In case you haven’t heard, Modernism Week is almost upon us. Now in its 19th year, the annual festival celebrating midcentury architecture, art and design kicks off in Palm Springs this Thursday. In honor of the occasion, over the next couple of weeks, Dirt will also be shining a spotlight on the ever-popular design movement, with extra focus to be directed at less well-known projects and practitioners.
For starters, let’s take a look at the Termini Residence, designed in 1959 by organic modernist James De Long. A native of Eagle Rock, De Long was on his way to Columbia University to study architecture in 1946 when he took a detour to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West in Arizona. During this visit, De Long made such a favorable impression on Wright, he was offered an apprenticeship, and never finished the drive to Columbia.
After spending a year as a Taliesin fellow, De Long returned to Los Angeles to establish his own architectural practice. His first solo projects were a pair of Usonian homes built between 1949 and 1951 on an out-of-the-way cul-de-sac at the top of Mount Washington. Awarded Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument status in 1994, these two early projects have long been on the radar of L.A. architecture aficionados, but few were aware of the existence of a third De Long-designed house on the same block — that is, until a few days ago, when the Termini home surfaced on the market for the first time ever.
Illustrating the enduring appeal of the modernist principles espoused by Wright and his acolytes, this past weekend’s open houses created such fervent interest, at one point, the line of people waiting to get inside stretched all the way to the street. “About 500 people went through the house this weekend,” says Compass agent Lorraine Getz, who represents the listing along with Armen Sarkissian of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California. “It was like a nightclub!”
The redwood-clad residence was designed for Frank and Olga Termini. Frank, a tailor, shared the home with Olga until his death in 1979, while Olga, a professor of music at Cal State university, continued to inhabit the house until she passed earlier this year.
Surrounded by mature oak, elm, pine, and eucalyptus trees, the well-preserved home disperses three bedrooms and two bathrooms — one baby-blue, the other petal-pink — within 2,168 square feet. In addition to the colorful bath tile and matching fixtures, original details include beautiful wood paneling, built-in desks and bookshelves, aggregate concrete flooring, period lighting, numerous skylights, and the all-important walls of glass that help maintain a constant connection to nature and offer spectacular panoramic vistas all the way to the ocean.
Sited on a neatly landscaped lot just shy of a quarter-acre, the property is asking $2.098 million, but given this weekend’s turn-out, the competition to become its second-ever owner is liable to be fierce.