There is such an overabundance of fabulous midcentury architecture in Southern California that many residences fly completely under the radar, receiving no publicity at all despite their exquisite craftsmanship. Case in point? Sturm House #1, a split-level post-and-beam stunner nestled into the verdant hills of Encino at 3819 Hayvenhurst Ave. Without even so much as a mention in “An Architectural Guidebook to Los Angeles,” the David Gebhard and Robert Winter-penned tome that has been called the “seminal vade mecum of Los Angeles architecture,” nor a listing on US Modernist, one of the preeminent digital catalogs of MCM properties located throughout the world, the abode is a bona fide hidden gem! But thanks to a recent cameo on Apple TV+s “Truth Be Told,” it is finally getting some much-deserved attention. (Please remember this is a private home. Do not trespass or bother the residents or the property in any way.)
The latest season of the gritty mystery series, which hit the streamer late last month and is set to run through the end of March, chronicles true crime podcaster Poppy Scoville (Octavia Spencer), as she investigates her latest case, a spate of teen disappearances and murders involving sex trafficking in what is purported to be Oakland, Calif. (Spoiler – filming actually takes place in L.A.) Her probe leads her straight to Sturm House #1, which is showcased in all of its cantilevered glory in a brief scene in the episode titled “Her, Armed With Sorrow Sore.”
In real life, the boxy residence is the work of famed MCM architect Richard Dorman, FAIA, who, per the L.A. Conservancy, “helped shape the midcentury modern landscape of Los Angeles, from homes for wealthy clients to commercial and industrial buildings.” The two-story dwelling was one of Dorman’s first solo commissions following his time as assistant chief designer for Welton Becket and Associates, a position he vacated in 1956 in order to establish his own firm.
Per building permits, Sturm House #1 was commissioned by the GMB Corporation, an Encino-based developer responsible for numerous midcentury properties in the area, including several designed by celebrated architect Edward Fickett, as well as the so-called Coronation Home, an all-electric model residence built at the Pan-Pacific Auditorium for the 1953 American Institute of Architects Home Show and named in honor of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, which took place later that same year. Incredibly, once the exhibit wrapped, the dwelling was picked up and moved in its entirety to its current location at 5045 Louise Ave., where it still stands today, though it has since been thoroughly modernized.
Just a couple of miles away, abutting a pristine grove of oak trees, is the Sturm residence. Upon its completion in 1957, the four-bedroom, three-bath, 2,460-square-foot property was sold to Dr. Frederick Sturm, a prominent Van Nuys psychiatrist, and his wife, Julie Perrett Sturm. The pad’s unusual moniker stems from the fact that the couple later commissioned Dorman to design a second, much larger residence at 344 S. Canyon View Dr. in Brentwood. Erected in 1965, that structure eventually became known as Sturm House #2 and the Encino pad Sturm House #1.
The latter must have been hard for the couple to part with. Boasting a gorgeous peaked wood-beam roof, floor-to-ceiling glass walls, clerestory windows and a cadre of floating cabinets and closets, the property is an architecture aficionado’s dream.
Spacious, open and bright, the living areas include an eat-in kitchen, a dining room and a family room with a built-in teak bar and a large wood-burning fireplace that was originally crafted out of Riverstone but has since been refashioned.
The spacious owners’ suite comes complete with his and her baths, a library and gorgeous views of the leafy surroundings.
The lush lot, which seems leagues larger than its 0.34 acres, features a dedicated sports court, a pool and a spa (both of which were added to the premises in 1978) and a patio with a fire pit and circular seating.
The residence also boasts a laundry room and a carport with space for two vehicles and a store room.
The pad last hit the market in June 2020 for just over $1.6 million. Offered by Claudia Border of Power Brokers International (who was kind enough to share some MLS images, captured by real estate photographer Michael Stone, with Dirt), the dwelling was offloaded just two months later for $1.925 million, more than $300,000 over asking! Prior to that, the property hadn’t changed hands since being sold for $570,000 in March 2000.
In “Her, Armed with Sorrow Sore” (the title of which comes from the William Blake poem “The Little Girl Found”), Poppy heads to Sturm House #1 with her investigative partner Markus Killebrew (Mekhi Phifer) and local Oakland high school principal Eva Pierre (Gabrielle Union) to interview a wealthy john named Dr. Bruno Pascal (Chris McKenna).
The house’s appearance in the episode is short but oh-so-sweet, definitely leaving a mark on audiences, as MCM properties have a tendency to do when featured onscreen.
As evidenced in the episode and per building permits, the interior has been remodeled slightly since the 2020 sale, with new cabinetry and lighting fixtures tastefully installed, both very much in keeping with the place’s midcentury roots but elevating the aesthetic considerably.
“Truth Be Told” is not the first time location managers descended upon the neighborhood. Sturm House #1 is actually surrounded by a slew of famous properties. Steve Sanders’ (Ian Ziering) abode from “Beverly Hills, 90210” is just up the bend at 16711 Bosque Dr., Roger Azarian’s (Matthew Perry) pad, also from “90210,” is around the corner at 4825 Louise Ave., as is Cher Horowitz’s (Alicia Silverstone) “Clueless” residence, which can be found at 5148 Louise Ave. Most notable of all is controversial pop star Michael Jackson’s longtime family home, which stands just a mile north at 4641 Hayvenhurst.
Even amongst a sea of storied dwellings, though, Sturm House #1 truly stands out.