Fate of J. R. Davidson House In Peril; Furniture to Go to Auction

April 29, 2013

In 1946, Joseph and Lore Kingsley purchased land on an old lemon grove in the Pacific Palisades. Only five years prior, the Kingsleys, German Jews, escaped Nazi Germany and eventually settled in Southern California after Joseph’s tour of duty in the US Army. They chose to build the house where they would spend the remainder of their lives on a hillside that sloped downward facing the ocean, one of the best views in the neighborhood. With the land purchased, they began consulting with Los Angeles architects, including Richard Neutra. Son of Joseph and Lore, Roger Kingsley recalls his parents’ brief meeting with the modernist architect: “When Neutra came in to discuss the house, my parents very much wanted a breakfast room with a passageway to the kitchen. Neutra said, ‘I don’t do breakfast rooms.’ And that was the end of Neutra.”

They decided to work with J. R. Davidson, the congenial architect who was busy designing Case Study House #1 (1945-48). Likewise a German émigré, Davidson designed the Kingsley residence – as well as Roger’s grandmother’s residence on the adjoining lot – with the family’s tastes and desires in mind. The resulting structures, the “houses without halls,” incorporated wide-open rooms encased by thin walls and large sliding glass doors that opened onto raised terraces. Roger was yet to be born when the houses were built, but he remembers Davidson when the architect returned 9 years later to design a pool house, mural, and updated furniture for the interiors: “I recall that he was a distinguished looking man, very gentle, low-key, the opposite of Neutra. He was interested in his art, beautiful, interesting designs, and that’s what you see with this furniture.”

Much of Davidson’s custom-designed furniture adorned the interior of the Kingsley houses, including a dining suite, a walnut and marble coffee table, an oak coffee table and wall light. Each of these lots comes with an original photograph of the house taken by Julius Shulman.

This is the last remaining Davidson house in its original form. The Kingsley residence was never altered in terms of the structure, and aside from minor updates, the interior of the home remained almost identical to the Shulman photographs for over 60 years. While the fate of the house is still unknown, it seems likely that it will be torn down to build a larger structure.

The upcoming May 19, 2013 Modern Art & Design Auction is your chance to acquire furniture from a home that may suffer the same destruction as many homes that helped to define Los Angeles’ modern landscape.

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Frances says:

What a shame the furniture is being dispersed before the fate of the house is known and finalized.

But, it doesn’t sound favorable to save the house. Another shame.

That’s terrible.
How sad.
Maybe the state should start buying up these properties and get them out of the private sector.
There could be a partnership with residents willing to leave well enough alone.
Interesting that the bloated Real Estate sector doesn’t propose some sort of partnership or program for stepping up the protection of important buildings.