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July 23, 2012

Interior and Exterior Vintage Pictures of The Spillman House Designed By Gordon Drake


By RetroRuth

Here is some mid-century inspiration to perk up your Monday!  This is the Spillman house built in Los Angeles by architect Gordon Drake. This house was designed by Drake for the needs of a young couple rather than a large family, and was a money-saving design (the construction cost of the home was $7000). This design won Drake the second prize in House and Garden’s 1947 Award in Architecture (Richard Neutra won the first) and was the second home that Drake built.

These pictures and their captions are from The California Houses of Gordon Drake by Douglas Baylis and Joan Parry.  It was out of print, but was recently reprinted by William Stout and Sons. If you ever have a chance to pick this book up, either the original or the reprint, I highly recommend it.

The photos of this house were taken by Julius Shulman. If you would like to see Drake’s own home, check out this post.


Drake Spillman House002


Drake Spillman House002

The second Los Angeles house designed by Gordon Drake, the Spillman house also won national wards and recognition. Located on the north slope of a small wooden canyon, the principal floor gives the illusion of floating in the tree tops. The lower floor contains all the service areas and utilities for the family. Designed for one couple, built by a second, and lived in by a third faimly: all professional people without children. Here, in an impossible site, Drake showed his talents for imaginative solutions to landscape and architectural problems.

Drake Spillman House003

The east wall of the Spillman house is a series of full glazed doors opening to a balcony, which in turn lead to a protected garden terrace set into a hillside. Drake lead the way in experimentation with exterior grade plywood panels. Ceiling treatments are invariably rich in interest and color with lighting panels instead of conventional light sources.

Drake Spillman House004

View from the interior looking toward the wooded slope; the open construction is unusual even for California living conditions. Here is a direction for the construction of beach or mountain cabins in all sections of the country with the introduction of double-glazed window and door units. Construction costs of the Spillman house were in the neighborhood of $7000 in this early postwar period.

Drake Spillman House004

This view shows the feeling of a house growing from the site;  conditioned by the difficult circumstances, the construction system is also an esthetic concept. The richness of the shade and shadow, the application of color, and the blending of the native plantings are all brought together into a harmonious relationship.

Drake Spillman House005

Entry from the carport is up a broad flight of wooden treads protected by a vertical screen. Open areas are used to create a lower garden terrace paved with bricks for low maintenance and easy installation.

Drake Spillman House005

Wooden ramp bridges the space from building to house  entrance area. Existing trees were invariably a part of Drake’s design; preservation of the growth gave his structures a feeling of maturity seldom achieved on the usual “builder’s lot.”

Drake Spillman House005

Ribbed glass provides privacy to the entrance but admits enough light and shadow to prevent the area from becoming uninteresting. Lighting soffits overhead repeat the pattern of light and shadow during the nighttime. Extensive use of interior planting gives these small houses a continuing relationship with the outdoors.

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Kitchen alcove is separated physically from the living room by the brick chimney form, yet the food preparation is not visible from the living areas. Built-in table seats four under normal conditions but is large enough to seven under party conditions. The flow of space makes a minimum house seem spacious.

Drake Spillman House006

Careful attention to the site details became an important part of the house for the Spillmans. Terraces, plant containers, small pools, furniture storage units, tree forms and shadows, screens and fences – all help to expand and enrich the enclosed spaces within the house.

So, what do you guys think? Do you love it? Hate it? I have to say I am a little crazy over all the furniture, and I love the balcony!

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4 Responses to Interior and Exterior Vintage Pictures of The Spillman House Designed By Gordon Drake

  1. Sherree Reply

    July 23, 2012 at 8:20 am

    I love it! I have to say, after seeing a 2 hour special about Julius Shulman on television last year, I was completely taken in by mid-century homes and design. It is unfortunate that many of these homes were designed for a much milder/temperate climate than the Midwest, where I live 🙁 Our outdoor spaces are generally unusable for many months each year. I love the wrap around kitchen table/counter on the fireplace! Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • RetroRuth Reply

      July 24, 2012 at 2:20 pm

      Sherree, I bet that Shulman special was amazing!

      I am also in the Midwest club! We have a great three season porch that is basically unusable here in MI from about Oct to March. Such a shame because it is a gorgeous room!

  2. Andrea Reply

    July 23, 2012 at 1:43 pm

    Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous! If i lived somewhere that was actually warm, I would love to have a house that opened to the outdoors like that.

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