The Kaufmann House in Palm Springs, California was built in 1946 by Richard Neutra, the Viennese-born architect who moved to the United States in the 1920s. This house is considered one of Neutra’s greatest works and one of the most important examples of International Style in the United States as well.
The Kaufmann house was designed for the Pittsburg department magnate, Edgar J. Kaufmann Sr. as a desert retreat from harsh winters. The house, once brought into light by Julius Shulman’s photography in 1947, sat vacant for several years after Kaufmann’s death in 1955. The house then went through different owners including the singer Barry Manilow and had undergone a series of renovations. Such renovations disturbed the original integrity of the house – a patio was enclosed, a wall was removed to create a media room, some bedrooms were wallpapered, and the sleek roof lines were altered when air conditioning units were added.
Today the house is fully restored to its original design by Brent and Beth Harris. The Harrises bought the property for about 1.5 million in 1993 and sought for a full restoration, but the original plans for the home were not available. However, the couple was able to obtain many clues to the original design by examining the Neutra archives at the University of California, Los Angeles, the detailed sketches by Neutra, the documents in the architectural collections at Columbia University and the never-printed photograph of the interior of the home by Julius Shulman. The Harrises hired two architects Leo Marmol and Ron Radziner to restore the Neutra’s design using these clues. They were able to locate the original paint and fixtures providers and reproduce the sheet metal fascia that lined the roof by purchasing a metal-crimping machine. They even reopened a long-closed section of a Utah quarry to excavate the stones for the chimney and walls.
The total restoration cost the Harrises about $11 million, including the house purchase, restoration, landscaping and the purchase of several adjoining plots. The property was put up for an auction at Christie’s in May of 2008. It was sold for $19.1 million at auction, but a deal fell though. In October 2008, the property was listed for $12.975 million.