In 2004, Christian Lamb was thinking about leaving Paris, where he’d been living and working for an extended period of time as a fashion photographer, and returning to his hometown of Los Angeles. He got online and started trawling LA real estate listings, just to see what was out there.
What began as a casual search turned serious pretty quickly, however, when Lamb came upon a listing for John Lautner’s Bergren House.
As the virtual-tour technology nowadays considered standard had yet to be invented at the time, Lamb arranged to have a friend walk through the home with a video camera and FedEx him the Hi-8 tape. It was compelling enough for him to make an offer from Paris without ever having set foot in the home. “I was inspired—I could feel the house’s energy,” he recalls.
Tucked into a hillside off of Mulholland Drive north of Runyon Canyon, not far from the famed Garcia and Chemosphere Houses, the Bergren Residence was completed by Lautner in 1953 for guitarist Ted Bergren, then rebuilt and expanded by the architect in the late 1950s after a fire.
Per the monograph Between Earth and Heaven, the maverick modernist described the Bergren’s design as “a free floor set in a free space... so that when living there, one feels in the mountains and out of town.”
Measuring 1,582 square feet, the two-bedroom, two-bath home features concrete floors, walls of glass, and redwood-beamed ceilings in a distinctive chevron pattern. Other notable aspects include an indoor water feature, front and rear patios, a two-car carport, and spectacular valley vistas.
While the Bergren’s bones and footprint haven’t been significantly altered since the ’50s, its interior has weathered a few changes over the years.
According to Lamb, when he took possession of the house, it had a “Miami Vice meets Barbarella” aesthetic. “The master bath had a pink bathtub with a black toilet,” he recounts.
Even worse, the home’s signature redwood ceiling beams had been painted over and over.
“We started scraping the white paint off, and underneath it, we found brown paint, baby blue, yellow—just about all the colors in a crayon box,” he says.
Ultimately, Lamb, who studied architecture before switching to visual arts, spent a year and a half restoring and tweaking the house.
Among the projects were installing a new kitchen with a poured-concrete island and high-end appliances, re-treating the concrete floors, overhauling the bathrooms, and adding new lighting, landscaping, and a laundry room (the latter of which was accomplished without changing the home’s footprint by moving the HVAC unit to the roof).
“I wanted to pare it down to wood, glass, steel, and concrete,” says Lamb.
After completing the renovation, Lamb had Karol Lautner Peterson, John Lautner’s daughter and then-head of the Lautner Foundation, come over to take a look.
“She walked through it very quiet and pensive. I was holding my breath the whole time,” he recalls. “But at the end she said, ‘John would have really liked what you’ve done here.’ That made me so happy.”
As fate would have it, however, just about the time when he’d finally gotten the house into ship-shape, Lamb also started become increasingly successful as a director of commercials, music videos, and live music tours. Those gigs have meant spending lengthy periods of time away from his home, so Lamb began renting it out.
Over the years, the Caverna Drive hideaway has attracted a fair share of artistic types—authors, directors, singers and songwriters—as residents.
“It’s a great space to create, a really quiet sanctuary,” says Lamb. “Even though it’s a glass house, it’s entirely private. You’ll see deer outside the window, but you won’t hear anyone else’s conversations.”
Though conceivably he could have continued renting the home out indefinitely, the director recently came to the conclusion that he’d “rather see it go to someone who loves it and wants to live in it full-time.”
The property is now on the market with an asking price of $1.999 million. Open house is scheduled for 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. today and 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday.
- 7316 Caverna Dr [Patricia Tercek, Barry Sloane, and Marc Silver/Sotheby’s International Realty]