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New Millennium Modernism

Modern architect Richard Neutra is as relevant today as 50 years ago and not just in Los Angeles, where much of his work can be found.

"Architects must have a razor sharp sense of individuality."
-- Richard Neutra

Design on a Dime host/designer Lee Snijders believes architect Richard Neutra's environmental and elegant design philosophies are timeless, as well as inspiring.

"Richard Neutra was an amazing mid-century architect whose work is very Jetsons, yet very current," says Snijders.

Neutra, who died in 1970, may be most well-known for the home he built for Dr. P.M. Lovell, known as the Health House because of how it incorporated nature, outdoor play and recreation areas. The home, which is dramatically perched above the Pacific Ocean, was featured in the movie LA Confidential. In 1949, at the peak of his career, Neutra graced the cover of Time magazine.

In 1949, at the peak of his career, Richard Neutra graced the cover of Time magazine.

In L.A., Neutra homes have shot up in popularity in the last decade as mid-century modern furniture became hot, but it's a style that is also in demand in newer homes, Snijders says.

"Neutra designs are almost feng shui-like in how they take into consideration which way the wind is coming from, where the sun is rising and where the views are. Today's homeowners are interested in those things, too."

In fact, Dion Neutra, the son and partner of Richard who is now in his late 70s, continues to preach and practice the Neutra philosophy.

To work Richard Neutra's design approach into your own home, consider these Neutra principles:

  • Designed for living. Neutra studied how occupants used a home and flowed from room to room and based his designs on their needs. Interior materials were imaginative yet practical, such as cork flooring, which has become very popular today for its durability and style.
  • Inside-out connections. Courtyards, sliding glass doors and walls and mirrors to reflect exterior views all encouraged a relationship between occupants and nature.
  • Clean lines. Neutra homes have flat roofs and lots of built-ins, such as beds, bookcases and cabinets. Nothing fussy or extraneous.
  • Minimalist details. Nothing was overdone in a Richard Neutra home. Coves were simple, doors were left untrimmed and landscaping was important but minimal with the emphasis on purpose and quality over quantity.

For more information, check out these books, available from Amazon.com:

Neutra
by Barbara Lamprecht

Modernism Reborn: Mid-Century American Houses
by Michael Webb

Palm Springs Modern: Houses in the California Desert
by Adele Cygelman

Richard Neutra's Miller House
by Stephen Leet

Anne Krueger is the editor of HGTV.com's Decorating newsletter. She has written for In Style, This Old House, Martha Stewart Living and The New York Times.

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