Now, after a painstaking, award-winning restoration, the art piece has become available.
“Not only was it groundbreaking, but the house is magical,” says the listing agent, Gerard Bisignano of Vista Sotheby’s International Realty.
“There are a lot of great modernist homes. The Kaufmann home just stands out, it just does—both aesthetically and historically.”
For this modern marvel, Neutra was commissioned by the department store magnate Edgar J. Kaufmann to design a desert masterpiece. Just a decade or so before, Kaufmann had struck gold with his previous architectural commission.
He tapped Frank Lloyd Wright to design his home in western Pennsylvania, now known as Fallingwater—one of the most celebrated American homes ever built.
Neutra had worked for Wright, and even used the stonemasons Wright had employed in the Fallingwater build for this Palm Springs home.
From ‘Poolside Gossip’ to disrepair
The completed desert vacation retreat, built into the arid landscape, served as the muse for the photographer Julius Shulman, whose black-and-white photos of the home became legendary.
But the most famous image taken at this residence is “Poolside Gossip,” by Slim Aarons, encapsulating a whole era in an intimate and colorful way. It dates to the time when the home was owned by Nelda Linsk and her husband, Joseph Linsk.
The photo depicts Nelda and her friend Helen Dzo Dzo in 1970, lounging poolside, with the sleek residence in the background. Nelda is in yellow.
“It was great fun. We entertained a lot,” Linsk says. “People look at that photo, and that’s the way we live in Palm Springs. Outside in the pool. It was a wonderful day.”
Now, a new owner will have a chance to capture the glorious desert setting.
The current owner, Brent Harris, purchased the place in 1993 with his wife at the time, the architectural historian Beth Harris, for about $1 million. By then, the home’s glory days had faded, and interest in modernism had ebbed.
The home had changed hands several times, with owners including Barry Manilow and a former owner of the San Diego Chargers, according to Bisignano. Along the way, dubious additions and remodeling took place.
The restoration of an iconic residence
The Harrises set out on an “archeological dig,” as Bisignano calls it. They tapped the Los Angeles-based architects Leo Marmol and Ron Radziner for the restoration.
Without original drawings in hand, the architects searched for clues. They found additional Shulman photos of the home and accessed the Neutra archives as part of a five-year project.
The designers refurnished and replaced sections of the house, using original manufacturers and craftsmen.
The firm went to great lengths to bring back the home to its original grandeur, for example, reopening a section of a Utah mine to match the original pinkish buff stone in the house.
They even located a metal crimper machine from Kansas City—out of use for decades—to recreate some of the roof’s exterior details.
The award-winning result sparked interest anew in the property, which is now landmarked under the Mills Act.
Around 2010, Brent Harris took sole ownership of the home, after splitting with his wife. He continued to invest in the place and poured an additional $2.5 million into improvements beyond the original restoration work, Bisignano notes.
Specs of the legendary home
With 3,263 square feet, the five-bedroom, six-bathroom home sits on over 2 acres, with a cruciform layout.
The home is designed around wings, with the living and dining areas at the center of the house, and wings for guest quarters, bedrooms, and the master suite.
Sets of sliding glass doors open to the patio outside, where the famous pool is surrounded by seating areas and the grassy lawn.
The pool pavilion structure has been modernized to conform with present-day standards, and contains a party room, small gym, plasma screens, stereo, and steam shower.
Although the home is single-story, a second-story roofed but otherwise open-air deck sits above the home’s entrance. Linsk remembers spending time on the loggia drinking martinis, and pulling up the home’s dumbwaiter to send down for supplies.
“That home is legendary,” Linsk says. “There’ll never be another home like that. I didn’t realize it when I lived there. Now I realize it.”
So who will buy a legend? The $25 million price tag is the highest in Palm Springs by a wide margin.
“It is obviously a very narrow buyer pool,” Bisignano says.
He adds that the buyer will be a collector of livable art.
“It’s more than likely someone who owns or who has owned other architectural significant properties.”
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