Silvertop, one of architect John Lautner's masterpieces (he had several) and one of the great Los Angeles properties, is known more formally as the Reiner-Burchill Residence, for its first two owners—the man who first dreamed up the house and the neighbors who moved in to finish it. This week, after 40 years, the house has its third owner, and it's another neighbor: Luke Wood, the president of Beats By Dre and a long-time Silver Lake resident, who intends to restore the house to the height of Lautner's vision.
Silvertop was first commissioned in 1956, for a hard-to-match site on a hill above the Silver Lake Reservoir, by a hairclip-and-aircraft-nut magnate named Kenneth Reiner, who was also a devoted inventor and tinkerer—he created several clever gadgets and systems for the house, including a dining table on a hydraulic pedestal (so it could be lowered for the cocktail hour); electric skylights; and invisible, soundless heating and cooling systems. Lautner brought his ecstatic shapes, preternatural sense of light, and retractable glass walls to the project.
But all of kooky gadgets and breathtaking forms are expensive, and Reiner ended up bankrupt, forced to sell the house before it was finished. In the mid-1970s, Silvertop was bought and then finished by Philip and Jacklyn Burchill, who had lived up the street for years. In August, Jacklyn put the house up for sale for the second time ever, for $7.5 million.
Silvertop went into escrow less than three weeks later and officially sold Friday for $8.55 million. Word is that big-money buyers flew in from all over and competition was obviously fierce to end up with an asking price that high, but Wood and his family ended up coming, like the Burchills, from right around the corner (they've owned a house a street away away since the 1990s). Crosby Doe, the real estate agent who represented both sides of the sale, tells us that Wood and his family intend to restore the house and live there.
Wood has already hired the hugely-respected local firm Bestor Architecture, which just recently finished up work on Beats By Dre's Culver City headquarters, and principal Barbara Bestor says she's already been digging in all the relevant archives and working with an architectural historian to make sure her work is sensitive to the original intent.
The house is a little leaky and a little "creaky," but overall is in pretty good shape. ("The dramatic aspect of it, the concrete shell in the living room, that's totally fine," Bestor says.) The Burchills used their own plans when they finished the kitchen and master bathroom in the 1970s, so Bestor intends to renovate those to Lautner's original 1957 designs; otherwise, the project should mostly be a strict historical restoration, handling deferred maintenance, getting all the mechanics running smoothly again, and installing new heating/cooling/electrical systems (The original "really weird heating system" takes 72 hours to heat up the living room). Amazingly, most of Reiner's gadgets still work, and Bestor's in touch with "a lot of the original guys who worked on" them.
Landscape architect Garrett Eckbo, who worked on some of the finest Mid-Century Modern projects (and with many of the finest architects of the era), designed landscaping for the hilltop site—the hardscape seems to be in place, but the planting is not, so they'll be recreating that too.
Wood has only owned the house for a few days, so Bestor's investigation ("architectural forensics") is just beginning. She says the family will probably be able to move in next summer.
· Genius Silvertop House For Sale For First Time Since 1974 [Curbed LA]
· The Man Who Helped Make Lautner's Silvertop a Reality [Curbed LA]