As is typical of Frank Lloyd Wright’s aim to have his houses blend into the surrounding landscape, it would be easy to walk past this modest place in tony Atherton, Calif., and not realize it was there, much less that it is an almost untouched home by one of America’s greatest architects.
Set on just under an acre, the 1,940-square-foot, three-bedroom, two-bath residence is newly listed with a hefty $8 million price tag. Given that the house is located in what what often ranks as the most expensive zip code in the nation, and that Wright only produced about 1,000 structures during his life, competition will be certainly be keen. The one-of-a-kind property is listed by Monique Lombardelli at Modern Homes Realty.
Named after the original owner Arthur Mathews, the the single-story house was designed in 1950 and completed in 1952. The house adheres to what Wright called the Usonian style, built for the emerging 1950s middle class suburban lifestyle. Usonian houses are typically characterized by flat roofs, easy-care redwood and brick accents, and open-plan layouts.
The structure’s diamond shape floor plan has two parallel wings and, instead of the usual right angles, walls meet at 120-degree or 60-degree angles. The combination living and dining room features a massive brick fireplace at one end, as well as a wood-clad vaulted ceiling and a wall of windows that frame the large terrace and pool beyond. The kitchen still sports its original cabinetry but has been updated with modern appliances.
Throughout the house are loads of original built-ins, made of Philippine mahogany, but unlike in some of Wright’s higher-end commissions, no furniture was designed specifically for this house. However, the vintage Danish modern furnishing in the house are to be included in the sale. Surrounded by old trees, the gardens were designed by Thomas Church, a famous landscape architect at the time who is sometimes referred to as the “Founder of the California Garden.”
The Arthur Mathews House has been sold only once before, in 1969 for $75,000. The buyers were Betty Porter Sox and her husband Dr. Harold Sox. Betty, who passed earlier this year, was an interesting person. Born in 1923, she graduated summa cum laude in physics from Stanford in 1946; she was hired by computer pioneer Bill Hewlett in 1956 and worked at Hewlett-Packard for 47 years, first developing a corporate payroll system and later managing the Retirement Administration.
This property represents a great heritage then: the merger between a pioneering female techie and a masterful modern architect. Of course, all that provenance, the sought-after zip code, and the bragging rights that come with them, will be costly indeed.