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The Stahl House—As You've Never Seen It

Updated: Nov 19, 2021

Last weekend in the Hollywood Hills, The Stahl House was aglow for a rare and special event: the launch party for its eponymous book, The Stahl House: Case Study House #22 -- The Making of a Modernist Icon.

Researched and written by MOCA+ Content Director Kim Cross with coauthors Shari Stahl Gronwald and Bruce Stahl, the book is the official biography of Case Study House #22, designed by Pierre Koenig and immortalized in a 1960 photograph by Julius Shulman.

The book, published by Chronicle Chroma, includes more than 100 never-before-published photographs and historical documents from the Stahl family archives, curated by Shari and Bruce. The siblings grew up in the Stahl House and remain its stewards, opening their home for tours to 7,000 visitors a year.

Shari Stahl Gronwald on the catwalk on the corner immortalized by Julius Shulman. No, you're not allowed to take a photo here during tours.

Guests gathered at sunset for a Saturday-night VIP cocktail party hosted by Chronicle Chroma and the Stahl family. A light fog veiled the city and transformed the sky into a curtain of pink -- Southern California's version of alpenglow. The best songs of the 1960s played softly in the background: The Beach Boys. Sinatra. The Mamas and the Papas. (Click here to listen to the playlist.)

On Sunday, the celebration continued with a pool party to thank the historians, architects, museum curators, professors, artists, journalists, and other sources who contributed to Cross's research for the book. Guests were invited to swim in the pool and soak in the hot tub, which was overflowing with bubbles—a long-standing family tradition started by Carlotta Stahl whenever her grandchildren came to visit.

Friends, family, and guests enjoy the hot tub bubbles, created with a little bit of Dawn.

One of the celebrated guests was Elizabeth A.T. Smith, author of numerous books about the Case Study House Program and curator of Blueprints for Modern Living, a 1989 exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA). One of the most ambitious architectural exhibitions ever seen, it included full-scale reproductions of the Stahl House and Ralph Rapson's Greenbelt House (never built). Smith, who presently serves as Executive Director of the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, flew in from New York to attend the event, where she got to catch up with colleagues Craig Hodgetts, Ming Fung, David Wasco, and Sandy Wasco, all of whom helped produce the Blueprints exhibition.

The brilliant minds behind the Blueprints for Modern Living exhibition in 1989. (L-R) Elizabeth A.T. Smith, Craig Hodgetts, Ming Fung, David and Sandy Wasco.

The Blueprints exhibition revitalized interest in the Case Study House Program and marked a turning point in Stahl House fame and the career of architect Pierre Koenig, who finally began to receive the attention and credit he deserved. At the same time, the Stahl House emerged on Hollywood's radar and began appearing in feature-length films.

Shari Stahl Gronwald and Bruce Stahl signed books and felt like kids again at the pool party, which allowed guests the rare opportunity to experience the house as they did growing up—from the perspective of the swimming pool. In honor of their mother, coauthor Kim Cross prepared one of Carlotta Stahl's favorite recipes: Rice Krispy Treat ice cream sandwiches. (Here's the recipe.)

Those who came got a taste of the Stahl House that's rarely available to people outside of the family. While the house is occasionally rented out for photo shoots and filming days, rental for private parties is not an option. That said, you can still watch the sunset—poolside—during a tour a few days a week.

Congratulations to Shari, Bruce, and Kim, who appeared on our Collective Conscience this spring, and who spoke during our Weekend of Architecture in Palm Springs in May. In an 8-page feature this summer, Vanity Fair called their book "Sumptuous… a startlingly intimate document, chockablock with family snapshots, that goes beyond steel decking, glass walls, concrete caissons, and the geometry of H columns and I beams. It’s a love song to a global icon that was, for the residents themselves, no museum."

Find the book ($25) at the Getty Museum, the LA Museum of Contemporary Art, Book Soup, and all the usual places books are sold online.

Shari Stahl Gronwald, Kim Cross, and Bruce Stahl.

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