The R.M. Schindler house of LA designer Pamela Shamshiri
Accepting the weight of taking on the works of architectural masters is a dangerous business. Reinvigorating the lost work of the architect whilst simultaneously imagining a contemporary home is a delicate balancing act of respect without mimicry, of restoration without devoted slavery.
Viennese Modernist R.M. Schindler’s Lechner House is perched above the Laurel Canyon of LA’s Hollywood Hills. Delicately hugging the cliff face as a giant angled V shape, the house is one of the architect’s final masterpieces of an inherently organic modernism. As one has come to expect from the Modernist classics of LA and further afar in Palm Springs, the house is perched but protected, suspended yet anchored. It balances the splendour and drama of its immense clifftop location with the humble intimacy and human scale happenings of modern life.
Designed in 1947 for Richard Lechner and his wife, the house – at 325 square metres is one of Schindler’s largest, yet the spaces feel intimately realised, furnished specifically. Its spaces communally circle in upon each other, hallways almost non-existent. With eight former owners, the house had lost most of its heart, falling victim to time.
Enter designer Pamela Shamshiri formally of Commune Design, whose delicately nostalgic yet contemporary hand is responsible for the Ace Hotels Downtown LA and Palm Springs as well as the American Trade Hotel and Opening Ceremony stores to name just a few.
By “saving something that was really worth it, that you know means something to history”, Shamshiri began the process of discovering the true heart of Schindler’s masterpiece.
With archived black and white photographs of the home on hand, Shamshiri began the removal of many layers of time revealing original plywood cladding, the stainless steel fireplace surround and images of Schindler-designed furniture pieces for the home. Celebrating Schindler’s symbiotic process of designing not only the architecture but the interior design, Shamshiri reinstated the mirror-top bar, built-in pullout dining table and asymmetrically angled built-in sofas. Not withstanding the requirements of contemporary living she also made subtle renovations to extend the galley kitchen into the den behind and enliven and contemporize the bathing spaces with a cedar soaking tub and utilitarian plywood cabinetry.
Building on Schindler’s legacy is the heightened and respectful eye of Shamshiri herself, as she adds to “the flow of history” of the home with her signature organic Californian sense of cool. New and vintage furniture pieces and artworks delicately and respectfully appear as if they have always been a part of the home, her tender hand and layered eye so delicately accomplished in the art of curated restraint. The home of Shamshiri celebrates the transcontinental and transgenerational legacy of modernism, its forefathers and its utter relevance to the way we live today. Not just a respectful restoration, the home is now a visionary example of how best to look forward.