Neutra and Lustig, 1954.
At 18, Lustig was “smitten by the look of the new modern homes in the Silver Lake district of Los Angeles designed by Richard Neutra. On impulse, Lustig telephoned Neutra, expressing his admiration and explaining that he was interested in modern art and architecture but could not find books on the subject. Charmed by Lustig’s forthrightness, Neutra gave the young man access to his personal library.”
Because we don’t have Lustig’s original plans and specifications, our restoration is in many ways a Lustig-Neutra mashup.The space is Lustig’s, but the colors and materials are Neutra’s: the natural redwood trellis, the silver fascia board and window frames, the ivory exterior paint (taken from Neutra’s Kaufmann Desert House, among others), the pale yellow interior walls.
We’re guessing that Lustig, smitten as he was by the look of those new modern homes in Silver Lake, would approve. That’s all we can do.
Neutra & Lustig
Rockabilly lighter trick
LA day of the dead / dia de los Muertos
Lucky Buddha beer/ cool bottle design.
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Introducing the Alvin Lustig House—a.k.a. the William H. Thomas Residence.
In May, my wife and I purchased a small home in the Silver Lake area of Los Angeles.
It turns out to have a very interesting history. Unknown and unpublished until now, it seems to be one of only two houses designed and built by the great Alvin Lustig before his death at age 40 in 1955.
The first clue was the cement tiles pictured above. They used to exist in only one place: on the facade of the Beverly Carlton Hotel, which is now called The Avalon and which Lustig also designed.
Then we found them in our bathroom.
The second clue was a classified ad from the November 1958 issue of Arts & Architecture (above). “House designed by Alvin Lustig,” it read.
This is the only explicit mention of Lustig’s name in connection to any built residential structure other than the June Wayne residence, and the description matches our new house precisely. My guess is that it was placed in the magazine by the house’s original owner, JBL chief Bill Thomas, who moved to Los Feliz that year and who always told friends and visitors that his house was designed by Lustig, according to his son Christopher.
After some digging—most of it by the house’s previous owner, Andy Hackman—the full story has finally been uncovered:
Alvin Lustig and William H. (Bill) Thomas likely made acquaintance in the late 1930’s while students at Los Angeles City College. Lustig was an upstart graphic designer, printer, and educator, and Thomas was a brilliant engineer and businessman.
In 1939, while at Kittell Muffler, and later with various other companies in which Thomas had established an interest, Thomas hired Lustig to design brochures. In 1944, Lustig designed an innovative helicopter for the Roteron company, a commission from and collaboration with Thomas. In the mid 1940s, Lustig also designed brochures and speaker cabinet enclosures for JBL (James B. Lansing), a company that Thomas would come to control and own in 1949 upon Lansing’s death.
During 1946 and 1947, Thomas commissioned Lustig to design his residence in Silver Lake, Calif. It was near this same time that Lustig and Sam Reisbord, a licensed architect, began work on the Beverly Carlton Hotel (now the Avalon Hotel) and the Beverly-Landau Apartments, both in Beverly Hills, Calif.
During the early post-war period, Lustig provided interior design and furnishings services for a number of close acquaintances in the Fairfax area of Los Angeles along with designing a large scale residence for the artist June Wayne in 1949 above Sunset Plaza in West Hollywood. The Thomas residence of 1946-1947 is believed to be Lustig’s first full expression of residential design and the only known example other than the later Wayne residence.
Renovations are currently underway, and our goal is to restore this lost modernist gem to its original luster.
For updates on the process—as well as more information on Alvin Lustig and his designs—bookmark or follow my new site, The Lustig House.
P.S. Tragically, the house did not cost us $32,500.