Larry Schaffer: SoCal Modern

The OK Los Angeles Store Owner Spills On Iconic Architecture

In 1995 design-buff Larry Schaffer opened the chic gift shop OK on Third Avenue in Los Angeles, selling modernist wares and designer must-haves. In the 15 years since, his fans have become legion, the shop has opened a new Silverlake store, and the connoisseur’s OK blog keeps us up to speed on beautiful doings the world over. Having once lived in a Neutra house––and now a Schindler––Schaffer knows what he’s talking about when, in this exclusive for NOWNESS, he lists five “inherently Southern California buildings that have shaped the way that I look at architecture and showed me what it can be.”

Huntington Beach Public Library and Resource Center, Orange County, California

Designed by Dion and Richard Neutra, 1975

Growing up in the Orange County backwater of Huntington Beach, this is the first good architecture I interacted with, before I knew what architecture was. A total geek with few friends, I loved the books, I loved the suspended central reading areas set mid-floor against the floors with the stacks, I loved how different and cool it was. Like all Neutra architecture, it has a wonderful sense of space.

Kings Road House, West Hollywood, California

Designed by Rudolph Schindler, 1921-1922

I love architects’ own houses because they can create flights of fancy, but the Schindlers themselves had to foot the bill and live with their mistakes (leaking roofs, drafts, etc). Through purposeful experimentation this European designer would fulfill the promise of progressive architecture enmeshed with progressive living (his family lived there together with the Neutras... I mean, really?), and in the process created the ultimate party pad for a true bohemian. 

Dunsmuir Flats, Los Angeles, California

Designed by Gregory Ain, 1937 

Pure international style in mid-Wilshire. Four units—each with two floors and a private garden; each offset against the next to maximize light and space and still give real sense of privacy. A genuine lefty, he did great single-family dwelling like the other California modernists, but also did a wonderful job on multi-unit structures and housing tracts. In every Ain house I've been in, and especially at the Dunsmuir Flats, I always have the sense that he was totally focused on improving the lives of the occupants. 

Silvertop, Los Angeles, California

Designed by John Lautner, 1957

On top of a hill overlooking the Silver Lake reservoir, a huge concrete shell roof follows the contour of the original hilltop. Here Lautner achieves what he failed to do at the Sheats-Goldstein residence and overcomes the weightiness of material—the house feels light and airy. You feel like you are part of the hill, not just on top of it.

McAlmon house, Los Angeles, California

Designed by Rudolph Schindler, 1935

My house. For architecture to be great, at some point it has to stop being architecture and start being the thing it intended to be––a place to live, a place to study, a place to work. This house was just a piece of architecture to me when I moved in and I liked it very much. It took some months of living there to begin to experience it as a house—a house where the light is beautiful and always changing, a house that is a great place to be alone, or with friends and family.
 

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