Marmol Radziner and homeowner Brent Harris shed light on the exhaustive, five-year process of unearthing the plans for Richard Neutra’s iconic Kaufmann House in Palm Springs—and the meticulous work it took to recreate its design.
It would begin with one full year of research. Every day, for four of those months, the architectural restoration team donned gloves and combed through the archives at the UCLA Research Library to solve the puzzle of Richard Neutra’s famed Kauffman House, completed in 1946 and since fallen into disrepair. Floors were cracked, casework had been removed, portions of the land had been sold, and the square footage had nearly doubled through additions over the years.
Sans original plans, they visited the archives daily, redrawing everything original they could capture by hand as part of an intensive, five-year restoration project taken on by the new homeowners. “There are truly iconic, important pieces of architecture, and this is one of those,” says Ron Radziner, design partner at Marmol Radziner. “This is one of the 20 best homes in this country, and it deserved that level of restoration.”
The year was 1993, and the internet was not what it is today, but they kept on. In addition to the work at UCLA, research also included time spent on-site, unearthing years of additions and modifications to the home in search of any clues they could find, such as the original mica plaster hidden behind an electrical box, identified through microscopic evaluation.
It would also include sifting through the archives of
“This is one of the 20 best homes in this country, and it deserved that level of restoration.”
“After looking at the archives of Julius Shulman, it led us to better understand that it was quite a work of sculpture and much richer than really anyone knew, because nobody had seen Julius’ archives,” says homeowner Brent Harris, who undertook the restoration with his former wife, Beth Harris. “The decision was made when we saw the famous Shulman photo from 1947, the twilight photo. It was taken in one snap—a one-time exposure. It seemed like right place to take the home back to.”
The research team also discovered letters from Neutra to the original owner, Edgar Kaufmann, a wealthy department store owner who sought this property as a vacation home. He passed away in 1955, when the home was sold to a series of owners, including Barry Manilow. The letters helped solve what Harris describes as “a gigantic, national scavenger hunt for the pieces that were gone.” They contained specs, sketches, and material details, which led to the team to identify the original buff stone. It originated from a quarry in Utah—but it had since closed. Conquering all obstacles in pursuit of authentic restoration, the team had the quarry reopened to procure the original stone.
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