Designer Homes

Tour an L.A. Designer’s Iconic Midcentury Home

Tour an L.A. Designer’s Iconic Midcentury Home
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You may recognize David Netto’s midcentury house in L.A.’s Silver Lake neighborhood, which he shares with his wife, Liz, and two daughters. It appeared in Nancy Meyers’s charming house-swapping rom-com, The Holiday, and it was most recently the moody backdrop for Vogue‘s January 2015 cover story featuring actress Dakota Johnson.

But outside of Hollywood’s spotlight, the 1,300-square-foot glass house, built by the famed architect Richard Neutra in 1959, is best known as one of modern design’s architectural gems. “It was one of Neutra’s very favorite of all his houses because of its sectional variation,” says David, who is a designer as well as a seasoned design writer (he’s a contributing editor at T Magazine). “The house is pavilions stepping down a hill, and it follows the terrain,” adds David, who has filled the interiors with an enviable collection of vintage designs, midcentury pieces, and cool art and sculptures. And contrary to what you might expect, David and Liz have a laissez-faire attitude that makes the home feel none too precious.

A Cy Twombly drawing hangs near the entry against blue grasscloth wallpaper, which is used throughout the house “just to get out of the recurring syndrome of white and brown,” says David.

A Cy Twombly drawing hangs near the entry against blue grasscloth wallpaper, which is used throughout the house “just to get out of the recurring syndrome of white and brown,” says David.

David’s friend Paul Fortune, who helped him decorate the house, found the floral cotton print on the sofa. David and Liz found the African stool and the Masai sphere in Kenya. The Jean Arp brass sculpture takes center stage but also sees its fair share of shuffling when Liz hosts friends and book clubs.

David’s friend Paul Fortune, who helped him decorate the house, found the floral cotton print on the sofa. David and Liz found the African stool and the Masai sphere in Kenya. The Jean Arp brass sculpture takes center stage but also sees its fair share of shuffling when Liz hosts friends and book clubs.

Living with Design

Behind the modernist exterior, life inside the house takes on a more casual tone. I don’t make any compromises for it being a family home,” David says. “I think that’s sort of a terrible way to try to be excited about design. I do think that if you buy fancy things or important things you should not be uptight about kids living with them.” And given the compact layout, every space demands to be constantly used, from the living room banquette as a work space to the dining table for homework as well as meals. “I just love that we don’t have a big house, but it can accommodate a lot of people and a lot of flow,” says Liz, who echoes her husband’s nothing-is-sacred approach.

The 1920s Austrian barrel chair is from JF Chen, David’s go-to source in L.A. for unique designs.

The 1920s Austrian barrel chair is from JF Chen, David’s go-to source in L.A. for unique designs.

My philosophy was to take European modernism and put it in the American architectural modern shell, which I hadn’t really seen done before.

— David Netto
Because he was trained in architecture, form and aesthetic are always top of mind for David and Liz. As a nod to the home’s midcentury bones, they “ended up buying a fake Mies daybed because they didn’t make the real ones in white.”

Because he was trained in architecture, form and aesthetic are always top of mind for David and Liz. As a nod to the home’s midcentury bones, they “ended up buying a fake Mies daybed because they didn’t make the real ones in white.”

An Unconventional Modernist

As an homage to the home’s 1950’s modernist architecture, David sought out furniture and designs that would both compliment yet also challenge the clean lines and glass construction of the building. “My philosophy was to take European modernism and put it in the American architectural modern shell, which I hadn’t really seen done before,” David says. Looking to furnishings from the ’30s and ’70s, David managed to bring together a cool and eclectic mix of unique vintage pieces, from the African stool to the unique Scandinavian chairs, that lend warmth to the home without taking away from Neutra’s design. “Before midcentury hardened its doctrine, modernism had all kinds of funky, exotic contents, so those were the thoughts behind the look I went for.”

Natural elements (and nature) help ease up the sleek lines of the glass-encased home, playing up the great California promise of living outdoors. The PK22 chairs, by Poul Kjaerholm from Wyeth, and a neutral carpet keep open the view into the interior courtyard.

Natural elements (and nature) help ease up the sleek lines of the glass-encased home, playing up the great California promise of living outdoors. The PK22 chairs, by Poul Kjaerholm from Wyeth, and a neutral carpet keep open the view into the interior courtyard.

The Prouvé-style dining table doubles as a work space for daughters Madelyn and Kate, who lay out their homework, as well as David for when he’s going over furniture plans after everyone else has gone to bed.   

The Prouvé-style dining table doubles as a work space for daughters Madelyn and Kate, who lay out their homework, as well as David for when he’s going over furniture plans after everyone else has gone to bed.   

Making Time for Family Time

Despite busy schedules, David and Liz observe a few weekly family rituals—from dinners together in the courtyard and bike rides around Silver Lake to taking turns to care for Dusty, the family pup. “We like to watch half a movie on Friday night together, then they go to bed at 9 o’clock, and then we wake up, cook breakfast, and watch the other half of the movie eating the breakfast and talk about it at 10 o’clock on Saturday morning,” David says of one weekend routine. The house welcomes intimate family time as well as it accommodates parties. “We had our nine-year-old’s birthday party here recently, and what was so fun was how the kids moved through the house and landscape,” says Liz. “Cupcake decorating at the outdoor table in the courtyard, jewelry making down by the fountain, and at the end we rented a movie screen and watched a film outdoors by the trampoline.”

The TV area is where the family “cram onto the leather sofa and watch movies together,” says Liz of their Friday night ritual. The Corbusier seat is paired with a Donald Deskey table, and the stools are by Jens Risom.

The TV area is where the family “cram onto the leather sofa and watch movies together,” says Liz of their Friday night ritual. The Corbusier seat is paired with a Donald Deskey table, and the stools are by Jens Risom.

Entertaining usually happens at a restaurant given the home’s small footprint, but dinner in always involves a refreshing cocktail for David. His summer tipple? An Aperol spritz, which he picked up from a friend during a summer in Capri.

Entertaining usually happens at a restaurant given the home’s small footprint, but dinner in always involves a refreshing cocktail for David. His summer tipple? An Aperol spritz, which he picked up from a friend during a summer in Capri.

True to David’s nothing-is-sacred decorating mantra, his daughter’s bedroom work space is anything but juvenile. Black-and-white photography is paired with brass animal figures and an old record player for a whimsical note.

True to David’s nothing-is-sacred decorating mantra, his daughter’s bedroom work space is anything but juvenile. Black-and-white photography is paired with brass animal figures and an old record player for a whimsical note.

A bold red wall in the master bedroom features a range of favorite art pieces, from a 1970s gouache by Al Held to a 17th-century drawing from David’s parents to a drawing by one of his daughters that was an anniversary gift.

A bold red wall in the master bedroom features a range of favorite art pieces, from a 1970s gouache by Al Held to a 17th-century drawing from David’s parents to a drawing by one of his daughters that was an anniversary gift.

I’ve gotten better at being a little more experimental with color. I was an architectural designer. I went to architecture school, and I have to draw the interior in pencil before I can furnish it. And so I was very good at shapes and furniture compositions and lighting, but it was a world of objects.

— David Netto
Classic details found in the master bedroom include the reupholstered Ralph Lauren Home headboard and David’s Louis XV desk (“It came from my parents’ apartment in New York; I grew up with that”), where he’s been working on a book about the French decorator François Catroux.

Classic details found in the master bedroom include the reupholstered Ralph Lauren Home headboard and David’s Louis XV desk (“It came from my parents’ apartment in New York; I grew up with that”), where he’s been working on a book about the French decorator François Catroux.

The interior courtyard serves not only as the family’s living room but also as a dining room thanks to a recently added round table tucked away in a garden nook planted with towering lush greenery.

The interior courtyard serves not only as the family’s living room but also as a dining room thanks to a recently added round table tucked away in a garden nook planted with towering lush greenery.

A carp pond with a mini waterfall heightens the fluidity of indoor and outdoor inherent in Neutra’s design.

A carp pond with a mini waterfall heightens the fluidity of indoor and outdoor inherent in Neutra’s design.

The Good Life

Built on a quiet slope that overlooks Silver Lake Reservoir, the courtyard reveals the true genius of Neutra’s architecture. “You can look all the way to Silver Lake Reservoir through the two huge sliding doors of the living room, but you hear the water, so the experience of the lake is amplified. I like standing outside in the garden high up and looking down through the living room toward the lake on the other side,” says David. It’s all the more reason the family spends ample time in the garden space, where there is also a fire pit for s’mores and chilly evenings. “The courtyard is the living room. I can’t emphasize enough how true that is,” says David.

The trampoline, where David and Liz resolve any arguments, is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. “Trampoline sounds like an age thing, but it’s not age specific,” laughs David. “We’ve had Jeanne Tripplehorn jumping up and down on it refusing to sit down to dinner.”

The trampoline, where David and Liz resolve any arguments, is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. “Trampoline sounds like an age thing, but it’s not age specific,” laughs David. “We’ve had Jeanne Tripplehorn jumping up and down on it refusing to sit down to dinner.”

David’s quiet place (“I sit out there going through auction catalogs at night”) is a corner on the terrace made just for him with a plush little built-in sofa by his decorator friend Paul Fortune.

David’s quiet place (“I sit out there going through auction catalogs at night”) is a corner on the terrace made just for him with a plush little built-in sofa by his decorator friend Paul Fortune.

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