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Neutra’s Kaufmann House For Sale, Again

November 7, 2008

By Tony Illia

Not even architectural gems like Richard Neutra’s Kaufmann House (1946) in Palm Springs, California, are immune to today’s recessionary climate.

Curve, a theater in Leicester
Photo © Scott Mayoral/courtesy Crosby Doe
Richard Neutra’s Kaufmann House was re-listed for sale after its $19 million purchase earlier this year fell through. After five weeks on the market, there are still no takers.
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The house was re-listed for sale on September 29 after its purchase earlier this year fell through. The sleek, iconic home sold for a cool $19 million in May during Christie’s Postwar and Contemporary Art auction held in New York, but the deal unraveled for reasons not made public. The property is now being offered for the “bargain” price of $12.9 million – a 32 percent reduction. After five weeks on the market, there are still no takers. 

The 3,162-square-foot, glass-and-stone dwelling sits on 2.5 acres. It features five bedrooms, six bathrooms, and an open-air rooftop for entertaining that the architect dubbed a “gloriette.” The house is widely considered a Neutra masterpiece, epitomizing Southern California's postwar Modernist architecture movement, and was first immortalized in a 1947 Julius Shulman image taken poolside at dusk.

The house was built for Pittsburgh department store magnate Edgar J. Kaufmann. Its current owners, architectural historian Beth Edward Harris and her former husband Brent Harris, purchased it in 1993 for $1.5 million. It was in bad shape at the time, having sat vacant for years after Kaufmann’s death in 1955 and having undergone several tacky and misguided alterations from previous owners. The couple hired the Santa Monica architecture firm Marmol Radziner & Associates to undertake a meticulous, four-year restoration; they went so far as to use stone excavated from the same Utah quarry selected by Neutra for the original chimney and walls.

Despite its good-as-new condition, the famed house could still face a lengthy sale time. “The overall economy is really making things a little more challenging,” says Crosby Doe, the sellers’ agent. “The market has been stalled for the last couple of months with everybody taking a wait-and-see attitude.”

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