54 SouthBaydigS.com | 7.13.2012

A Pve NeutrA home gets A secoND life

w r i tte n By: pam ela co rant e-hanSen

7.13.2012 | SouthBaydigS.com 55

it’s the kind of home that don and megan draper, the 1960s power couple from the period television show, mad men, might buy as a california escape. glass walls, stylish angularity, and a blurry line between the man-made and natural environments. these are the signature features that made iconic architect richard neutra popular among california clients who wanted ultra-modern homes that brought the outdoors inside. the dailey house, one of the last homes neutra built on the palos Verdes peninsula, was saved from the wrecking crew by South Bay real estate agent chuck Bennett. “Some friends of mine were in escrow on the house, but they weren’t sure whether to bulldoze it or gut it,” Bennett recalls. “they asked me to take a look. it was an absolute mess, but i thought, i love this house.” Bennett’s friends were hesitant about buying a home that would need extensive renovation, and when they decided to take a pass, Bennett snatched it up.

“John would sit down and tell me stories about neutra,” Bennett says. “he talked a lot about [neutra collaborator] Sergei [Koschin], who did some renderings.” while the home was being gutted, workers found a canister that had been sealed into a small corner closet behind a wall near the dining area. the canister contained the original plans, renderings and the spec book for the house. “it was hidden and very strange,” Bennett notes, “but now i have them on display.” true to 1950s america, the home was built with an underground bomb shelter. “dailey worked in aerospace,” Bennett explains. “when i bought the house, there were still bunk beds down there, but it was completely dilapidated.” Bennett plans to convert the 150-square-foot space into a wine cellar. clearly, a wine cellar is not an amenity one would expect to find in an original mid-century modern house, and Bennett acknowledges that a purist might not agree with some of the features he incorporated

200 guests at the house. “the main living area is a freestanding open space,” says Bennett. “the sliders have no threshold, which is in harmony with neutra’s vision of man and nature living as one.” oversized, matte porcelain floor tiles from Spain extend from the living area onto the patio, creating a seamless transition to the spacious backyard. Bennett added a swimming pool to the half-acre property, and a well-manicured lawn leads to pathways that meander through fruit trees. the back of the home abuts city parkland that cannot be developed, thus preserving the views. Some of the home’s interior fixtures and furniture are original period pieces or, in some cases, were recreated according to exact specifications. globeshaped lighting fixtures dangling from the hallway ceiling are original to the house. Bennett found the same manufacturer and had three new orbs made to illuminate the living room. “i was meticulous about the

“SomE fRIEndS of mInE wERE In EScRow on ThE houSE, buT ThEy wEREn’T SuRE whEThER To bulldozE IT oR guT IT,” bEnnETT REcallS. “They asked me to take a look. It was an absolute mess, but I thought, I love this house.” bennett’s friends were hesitant about buying a home that would need extensive renovation, and when they decided to take a pass, bennett snatched it up.
originally built in 1961, the mid-century modern home was in a state of decline when Bennett purchased it in 2007. Kitchen cabinets had been ripped out, only one of three bathrooms was functional, and the back of the house had sunk about three inches. in addition, an earlier remodel had left the home with a multicolored, low-end tile roof, which was completely out of place with the home’s modern design. Bennett, who says he was not a fan of midcentury modern until he saw the dailey house, made a commitment to “do right by neutra” and set out to painstakingly bring the home back to its period style. he is quick to add that the home is a remodel and not a restoration, but every effort was made to preserve some of the original elements. to ensure that the remodel remained close to the original vision, Bennett contacted neutra’s son dion, himself an architect, who works out of the same Silver lake office his father established. through a series of serendipitous twists, Bennett met dion’s brother, raymond, who recommended a retired manhattan Beach architect to draw plans for the remodel. manhattan Beach resident John Blanton was a contemporary of richard neutra and had worked with him on several projects. one of them was the dailey house. into the remodel. But his intention was to bring the home back to its stylistic origins while still making it practical for 21st century living. he was careful to secure Blanton’s blessing before moving forward with a concept. “nothing was done without John’s approval,” says Bennett. Blanton remembered working on the home and was able to provide specifics on certain details of the house. the home was taken down to the studs, and Bennett worked closely with Blanton and builder ennio Schiappa to bring it as close to its original appearance as possible. Because Bennett had found the original spec book, Schiappa was able to recreate or preserve period features including a massive glass wall at the back of the house, which offers expansive city views. one aspect of mid-century architecture that works against 21st century lifestyles is room size. the remodel included opening up the kitchen to make it larger and more functional, and tearing down a wall between two small bedrooms to create a more spacious media room. Bennett notes that the reconfiguration was done in such a way that a future owner could easily rebuild the wall and convert the space back to two bedrooms. with more than 3,000 square feet of living space that can be extended by opening two oversized glass sliding doors, Bennett has hosted as many as furnishings,” Bennett recalls. “i didn’t rush to furnish the home once it was completed because i wanted to get a feel for what would go where. a lot of the vintage furniture i had to have restored because some of the pieces were in bad shape. i’m not a big shopper, so [the process] was really grueling.” a period wooden dining room set recalls the elegant modularity of charles and ray eames. in the living room, low-profile sofas, minimalist tables and sleek wooden consoles bring to life the modern interior design aesthetic that graced the pages of lifestyle magazines in the mid-1960s. Bennett preserved the original double-sided rock fireplace, which lends a period touch. “the feel of this house has changed me and how i like to live,” Bennett states. “John told me, ‘neutra would have loved your passion, your attention to detail.’ i can’t think of a higher compliment. the purists may feel differently, but i did this for the integrity of the house.” Some of Bennett’s friends have told him that they never cared for mid-century modern architecture until they visited his home. “it’s very much from the mad men era,” laughs Bennett. “you can’t walk into this house without craving a martini and expecting to see the rat pack.”


SouthBaydigS.com | 7.13.2012

PhotoGraPhy By Paul JonaSon.

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