LAMA BLOG

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

April 30, 2013

For Immediate Release

April 29, 2013

LOS ANGELES, CA – Architect of Case Study Houses #1, #11, and #15, J. R. Davidson, was instrumental in transforming the Los Angeles landscape through his mid-century houses that employed expansive, yet sensible floor plans. Like his contemporaries, K.E.M. Weber and Richard Neutra, Davidson also designed custom furniture to decorate the interiors of his architectural designs. One of the last remaining Davidson houses in its original form, the Kingsley residence in the Pacific Palisades, is on the verge of imminent destruction. Although the fate of the house in in peril, the custom furniture has been saved and will go to auction in the upcoming Los Angeles Modern Auctions (LAMA) Modern Art & Design Auction on May 19, 2013.

The Kingsley residence, Original photograph by Julius Shulman of the interior

The custom Davidson designs that were saved from the Kingsley residence and will go to auction include a biomorphic occasional table, two coffee tables (one a nod to a K.E.M. Weber design), as well as an articulated wall light, and dining suite comprised of a table and ten chairs. Each of these lots will also include a vintage, original Julius Shulman print of the Kingsley residence, many of which depict the designs in situ.

The Kingsley residence was never altered in terms of the structure, and aside from minor updates by the architect in the 1950s, 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 five lots of Davidson designs and Shulman photographs will go up for auction on May 19, 2013 in the Los Angeles Modern Auction (LAMA) Modern Art & Design Auction. Advance viewings begin May 6th, and the auction will be on May 19th at 12 p.m. Visit www.LAMODERN.com or call 323-904-1950 for additional details.

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Background on Joseph and Lore Kingsley and the Kingsley residence:

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, at the time, was busy designing Case Study House #1 (1945-48) and would eventually go on to design Case Study Houses #11 and #15. 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.”

Davidson realized a distinctly California modern space he described as having masculine exteriors and feminine interiors. Architectural historian Esther McCoy agreed, extending his analysis, “But also feminine was the proximity into which he brought people, the tight warm areas with cool intervals between.”

Background on J.R. Davidson:

Architect and designer J. R. Davidson (1889-1977) was instrumental in transforming the Los Angeles landscape through his mid-century houses that employed expansive yet sensible floor plans. A German émigré who traveled throughout Europe before arriving in Los Angeles, Davidson received little formal education in architecture. The rest of his knowledge was experiential, gained from apprenticeships in Berlin, London, and Paris. After many successful years in Berlin designing lighting and interiors, Davidson and his wife Greta moved to Los Angeles in 1924, just like his friends and future collaborators Richard Neutra and K.E.M. Weber. In addition to designing interiors, he ushered in a modern sensibility through commissions for building facades, as well as hotel and home remodels. As Davidson’s reputation for practical storage solutions and innovative designs grew, he earned commissions to design Los Angeles-area residences. In 1945, John Entenza, editor of Arts & Architecture asked Davidson to design the first Case Study House; he also designed Case Study Houses #11 (1946) and #15 (1947).

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The May 19, 2013 Modern Art & Design Auction will be held at the LAMA showroom: 16145 Hart St. Van Nuys, CA 91406 and will start at 12 p.m. (PST).
 Auction Preview: May 6 – 18, 2013; open daily 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. 
/ Auction catalogues available April 29th / View lots online: May 1st
Los Angeles Modern Auctions (LAMA), the fastest growing auction house in the modern and contemporary art world, is the leading auction house dedicated to selling 20th century Modern Fine Art and Design. Auctions are held at the LAMA showroom: 16145 Hart St. Van Nuys, CA 91406.

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For more information and images, please contact Elizabeth Portanova, Los Angeles Modern Auctions (LAMA), 16145 Hart St., Van Nuys, CA
www.lamodern.com | tel: 323-904-1950 | fax: 323-904-1954 | e-mail: Elizabeth@lamodern.com

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