Photos by Peter McMenamin.
To enter the Frank House—better known as Case Study House #25 to architecture buffs—you must first carefully step across a row of what look like floating square stones, being careful not to plunge a foot into the reflecting pool where, on any normal home, might have been an over-watered lawn.
Upon your successful crossing into the home's sequestered sanctuary of an atrium, you can look up and discover a solace in the natural light streaming through the slats above, a sense of calm from the quiet neighborhood and a sense of peace from the sound of water lapping against Naples' Rivo Alto canal.
The Case Study House Program was introduced by Arts & Architecture magazine in its January 1945 issue as a way to build affordable and efficient homes to address the post-WWII housing boom in Southern California. Continuing until the early 1960s, such notable architects that participated in the program included Charles Eames, Ralph Rapson, Richard Neutra, John Rex, J.R. Davidson, Whitney Smith and Thornton Abell, who, along with William Wurster and Sumner Spaulding designed the first eight houses, some of which still remain unbuilt.
According to Arts & Architecture Magazine, the program announcement required that each "house must be capable of duplication and in no sense be an individual 'performance'... It is important that the best material available be used in the best possible way in order to arrive at a 'good' solution to each problem, which in the overall program will be general enough to be of practical assistance to the average American in search of a home in which he can afford to live."
Case Study House #25, featured in Arts & Architecture Magazine in October 1962, was built by Killingsworth, Brady, Smith and Associate, Architects in 1961 and sits, unassumingly, at 82 Rivo Alto Canal in Naples. You might catch a glimpse of its simple, yet striking geometry when driving by, but the visitor or resident taking a stroll alongside the breezy canal will surely have the better opportunity to revel in its outstanding, hard-lined ingenuity.
While the dramatic 17-foot tall front door is anything but soft spoken, upon walking through them and entering the cool, shaded atrium, you begin to realize that Edward Killingsworth must have had the fundamentals of efficiency in mind. No frills, no curves or flouncy extravagance detract from the building's serene placement by the water. It's a design that addresses its location, that has the ability to let in the sky, the bobbing boats of the canal, the padding feet and wandering gazes of Naples passersby, or in a private moment, completely shut them out.
Originally commissioned by bachelor Edward Frank of the Frank Bros. furniture store in Long Beach, the fourth set of owners, a couple in recent retirement, have taken fastidious care of the home for over 30 years. Doug Kramer of SoCal Modern, who protected and sold one of Killingsworth's most iconic works, the 3051 E. Ocean Blvd. home, to an architect who preserved the 2,317-square-foot space in all of its mid century modern glory, spoke about The Frank House as an expert entranced.
Kramer stood at the second-story window on a late afternoon, overlooking the atrium and said, "What's really incredible, which you can't really experience right now because of the time of the day, is the way the shadows change because of the slats, and the shadows are just remarkable as they change through the morning into the afternoon."
As we walked through the quiet hallway, the floor to ceiling windows to our right, Kramer pointed out the bathroom to our left, a small space cleverly expanded by a narrow, not-to-be-used balcony that let in a tremendous amount of calming, natural sunlight.
He explained how the American architect innovatively worked with with the narrow, 3,461-square-foot lot, saying, "This is a little touch that I appreciate so much about Killingsworth, is he extends a little outdoor space here, off of a second-story bathroom, just to bring light in and a greater sense of space, not that you would use that outdoor space, but you enjoy it from the interior. Little touches like that I think make a huge difference."
"There's always kind of a serenity that I feel when I'm here. I experience that in all the Killingsworth buildings that I've been in," he said reminiscently.
The 2,307-square-foot single-family home has three bedrooms, two and a half bathrooms and a 40-foot private dock on the canal and can be bought for $2.549 million. Showings can be arranged by contacting mid century modern aficionados and husband and wife real estate team, Doug and Rochelle Kramer.
"It's a finite audience at this price range," said Doug, "and then it's further finite in terms of someone that's drawn to mid century modern design. But, hopefully with time we'll find the right person."
For more information and to request a showing, visit the listing at SoCal Modern by clicking here.