In 1919, Bohemian oil heiress Aline Barnsdall hired Frank Lloyd Wright to build a private residence as well as a theater and living space for avant-garde performers on a 36-acre site now known as Los Angeles’ Barnsdall Park. She directed him to design the space and the furnishings on an abstracted version of her favorite flower, the hollyhock, after which the property was named. Hollyhock House was Wright’s first Los Angeles project, and he thoughtfully incorporated many of the area’s native influences. He dubbed the style ‘California Romanza,’ a musical term meaning ‘freedom to make one’s own form.’ One of the things I love best about Frank Lloyd Wright’s designs, especially his residential work, is their warmth. The lines in this stunning house are beautifully spare and modern, but they lack the impersonal, inhuman chill of many other designers.
Unfortunately, though he completed the private residence, the theater space and artists’ living space were never finished because Barnsdall and Wright had a falling out over costs. That seems to be another theme that runs throughout Wright’s projects.
After many restorations and renovations, some of them unfortunately far from the original decor, Hollyhock House was closed four years ago for yet another restoration, this time entirely faithful to Wright’s original design. The house, which was left by Ms. Barnsdtall in 1927 to the city of Los Angeles to be used as a public park in memory of her father, was reopened to the public one month ago on Friday, February 13.
If you find yourself in L.A., you can take a tour. The house is open from Thursday through Sunday from 11 AM through 4 PM. Call Hollyhock House Tours (323.913.4031) for more information. And if you go, please share your photos!