This morning, the LA County Museum of Art announced its first-ever architecture acquisition: the Sheats-Goldstein House high in the hills of Beverly Crest, designed by John Lautner and owned and loved for decades (and now promised to the museum) by a man named James Goldstein. It's the fulfillment of a long-held promise to give it to the public after he's done with it.
It's the most spectacular house in Los Angeles: triangular concrete jaws held open by walls of glass, and filled with transparent sinks, built-in leather furniture (including a bed), outdoor corridors with no rails, and windows that look into the pool. The main entrance is past a pool crossed by a glass and stone walkway. Down several winding concrete stairways is a skyspace structure by artist James Turrell (donated along with the house) where you can lie on leather mats and watch the cycle of colored lights shift with the time of day. On a 2011 tour, the docents warned "This is probably the most dangerous house you'll ever be in."
The house is filled (filled) with photos of Goldstein posing with models and celebrities. It has appeared in The Big Lebowski as pornographer Jackie Treehorn's house, and in an actual porn. It has its own detached nightclub and an infinity tennis court with some of the most incredible views of Los Angeles. (Goldstein plays tennis nearly every day.) It's surrounded by a tropical jungle, which requires the attention of four full-time gardeners and a landscape architect.
It's impossible to imagine the Sheats-Goldstein ever belonged to anyone but a model-loving, courtside Lakers fixture who owns trailer parks and dresses like Dr. Teeth from the Muppets, but in fact Goldstein is the house's second owner. The house was built for a family with young children, of all things.
The Sheats House was built in 1963 for UCLA professor Paul and artist Helen Sheats and their five children. They asked Lautner to give the pool a "camping under the stars" feel, so he stuck Old Fashioned glasses into the concrete roof above; Helen wanted to be able to see the kids swimming, which is why there are windows into the pool from the master bathroom. But, maybe unsurprisingly, the Sheats moved out just a few years after the house was finished.
Goldstein bought the property in 1972 and began a decades-long partnership with Lautner to modify and expand the house, up until Lautner's death in 1994, when he began working with Duncan Nicholson, the last architect Lautner had hired. The house is more or less original, but some materials, built-ins, and motorized elements have been replaced; rooms on the lower level were also combined into one baller master suite furnished in concrete and featuring a see-through bathroom (it's blocked off by concrete).
In 2002, Goldstein and Nicholson tore down a lesser Lautner on a neighboring lot to build a three-level entertainment complex topped with a tennis court. Inside, Club James has retractable glass walls, floor-to-ceiling TVs, club lighting, an outdoor bar, and multi-stall bathrooms for men and women. Goldstein's office is also in the structure with angular built-in furniture to match the main house.
In 2013, Goldstein told us he planned to add a guest house on the ridge above the tennis court (Lautner had planned for one) and a two-story theater building next to the tennis court. He said "the creative process" of working on the house was more important to him than actually enjoying the place. He's been an incredible steward of one of LA's most wonderful pieces of architecture, and it's been a true love affair—you can hear him talk about his relationship with the house here. And it will all go to LACMA: models of the house; that Goldstein wardrobe; works by Ed Ruscha, Kenny Scharf, and many others; the jungle; the club; the breathtaking tennis court; the Turrell; and the dangerously spectacular Sheats-Goldstein itself.
The house has been shot over the years by Herb Ritts, Helmut Newton, Steven Meisel, Mario Testino, Ellen von Unwerth, and a million more brilliant photographers, but its architecture may have been shot more than anyone else by Curbed's brilliant photographer, Elizabeth Daniels. Since first visiting the house in 2011, the Sheats-Goldstein has become her muse and she's shot it from every angle (Goldstein has joked to her more than once that she's the official house photographer). Here's a selection of some of her best shots: