hymans to thank for my continued enjoyment of this lovely house and garden on future walks (with me pushing the corgi strapped into his dog walker).

 photo la-hm-long-beach-photos-20161010-009.jpg

(photo Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times)

And how does one accomplish a faithful restoration of a home that was never meant to last?
Lots of love and respect for the spirit of the design along with copious research, including a road trip to Santa Barbara to consult the original 7-page plans.
And everything has turned out splendidly. A daughter’s wedding has been held here, and Killingsworth’s widow Laura paid an approving visit, her first since 1958.

 photo large.jpg

Killingsworth’s Opdahl house via Dwell

 photo piedmont exterior.jpg

Killingsworth’s Spalding House via SFCurbed

It is so good to be in a space where the spirit can soar, and, with all of this, it must soar with the sense of balance and proportion set up by the spaces we create.”
Edward Killingsworth, “Contemporary Architects.”


Meet The Midge

I don’t know about you, but my thoughts in spring typically turn to…tables. Chairs, too, always chairs, but that’s another post.
But I have enough big tables. I just had this discussion with Marty at the flea market last Sunday when I spied a fantastic German beer garden table and benches.
Slim, narrow, with a deep orange top and long slender benches. What a cool and potentially raucous table/seating arrangement to end a long summer day.
I hovered, I asked the price, I lingered, I sighed, I walked away. I regretted.
But, seriously, where would I put it? Nowhere, that’s where.
It’s a sad day when you come face to face with the realization that you’re out of space for beer garden tables.

What I really need…

Oh, hello!


 photo river-2000-many-tables-1.jpg

Leave it to Potted to anticipate what I really need this summer. The Midge.

 photo midge-chartreuse.jpg

So very Potted. Modern slouching into boho, with the subtle gleam and pattern of glass tiles.
It is for this very reason that I’ve never acquired a shoe habit. Two pairs of uncomfortable shoes or a Midge? Um, no contest.

 photo pittman-2000-Layer9.jpg

The Midge Table was designed by Annette Goliti Gutierrez and Mary Gray, the co-owners of Potted, who’ve brought us such new classics as The Circle Pot, The City Planter.

 photo pittman-2000-Layer6.jpg

And Annette and Mary really have our number, the bespoke one that loves the unique but hates the DIY mess. They’ve given us the option to customize Midge with contrasting “pixels.”
I know they’re looking forward to our endless deliberations on building and pixelating the perfect Midge.
Can the inner row be orange pixels, the outer row grey? No, wait, reverse that.
Okay, that’s my projection on customer relations. Potted’s version is girls going shopping.
They are the nicest, friendliest, cleverest, most helpful, ship-it-anywhere, yes-it-can-be-orange duo you’ll ever have the good fortune to know.

 photo midge-basalt-grey-with-pixels.jpg

Potted resolutely insists that their designs be made in the U.S. and that they never be something you’d even think of stowing in the garden shed at the end of summer.
You’ll bring them into your bedroom, your bathroom, your living room. Maybe your Midge never makes it outdoors at all.

We believe outdoor living is as important as indoor living. We are committed to seeking out and designing products that embrace this attitude and bring it home to your garden.”

 photo pittman-2000-Layer10.jpg

It’s been such a thrill to watch how Annette and Mary have taken the energy and enthusiasm for good design that blossomed in California mid-20th century, channeled it, personalized it, and focused it on the garden.
Their little shop in Atwater Village has now become one of the biggest and best sources for the well-designed garden.

 photo black-chair-and-table-no-blur.jpg

Beer garden table? What beer garden table? Hello, Midge…

 photo pittman-2000-Layer7.jpg