Straight Out of ‘The Jetsons,’ This John Lautner-Designed L.A. Home Is Hitting the Market for $16 Million
“The Garcia House is just such a beautifully exuberant, graceful structure,” said architect Leo Marmol of Marmol Radziner, whose firm helped restore the house. “Lautner’s work is always such a celebration but, with this project in particular, the scale is so small and delicate.”
The sellers are Hollywood couple John McIlwee and Bill Damaschke, who purchased the house from the actor Vincent Gallo for $1.2 million in 2002, property records show. Mr. McIlwee is a business manager in the entertainment industry, and Mr. Damaschke served for decades as chief creative officer at the movie studio DreamWorks Animation before becoming a producer of Broadway shows such as “The Prom” and “Moulin Rouge,” for which he won a Tony Award in 2021.
Garcia House had its own star turn in 1989, appearing in the movie “Lethal Weapon 2” as the headquarters for a South African drug-smuggling cartel.
Spanning around 2,600 square feet with three bedrooms on 1.2 acres, the house overlooks a canyon through 30-foot-tall windows. It has a large balcony, and a central outdoor spiral staircase divides the living area from the main bedroom suites. The main living and dining area features glass walls juxtaposed with lava rock and gray terrazzo floors.
The house was originally built for Russell Garcia, a film composer and conductor, and his wife Gina Garcia. Kristy Corwin, the Garcias’ granddaughter, said the couple had specific requirements for the design, including a quiet office space separate from the main living room where Mr. Garcia could write music without being disturbed. It was her grandmother’s idea, she said, to have the house built in the shape of a rainbow and to include different colored panels of glass on the facade, details which have earned the property the local moniker of The Rainbow House. The Garcias lived there for six years before selling the house to sail the South Pacific, even though Ms. Garcia couldn’t swim, Ms. Corwin said.
Mr. McIlwee said he and Mr. Damaschke hadn’t intended to buy a midcentury home until they saw an advertisement for the listing in the newspaper. They decided to visit and immediately fell in love. Mr. McIlwee said he was already familiar with Lautner’s work because one of his friends, the actress Courteney Cox, had recently purchased a home designed by the architect.
In 2002, he said, midcentury homes were only starting to come into fashion again, and didn’t command the same prices that they do today. When the couple purchased the house, it had fallen into disrepair, said Mr. McIlwee. Many of Lautner’s original fixtures had been lost. In addition, the roof was leaking and there was some water damage. Still, they decided to move in for a year to get a feel for the place before renovating.
“It was one of the most important decisions that we made, because the way John Lautner designed the house is very site specific,” Mr. McIlwee said. “The way that the sun moves throughout the whole year and hits the house in different ways. If we hadn’t lived there for a while, we would have made the wrong decisions later.”
When they first moved in, the couple felt uneasy about living so high above the canyon, effectively on stilts. Not one part of the house itself actually touches the ground, Mr. McIlwee said. He said he kept thinking about the 1974 action thriller “Earthquake,” in which houses are seen tumbling down a hill. But after the house survived several significant earthquakes unscathed, they let their anxiety go, deciding to put their trust in Lautner’s engineering skills.
To help them restore the house, they tapped Marmol Radziner, which had restored Richard Neutra’s famed Kaufmann Desert House in Palm Springs, which was immortalized by the Slim Aarons photo “Poolside Gossip.”
The nearly yearlong effort cost over $1 million and involved several major projects, including repairing the roof. The couple also had to rip off the front balcony because of water damage that had eaten away at the under-structure. “We tried every single thing to save it,” Mr. McIlwee said. They rebuilt it to the original specifications, matching the terrazzo exactly.
One of the most adventurous projects was dusting off Lautner’s plans for an ellipse-shaped pool, which was never built. The original owners were said to have run out of money before they got to it, Mr. McIlwee said.
“At the time, the place was so far-out that no bank would give them a mortgage,” he said. “So they had to pay for the entire construction and furnishings in cash.”
He and Mr. Damaschke built a concrete terrace beneath the house and installed the pool according to Lautner’s plans. The ellipse shape, he said, was one of the architect’s trademarks.
For the interiors, they introduced materials like Lucite and onyx, commissioning a Lucite furniture designer to make a new four-poster bed. A Lucite coffee table dates to the 1960s, Mr. McIlwee said.
The couple have frequently entertained at the property, he said, and recently hosted a party at the house for the Broadway cast and crew of “Moulin Rouge.”
Mr. McIlwee said he and Mr. Damaschke are selling because they are spending more time in New York, where they own a home in Tribeca. They also feel that it is time to let someone else enjoy the house, he said. The pair also own the Gerald and Betty Ford Residence in Rancho Mirage, a 1970s architectural home.
“This house has changed our lives,” Mr. McIlwee said. “But 20 years is a long time. We’ve kind of experienced everything we’re going to experience here. We’re ready to pass the torch.”
Mr. McIlwee said it is extremely rare for a Lautner of this period to come on the market, so he expects significant demand for the property. Still, he said, they won’t sell to just anyone. He recalled the three-hour lunch and “delicate dance” they did with Mr. Gallo when purchasing the home, since the actor was intent on selling the house to someone who would care for it. They intend to carry on that tradition, Mr. McIlwee said.
The architectural significance of the home means it is likely to command a higher price than others in the area, said Weston Littlefield of AKG | Christie’s International Real Estate, who has the listing with colleague Aaron Kirman.
“This isn’t one of those houses where you’re basing it off price per square foot, ” he said. “We’re basically going to market it as an art piece that fortunately you can live in.”
Write to Katherine Clarke at Katherine.Clarke@wsj.com
Corrections & Amplifications
Actress Courteney Cox owned a home designed by John Lautner. An earlier version of this article misspelled her first name. (Corrected on Jan. 18)