A literary couple embrace the quirks of a California modernist. Twice.
When writer Susan Orlean was posting pictures of her new home on Facebook earlier this year, she received rapturous replies of the “Gorgeous!” and “When can I come visit?” variety. Under an image of her bedroom, showing a rough stone-and-cement fireplace, a trapezoidal window, slanted walls, and a tongue-and-groove ceiling, one friend wrote, “It looks like high modernist meets Fred Flintstone.” Another friend asked, “Is that a Schindler?”
The house was indeed designed by Austrian-born architect Rudolph M. Schindler, and its clean lines, clerestory windows, and large glass expanses make it immediately recognizable. Yet the home—”an exploded box,” according to architecture critic Paul Goldberger—has a specific, almost wacky appeal, with curiously shaped rooms, split-stake fencing used as siding, and complex volumes with multiple nontraditional roof forms. For Susan and her husband, investor and writer John Gillespie, restoring it cemented an obsession that began years earlier.
In 2007, the couple were living temporarily in Los Angeles, so that Susan—a staff writer at The New Yorker and author of 1998’s The Orchid Thief and, most recently, the best-selling The Library Book—could research her book Rin Tin Tin. In their free time, they looked at houses.
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