Magical 1954 Los Angeles time capsule house — built by Albert P. and Gloria Martin

An architect and an artist’s warm & playful home,
where they lived for nearly 60 years — 57 photos

mid century house exteriorTour-a-Time-CapsuleToday, a magical 1954 time capsule home… and the heartwarming story of a talented and creative couple who built it — and then lived in it for nearly 60 years. Architect Albert P. Martin and his wife, artist Gloria Martin, moved to California in the early 1950s and soon after, designed and built — much of it literally, with their own hands — this 1954 house in the Silver Lake area in Los Angeles. The house was recently listed for sale by realtor Brian Ades, of Sotheby’s International Real Estate. For this story, we not only obtained Brian and the photographers’ permission to feature these photos — but Brian also connected us with Neil Martin, one of the Martin’s sons, who told us more about his parents, the history of their collaboration to build it, and about some of its special features. And, Brian provided additional historic photographs — fabulous!

1960-retro-kitchenLink love thanks also to Shooting LA Photography, who sent us high resolution photos — which allow us to “zoom in” on some of the home’s unique features. And mega thanks also to Facebook tipster Pam, who saw this house featured on Curbed LA last week and brought it to our attention. There were a few other tipsters, too, thank you, all, and keep the time capsule tips coming, they are eye-popping amazing.

From the listing:

  • Price: $1,595,000
  • Year built: 1954
  • Square footage: 2,463
  • Bedrooms: 3
  • Bathrooms:3

1st time on the market in over 50 years this stunning mid-century masterpiece built by acclaimed architect Albert P. Martin, AIA is situated on a 9000+ sq. ft. upslope lot with commanding views of the reservoir. Featuring just under 2,500 sq. ft. of living space with 3 beds, den and office, 3 baths, large living room with wrap-around deck, dining room, period kitchen, giant family room or workshop, cork floors, floor-to-ceiling glass, outdoor patios, 2 car garage on a very generous lot. Incredible period details throughout the home remains intact from textured tile to the appliances. This beautiful & unique time capsule awaits your personal touch and finishing vision. 2 fireplaces, laundry inside, great storage & great light throughout. Absolutely dyno-mite pad with groovy vibes – this never before seen generational home is a true prize in the cracker-jack box of L. A. real estate. Steel beam construction with no load bearing walls. Adjacent lot available.

Brian Ades told us that the house was originally built on two lots. The second lot is now being split from this home and is for sale separately.

1960-retro-kitchenThere are so many reasons that both Pam and I adore this house. Let us begin to count the ways:

  • Color. The use of color throughout the house is so artfully done. This is not sterile mid-century modern — the finishes are playful… to say this word again: Heartwarming.
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  • Unpretentious materials. The finishes in the house are not high end expensive, not financially out of reach. The Martins chose tile and plain wood and dropped ceilings, even. Many of the ideas in this house would be relatively easy to replicate today — relatively inexpensively.
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  • Patina. The house clearly was well loved — and well used. We love this! We suspect that the final photo-processing makes some areas look grayer than they likely are in real life. Even so, it seems clear that many of the surfaces are indeed worn. Okay. But please, new buyers: Restore these finishes, spiff them up a little, maybe. But don’t rip them out, Please!
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  • The views, and the outdoor orientation. Oh my goodness. Those views! Clearly, Albert Martin designed the house to take best advantage of the home’s hillside plot and the views to the Silver Lake reservoir. Can you even begin to imagine what this all must have looked like in 1954??? (We have few photos, below, to hint.) Los Angeles … all of Southern California… was a paradise then! Not so crowded as today, alas.
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  • And the story — which explains why this house… this home… appears to literally vibrate with love. Neil Martin told Pam that this was the house he came home to from the hospital. Pam spoke to Neil by phone earlier this week, and reports:

His parents, Neil told me, were both students at Cooper Union in New York in the late 1940s. They married, and his father went to architecture school at University of Pennsylvania. After that, the couple moved to California, where Albert landed his first job in commercial architecture.

1960s-mid-century-homemid-century-hillside-housevintage-house-photoSoon thereafter, they bought this lot, Albert designed the house, and he and Gloria got started building it. “It’s even better than that,” Neil told me. His parents not only worked as their own contractors, but they personally built much of the house themselves. Family stories tell of Albert and Gloria putting up beams together. “My mother is holding the beam, while my dad is attaching it. ‘Don’t drop it,’ he says. ‘I’m not going to drop it,’ she says. ‘Don’t drop it,’ he says. ‘Hurry up, I’m getting tired,’ she says….” They survived the beams and went on to raise three children in the house. The bedroom with the rickie tickie stickies belonged to his sister, Neil confirms.

Tambour-door-media-center-mid-centuryAs far as he knows, Neil says, Albert and Gloria did all the interior finishing themselves. Obviously, they were talented creatives, and they brought each surface to life. They built the kitchen cabinets. Albert built a tambour-doored media center in the living room (shown above). Neil says it includes an entire stereo complex and drawers sized to hold reel-to-reel tapes.

mid-century-interiorThey built much of the furniture themselves.

blue tile bathroom driveway-scullpture-in-wallGloria chose the tile for the kitchen and bathrooms and did all the tiling work herself. An artist who over her lifetime worked with a variety of media, Gloria made the decorative tiles in the retaining wall leading to the garage (shown above.) At one point, there was a kiln in the garage, Neil said. Tidbit: Gloria Martin also carved heads and other works for the Pasadena Rose Bowl Parade, for 17 years. But, she was no old-dog-no-new-tricks: In recent years, she worked on the computer to create art. I love this couple! Love them!

mid-century-tiled-windosillsGloria was a teacher, too. She taught sculpture to the blind at the Braille Institute right up until her death at age 85 last year, Neil said.  Over the years, Gloria’s art filled the house. It still does. Even so, Neil says that the family has removed even more. They will sell the remaining artwork and furniture after the house is sold.

Albert P. Martin died in 2012, a year before Gloria. He was 88.

Gloria-MartinNeil says that his parents’s DIY drive came from the fact that they were “depression-era folks, who had no debt. They paid cash for the lot.” Yes, such were the values of so many people building these homes after the war. <3

architects

Undated photo of Albert Martin (center), with two other men, unknown.

A bit more on Albert Martin: As an architect, Martin focused on commercial buildings, not single-owner homes.

For the first 15 years of his career, he worked for Daniel, Mann, Johnson and Mendenhall, Architects, as a project architect, then a project director A famed project during this period was the Marina City Club in Marina Del Rey, Neil said.

Then, Albert Martin started his own firm, ArchiSystems International. Famous commissions included Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel, Hyatt Regency Long Beach, and high rise residential properties such as Barrington Towers in west Los Angeles, Neil said.

silver lake californiaI asked Neil what it was like growing up in such a house. He quickly replied, “It was normal.” A moment later, “I grew up thinking everyone had a view.” He said he spent his childhood on his bicycle, riding all around Silver Lake. “It was a bummer to ride your bike up the hill,” he said.

I also asked Neil for his opinion on the house’s most notable features. He points first to the nifty engineering. The house was built “on steel beams with 4′ square verticals”, he said, so there are no load-bearing walls. This meant that his parents could completely finish the top top floor — the living space — first, and move in. They finished the bottom level later, over time as they had the money. Next, he points to the plumbing system, which he says is all grouped into one 12′ square area that is accessible from the lower level. And, he made sure we noticed the stereo complex that his father built in the living room.

What does he think of all the attention to the house now, I ask?

“For a long time, this house would not have been considered anything special. In the mid-70s…. just another old house.” The attention now, “It’s kind of neat,” he said. But a “challenging thing,” too, he added, to have to clear out his parents’ lifetimes’ worth of accumulation. What to do with the thousands of family photos? This is something we all must face!

A look at some of our favorite features in this time capsule house:

retro-western-holly-wall-ovenWe have a big slide show, below. Meanwhile, we will point out a few favorite features and opine. Above: A gorgeous Western Holly wall oven in the home’s mostly original kitchen.

midcentury-retro-60s-kitchenAbove: We bet this is a super efficient, super functional kitchen in which to work! A genius layout, maybe even.

mid-century-kitchen-mosiac-backsplashAbove: We love all the tile work in the kitchen. We also love the stainless steel drainboard sink. And remember: Albert and Gloria Martin built all these cabinets themselves!

1960s-kitchenAbove: Light pours into the kitchen from the many panes of glass, and the cheery blue and gold color scheme gives the room a playful feel.

retro-kitchen-ceilingAbove: Another intriguing aspect of this space is the ceiling. Look at all of the light, line, shape and texture going on up there — not just on the ceiling — but also in the globe light fixtures. Realtor Brian Ades told us that an expert who viewed the house said there were numerous features that came from the world of commercial architecture. We’re guessing that lighted ceiling is one such feature.

kitchen-ceilingAbove: The working space half of the kitchen ceiling is a mix of box light fixtures and acoustic ceiling tile with a small round hole pattern. Again, it seems relatively easy to see the influence of commercial architecture on this decision.

room-divider-screen-retroAbove: The divider between the kitchen and the dining room features a textural metal screen.

mid-century-living-room-ceilingThe main living room of the home may not have quite as much color as the kitchen, and again it is a feast of texture. The ceiling appears to be some sort of ribbed cork planking — Nice!

mid-century-screenAbove: The windows over the sofa appear to be screened with the same material as the room divider between the dining room and kitchen. We need to find out more about these!

mid century tiled planterAbove: Notice the blue mosaic tile on the end of the planter in this photo. It reappears several places throughout the home.

mid-century-tiled-windosillsAbove: Looking at this art studio photo again, you can see the tile from the fireplace planter repeated on the window sills. Clever sliding cabinets made of pegboard mirror the kitchen cabinets. Another fun feature to note, it looks like the window sill continues into the adjoining room, forming a small passageway that provides unobstructed views, and likely additional ventilation.

jalouise-window-retroAbove: Speaking of ventilation, the home’s main stairway boasts a giant, two floor high jalousie window.

retro-pottery-studioOn the lower level, a large room with a well-used fireplace in Gloria Martin’s studio.

mid-century-patioAbove: There’s nothing I’d love to do more at this very moment than to relax on this amazing covered patio off the kitchen, don’t you agree?

Mega thanks to Neil Martin, for telling us about the history of this wonderful house, and thank to you and Brian for sharing the historic photos. Thanks to Sotheby’s realtor Brian Ades for allowing us to feature this property and for being such an enthusiastic help — and good shepherd of the mid mod! In his most recent update to us just yesterday, Brian said that more than 400 people came through the house in the first 72 hours it was on the market — there were two open houses. Visitors architectural buffs and buyers from as far north as Mill Valley, he said. And, thanks to Wasim Muklashy of Shooting LA Photography for supplying us with such gorgeous photography.

Tips to view slide show: Click on first image… it will enlarge and you can also read my captions… move forward or back via arrows below the photo… you can start or stop at any image:

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Comments

  1. Carol says

    Talk about building to suit a site. Nailed it! This house has me as speechless as Sarah’s Roundhouse. That stove is a work of art. I wanted to be an architect or industrial designer but settled for a business degree instead.. Oh woe is me. I drool over great design and industrial “art”. What a charmed life these two impressive people must have lived. How inspiring is that view? I want to go on vacation now. Siverlake has awesome architecture, but after seeing that view I now know what the fuss is about. The view looks like a postcard for a resort from many many decades ago. Wow! Thanks a million!

  2. linda h says

    My favorite thing is the long box light in the middle of the kitchen ceiling and the globe lights too! I just love the kitchen lighting!

  3. Sandra says

    Regarding photos, especially ones that tell a story, there is a market for them. When you can’t find a family member who wants them, try searching for “paper collectables” and postcard and photo collecting shows and businesses.

    My parents had some old family photos relating to a school (lots of people we didn’t know) that had enough historic interest for collectors. My step-dad was able to sell them to people who would appreciate them. They ofter prefer albums that tell about someone’s life, so it’s not just about the individual photo. Letters, too.

  4. Jay says

    Wonderul House – very tactile.
    I enjoyed this post as much as the one about Adrian Pearsall’s house because of the background story and the family anecdotes.
    This is a very unpretentious house, the owners did not create some sterile modernist home. The artist touches are everywhere. I liked the fern with the macrame hanger in the stairwell. Nice kitchen with central eat-in area. I don’t think it would be a major undertaking to freshen up the kitchen cabinets, masonite panels are still available.
    Maybe there will be a future article in Atomic Ranch featuring a sensitive loving do-over. Looks like a nice house to live in.

    • pam kueber says

      Yes, I thought of the Adrian Pearsall story, too. http://retrorenovation.com/2011/05/08/cindy-jed-and-jim-pearsall-on-growing-up-in-adrian-pearsalls-1964-masterpiece-house-design/

      It is always SO WONDERFUL to interview the families who actually lived in these houses. I am really grateful to Neil Martin for being to generous with his time, memories, photos… And Brian Ades is a real lover of these houses, too, and doing what he can to preserve them and their legacies.

      • Sam R says

        Several weeks back, I was in the driveway of the ’54 house (seems to be something of a theme year) rebuilding a gate for the privacy fence, and an older gentleman pulled up in the driveway. It was the son of the original builder, who had grown up in the house! His mother had lived in it until ’96, and he was able to tell me quite a bit about the history. Unfortunately he didn’t remember the color scheme of the master bath, which is the only room that’s faced serious modernization. His wife, who is a realtor, had taken a look when it was on the market and told him about the vandalization. He seemed quite happy that someone was taking care of the place.

  5. linda braman-merrill says

    now this is my dream house! i lov it so much. just wish i was rich enough to buy. but it wasnt meant for me to hav such a beautiful house! GOD BLESS THEM! IT IS SOMETHING THAT ANY BABY BOOMER WOULD LOV TO HAV.maybe some day befor im to old to enjoy something like this.

  6. Sara says

    Wow! The kitchen reminds me of the kitchen in original version of The Parent Trap (although I just Googled that kitchen and it is not all that similar). Then I started to wonder if the house in The Parent Trap was an actual house or just a set…it was a cool house. Anyway, I’m off on a tangent, lol. THIS house is just wonderful! I’m saying a prayer that someone buys it and appreciates it for what it is. I’d love to see it in person. And I love the family back-story as well. What a nice post to start a Friday!

  7. midmichigan says

    You do such a good job creating these time capsule posts. They’re a favorite of mine. Thanks and keep up the great work!

  8. Janice says

    Wow! I am absolutely speechless! I’ve viewed a lot of time capsules on Retro Renovation, but for reason, I truly felt like I was thrown back in time with this one. Perhaps it’s because it is so untouched and all the furniture is right where it was placed 60 years ago. I could imagine young Gloria Martin making bottles for her new babies in that dreamy kitchen and all the holiday meals prepared and served from that wonderful oven. I loved having the back story from Neil – you guys knocked it out of the park with this one! What a fabulous treat you gave us today. I’m just amazed by it all – including the stickers that have been on that wall for 48 years. Wow….

  9. vegebrarian says

    this may be my favorite time capsule house ever featured on the blog! I love, love, love the covered patio, the kitchen layout and the round window in the over door.

    It is also nice to see how well cork floors age, as my husband and I want to replace all of our carpeting with cork.

  10. mary hershelman says

    What a fabulous house…hopefully bought by someone who will appreciate it for all it’s glory.

  11. says

    Wow! That kitchen stove is giving me conniption fits! WANT! What a great house. It’s mid-century and yet looks like it could’ve been built yesterday. Prettiest one you’ve shared yet. I’ll be dreaming about this house for a while….

  12. Nina462 says

    I have those exact barstools in the kitchen. they are in my knotty pine bar – got 6 of them for $35 at an estate sale a couple years ago.

    Nice house, beautiful view. I can imagine this is where Don Draper would live, had he lived in CA.

  13. Ali says

    I absolutely adore this house! What a sweet and stylish couple :) I may never get over that gorgeous wall oven!

  14. Scott says

    Wonderful story, amazing house with oodles of inspiring ideas.

    Two questions, what brand is that glorious stainless futuristic-looking Food-a-Rac-a-Cycle style stove?

    and

    what is the gold (metal?) design element on the tiles/panels in photo 22? Deer and trees? Abstract? Whatever it is it is stunning.

    • Jenny says

      The wall oven is a Western Holly. Pam mentioned it in the captions (and it’s also unmistakable for those of us who are familiar with the brand).

  15. Katie says

    Beautiful house. So warm and practical, you can tell it was designed to be a HOME. The layout of the kitchen is very similar to the one that I have in my house, and I can testify that its great.

  16. Cynthia says

    What a joy to see this family’s well-loved “home of creativity”. The colors are so pleasing, timeless. I love the exterior orange color on the garage door and the blue trim too. Alas, I wonder how much the buyers will change….sniffle sniffle. The art in the pictures shows his mother’s great talent, and he should open a gallery in her honor!

  17. tammyCA says

    That’s cool…my style is not angular modern but I sure can appreciate it and I wouldn’t change it…ha, if I had a couple millions to buy.
    BTW, while searching for a childhood memory of a space-age designed grocery store we shopped at in the ’60s, I stumbled upon this neat documentary about Mies Van der Rohe’s glass house in Illinois (he only designed 3 houses in the U.S.) They dismantled the house and now it is at the Elmhurst Art Museum:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q3dpzWuhDI4
    I remember sitting in Mies Van der Rohe chairs in the reception areas of places I worked at years ago…funny, how desirable they are now but back then I remember how hard they were to get out of.

  18. Jeff says

    Amazing house and an equally amazing couple to make it reality….Let’s hope the new owners are as respectful of this home and it’s history.

  19. says

    Absolutely spectacular. One of my friends growing up had a similar kitchen, but a traditional Chicago suburban home. I love seeing these… thanks always for sharing.

  20. Joe Felice says

    What a magnificent house! I would like to know more about the metal “shades” on the living-room windows, as well as the composition of the ceiling. It almost appears to be some type of carpeting. What are the dark spots on it? Discoloration, stains (smoking?) or color variations in the material? I especially like the turquoise kitchen. The tile on the lower counter top doesn’t seem right, though. I don’t recall ceramic tile as a popular counter in kitchens in the ’50s. The window coverings throughout the house need some attention. Most could probably simply be removed, as they are unnecessary. (No one can see in the windows.) I really like the setting of the patio, at the base of the hill. I wonder if there is a water containment/removal system engineered into the base of it. I suspect there is, otherwise rain water would pour down the slope onto the patio, along with mud. I’m thinking they probably had some issues with that over the years, given LA’s propensity to mud slides.

    • Jenny says

      Ceramic tile was a totally common kitchen countertop. Not as “hip” and “modern” as Formica™ of course, but very common.

      • pam kueber says

        Agreed! Ceramic tile — 4″ squares — would have been a totally acceptable 1950s countertop in a kitchen or a bath…

        • Mike says

          Yep, we remodeled our kitchen and pulled out most of the tile (and replaced all the cabinets), but left the floor to ceiling yellow/blue backsplash behind the original 1950 range.
          Our bathroom is still 100 percent original pink/green, though. With a 5ftx5ft tub-shower.

  21. JivenMama says

    Thank you for posting this, Pam. What a feast for the eyes and inspiration for the soul. Maybe we should start a petition to make it an historical landmark so the new owners CAN’T change anything ;-)

  22. staazak says

    i am in the same process,,,, quiet,,,, simple,,, i am also an artist,,,, i pass my time as i can,,,, but it is my time,,, i hope someone can enjoy it,,,, once i pass my time.

  23. Amy says

    what an inspiring couple and an inpspiring house! Their children should be so proud! I plan to study these photos and replicate some of the ideas in my home -

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