He was the man who designed the Googie café that started a whole architectural trend in 1950s USA but John Lautner was an architect who during his lifetime was not fully appreciated by the wider architectural community and it was only after his death in 1994 that he started to get the recognition he deserved. Here we look at what many consider to be his finest design – the Elrod House.
The Elrod House was constructed in 1968 at Southridge Drive, Palm Springs for interior designer to the rich and famous Arthur Elrod. It first got noticed when it featured in the fight scene in ‘Diamonds are Forever’ and has also featured in a number of Playboy shoots. At almost 9000 square feet and with a lounge area that is a 60 foot circle it is understandably a large dwelling but it’s the audacious design and the way it blends in with its local environment that make it such an iconic building and somewhere modern architects take very seriously.
When the groundwork for the project began Lautner noticed two large rocks on the site that caught his eye. He immediately asked the civil engineers to go down another 10 feet and they revealed a number of large boulders that he incorporated as part of the design – essentially an extension of the foundations. To counter the hot desert sun he added an enormous domed concrete roof with wedge shaped skylights to let in natural light but also add shade. He also added two curved 25 foot glass curtain walls that retract at the touch of a button to open the main living area to the outside. This redefining of the boundaries between inside and outside is a common feature of Lautner’s work and can be traced back to his childhood exploring the woods of north Michigan.
The interior was planned by Elrod himself and considering it was designed on the cusp of the 1970s is surprisingly restrained and very spacious and elegant. Goat hair carpets and redwood ceilings are the order of the day combined with low-slung chairs and the minimum of furniture. The usual sauna, swimming pool and sun deck are there plus a T-shaped bath that is basically outside. From what we can gather it was on the market recently for a paltry $14 million so if you fancy a legendary house in Palm Springs that has been featured in a James Bond movie and you have a bit of spare change in your pocket you now know where to look. Cast your eyes over the photos below and also check out the clip of Sean Connery trying to fight off Bambi and Thumper and see why the Bond team chose this location and what a fantastic place it is.