An Overview of the Historic Case Study Houses Program

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Stahl house pool with a view

All images courtesy of Julius Shulman / J. Paul Getty Trust

 

Between 1945 and 1966, the Case Study Houses Program commissioned world-renowned architects to design prototypical residential houses for postwar living. The program resulted in 36 prototypes, each of which emphasized functionality and affordability. Some of the world’s most prominent architects participated in the program, including Pierre Koenig, Richard Neutra, and Charles and Ray Eames.

The innovative designs had a massive influence on modernist architecture, introducing now-standard modern elements like indoor-outdoor living spaces and open floor plans designed to ease the flow of everyday living. 

Due to the program’s constraints around affordability, the architects experimented with then-unconventional building materials to reduce the overall cost, such as plywood, industrial glass, and cement blocks. Many of the materials used in the program would go on to become standard in mid-century modern houses. The architects also promoted affordability with large glass windows to optimize airflow and reduce the need for heat. 

In addition to functionality and affordability, participants in the program were asked to design homes that were relatively easy to build. As a result, many of the houses featured modular construction plans, which helped to standardize the home-building process while making prefabricated houses possible. 

The challenging parameters of functionality, affordability, and ease-of-build resulted in 36 innovative residential designs, many of which would become models for mid-century architecture and continue to be revered today for their aesthetic beauty and ingenuity. 

Below, we highlight several of our favorite designs from the Case Study Houses Program in addition to a full list of the program’s participants. 

The Stahl House

Stahl house pool with a view

Designed by Pierre Koenig in 1960, Case Study House 22, better known as the Stahl House, is among the most famous homes to come out of the program. The house features a highly functional, minimal design predominately comprised of glass and steel. Koenig innovatively wrapped each of the home’s supportive beams in 12 inches of concrete to further protect it from the seismic events and erosion common in California. 

The Eames House

Eames house grand entry with courtyard view

Famed architecture and design duo, Charles and Ray Eames, not only designed this home for the program, but they also lived in it for many years. As such, the duo created the house with their personal lifestyle in mind, adding two double-height pavilions, with one featuring a residence and the other offering a creative workspace. The home was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2006. 

The Bailey House

Bailey house front exterior

Richard Neutra designed Case Study House 20 AKA The Bailey House in 1948. The home features many of the signature design elements that Neutra is known for, including sleek, horizontal lines; functional minimalism; and abundant glass, steel, and wood. Working from within limited square footage, Neutra significantly expanded the house’s living space by incorporating indoor-outdoor features, like a kitchen that opened into a backyard dining area. 

The Entenza House

Estenza house living room with mid-century modern furniture

Charles and Ray Eames and Eero Saarinen designed this house for John Entenza between 1945-1949. The single-family home neighbors the aforementioned Eames House and shares many of the same structural elements as that home. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2013.  

Case Study House 28

Mid-century modern home with pool

The only Case Study house in Ventura County, Case Study House 28 was designed by Conrad Buff and Donald Hensman. The house was the last single-family house built in the program and one of the biggest, spanning 4,500 square feet. The home also features 4,000 square feet of windows and seamless materials that merge the exterior and interior spaces. 

 

Participants in the Case Study Houses Program:

  • Case Study House #1 / Julius Ralph Davidson

  • Case Study House #2 / Sumner Spaulding & John Rex

  • Case Study House #3 / William W Wurster & Theodore Bernardi

  • Case Study House #4 / Ralph Rapson’s "Greenbelt House"

  • Case Study House #6 / Richard Neutra: The Omega House

  • Case Study House #7 / Thornton M Abell

  • Case Study House #8 / Charles y Ray Eames: The Eames' House

  • Case Study House #9 / Charles & Ray Eames, Eero Saarinen: The Entenza House

  • Case Study House #10 / Kemper Nomland & Kemper Nomland Jr

  • Case Study House #11 / J R Davidson

  • Case Study House #12 / Whitney R Smith

  • Case Study House #13 / Richard Neutra: The Alpha House

  • Case Study House #20 / Richard Neutra: The Bailey House

  • Case Study House #21 / Pierre Koenig

  • Case Study House #22 / Pierre Koenig: The Stahl House

  • Case Study House #23 / Killingsworth, Brady & Smith

  • Case Study House #24 / A. Quincy Jones & Frederick Emmons

  • Case Study House #26 / Beverley David Thorne

Love mid-century modern design? Then check out the mid-century modern homes for sale in your area.  

 

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