Out of Shape Health House

Owners of Richard Neutra's Lovell House are seeking a preservation-minded buyer

The Lovell House in its current state requires extensive cosmetic and structural repair. (Wikipedia Commons)

The Lovell House, designed and built by Austrian architect Richard Neutra, was a leading example of the International Style when it was completed in the hills of Los Feliz, California, in 1929. Generally regarded as the first steel-frame home built in the United States, the home elegantly demonstrated the use of industrial methods of production for domestic design and remained in pristine condition for several decades. In its current state, however, the house suffers from significant cosmetic and structural disrepair and the owners are reportedly looking to offload the building.

Exterior of a white building with lots of extra-height windows

The Lovell House at 4616 Dundee Lane, photographed shortly after its completion in 1929. (Photo by Julius Shulman/© J. Paul Getty Trust. Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles)

The home, often referred to as the Lovell Health House, was originally commissioned by naturopathic doctor Philip Lovell to include spaces for medical demonstrations and experiments, such as an outdoor gym, porches for nude sunbathing, and a kitchen specifically designed for vegetarian cooking. The property was later acquired by Betty and Morton Topper in 1960 for $60,000. Morton died 11 years later in 1971, leaving the home to Betty and their five children. After Betty’s death in August of last year, their children have been opening up the residence to the public for private tours and events while seeking a preservation-minded buyer (the most recent event, held on January 26, was a highly-attended screening of Elissa Brown’s documentary on Neutra, Windshield: A Vanished Vision, followed by a discussion between Brown, film composter Chad Fischer, and Lovell House owner Ken Topper, one of the five Topper siblings).

Although now neglected, Neutra’s touches are still evident throughout the building, especially in the large, multistory window sections for letting in natural light. Neutra was no stranger to working across California, but his homes have become increasingly threatened in recent years.

The recent sale of the Ennis House, the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home set a mere 1,600 feet away from the Lovell House for $18 million, suggests the residence will enter the market with a high asking price when listed (although the Lovell House doesn’t have the same cultural cachet as the former).

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