Von Sternberg House
The Von Sternberg House was mini-mansion designed by the architect Richard Neutra. With only one bedroom, plus bedrooms for servants, it was built in 1935 at 10000 Tampa Avenue, Northridge, Chatsworth, on a plot of 13 acres (5 hectares) in California's then-rural San Fernando Valley for the movie director Josef von Sternberg. The house was demolished in 1972 to make way for a housing development.
Neutra was known as a philosopher of Modernism in architecture, and his work as a practitioner was in constant interaction with his thoughts and writings. Sternberg's house was one of the most impressive of the incarnations of this philosophy, along with Lovell House.
The design of the house contrasts with the typical homes built at the beginning of the 21st century. It had a very small number of rooms and a relatively small surface area, which played up its unique design features. While it did have a few features of ostentatious display, such as a separate, larger and higher garage bay for a Rolls-Royce in addition to the two other garage bays for lesser automobiles (in an era where even rich homes had only one or two garages) most of its characteristics were original and discrete, showing Neutra's attention to the integration of custom details.
The exterior appearance of the house and of its landscaped surroundings was made of sinuous lines, yet the interiors were orthogonal, making furniture placement simple and easy. As in many others of his domestic designs, Neutra made heavy use of industrial windows and sidings, fulfilling both aesthetic and practical functions, such as making privacy screens and windbreaks.
Neutra was mindful of his customer's desires even when he found them absurd. He would later regale his friends with the story (among others) of Sternberg asking that none of the bathroom doors should have locks, in order to prevent his party guests from locking themselves in and threatening to commit suicide. As a movie director, Sternberg was well acquainted with the theatrical behavior of many Hollywood actors, while Neutra had a social life which kept him in touch with artists in other domains.
In the 1940s novelist-philosopher Ayn Rand bought the house. Although concerned by the property's 20 mile (32 km) distance from Hollywood, where she worked as a screen writer, Rand and her husband actor Frank O'Connor paid $24,000 for the house. In 1963, according to Rand's biographer Barbara Branden, she and O'Connor sold the house for $175,000. The sale was arranged by the post-Rand occupant, author Ruth Beebe Hill, who, along with her husband Buzzy Hill and collaborator Chunksa Uha, rented the house from Rand for many years after Rand moved to New York. It was purchased by the property's next-door neighbor, who had it demolished the day after the Hills moved to Washington State.
- Branden, The Passion of Ayn Rand, p. 186
- Hines, Thomas. Richard Neutra and the Search for Modern Architecture.. New York: Oxford University Press, 1982.
- Neutra, Richard Joseph. Life and Shape. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1962.