Case Study House #1

While Janey and I visited the Walt Disney Studio in Burbank last week we also decided to take a look at Case Study House #1. However, saying that the house in the photo above is the first Case Study House would be bending the truth a little. There is quite a history to the first Case Study House and its architect Julius Ralph Davidson.

Julius Ralph Davidson immigrated to the United States in 1923, working as a set designer for famed film director Cecil B. De Mille. He also began to design interiors, furniture and fixtures while remodeling homes. He also designed the famous Coconut Grove nightclub at the now demolished Ambassador Hotel, and in 1945 John Entenza, the editor of the magazine Arts and Architecture, invited him to design a home for the Case Study House Program.

The home designed for a hypothetical  “Mr. and Mrs. X” was published in a 1945 issue of Arts and Architecture, but never built. The original designed called for a two story house, but, as you can see, the home was built as a single story home.

The house also included extensive built-ins, highlighting Davidson’s experience designing fixtures and furniture. Some of the highlights include a built in shoe closet in the wife’s dressing room, reading lights and book shelves around the beds, as well as extensive storage in the living room for a radio, record player, television, books and home movies, which Davidson notes could be projected on the wall above the built-in piano.

The initial design also featured a separate bathroom/dressing room for the husband and wife so the could both get ready for work at the same time. There are also easy access to garage and kitchen from the master bedroom, and a built in desk (with custom designed ceiling and desk lamps) so someone could get work done in the morning.

Unfortunately despite publication and massive publicity a client was never found and the house went unbuilt. However in 1948 Davidson revised the design for a client and it was constructed in 1948, but by that point several other homes for the Case Study program had been built so the house we saw was neither the first designed or the first built despite being labeled #1.

The revised design for the house has many hallmarks of the original, extensive built-ins, privacy, indoor-outdoor living and room for entertaining. There is a small garden hidden behind the ivy covered wall in the front and another attached to the master bedroom. There is also a guest bedroom behind the garage and separated from the rest of the house by a covered outdoor eating area.

Janey also bought be the Case Study Houses: The Complete CSH Program which has an incredible amount of drawings and photos and the original text of all the articles, which provided much more information for this house than another book we had.

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