This 6,165-square-foot structure has all of the features you’d expect from a house designed by renowned midcentury architect John Lautner: profuse amounts of wood, unusual forms and angles, dramatic design — except, of course, for the fact that it’s located more than 3,000 miles north of his usual Californian haunts, in the blustery Alaskan city of Anchorage. And as the only Lautner house in Alaska (and one of his only known designs outside of California), it’s ready for a new owner to gently resuscitate this 1960s gem that’s now on the market for $1.2 million.
Considered one of the most inspired architects of his time, Lautner was born in Michigan and later studied under the legendary Frank Lloyd Wright in the 1930s before establishing his own architecture practice in the rapidly-growing Los Angeles of 1938. He completed a series of residence and commercial projects in the 1940s and early 1950s that put his name — and signature style — on the map.
In 1956, he was approached by radio announcer Willis Harpel to design his Los Angeles home, and created an essay in mixed materials like wood and concrete in concert with a simple plan and geometric shapes. So, when Harpel and his family moved to Alaska in 1966 — by which time Lautner had already experienced some ups and downs in his career — they hired him to build their new residence as well, this time poised delicately next to a lake.
The house’s grand circular room and its lantern-like appearance on the lakefront at night earned it a six-page color spread in Life in Oct. 1967, declaring it “as big and bold as all outdoors, which is saying something in Alaska.” And for those who are in the market for something this unique, rest assured that the property has retained its magic: local real estate agent Andrea Senn of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Alaska Realty recently visited the home and notes to Dirt that “other than a few poor design choices — the walls in the great room that were originally blue and yellow have been painted cream, and the 1980’s upholstery on the curved bench seating in the great room needs to go ASAP — the home is otherwise in almost original condition.”
At more than 6,000 square feet, the home presents a relatively modest, single-story wood-clad façade to the street, but inside, visitors will find themselves in a long, paneled corridor with built-in shelving that leads to the back of the house, to the pièce de résistance the wheel-shaped grand living room that looks out to the lake below. Life described it as “big enough to hold a three-bedroom tract house,” and it comes complete with built-in seating, incredible natural light, and three totem poles (admittedly, a bit campy and even bordering on insensitive these days) that act as supports for the wood deck roof above.
Off the grand room is a raised dining area with built-in woodwork and cabinets — yes, all still original here too. The adjacent kitchen appears to have retained its original layout, but it looks like some cabinets may have been replaced with laminate doors, while others look like they might be original to the home. Daylight streams in through triangular zig-zagging windows along an exterior wall that was intended to evoke a mountain motif.
As for the bedrooms and bathrooms, they also retain their original wood cabinetry and vanities, along with wood paneling on the walls and the same triangular windows found in the kitchen. They look a bit dark, but one person’s dark and dreary is another person’s moody and authentic!
So what’s the holdup, you might be wondering? Well, says Senn, while there’s very little stand-out residential architecture in Alaska, “the property has so much deferred maintenance. A proper restoration would probably cost upward of a million dollars.” Senn thinks that it might be the perfect pet project for a wealthy L.A.-based Lautner fan, or a great opportunity for a local philanthropist to fund a non-profit for a proper restoration. Her biggest hope, though, is that the next owners don’t “buy it with a plan to remodel next summer, after Lowe’s offers the free Memorial Day upgrade on Shaker cabinets.” Touché!
Jake Fiorelli of Perfle, LLC holds the listing.