This is the ideal little modernist residence; it has simple, clean lines, lots of light, and good indoor/outdoor flow that lends it a quality of expansiveness.
Designed by renowned modernist architect Gregory Ain in 1947 as part of the ten-unit Avenel Homes complex in L.A.’s fashionable Silver Lake area, the 1,114 square foot condo has a flexible open floor plan, and sliding walls that allow the space to be utilized with one, two or even three bedrooms. The bathroom has been tastefully updated, and the kitchen has been beautifully remodeled to include state of the art appliances and bespoke plywood cabinetry. The kitchen blends seamlessly into the great room over an integrated dining table, which opens onto a patio with spectacular views of the hills of Silver Lake and the Griffith Park Observatory. (One of the bedrooms also has direct access to a separate enclosed patio space.) Like all of his buildings, the Avenel condo has a discreet, modest glamour that’s unique to Ain.
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Listed in the National Registry of Historic Places since 2005, the Avenel Homes complex encapsulates the core issues Ain strove to address in his work. Described by Esther McCoy as “an idealist who gave the better part of ten years to combatting outmoded real estate practices,” Ain made it his business to bring modernism to the masses.
Born in 1908, Ain grew up in Lincoln Heights, and for a period of his childhood, his family lived at Llano del Rio, a legendary socialist farming commune in Antelope Valley. Inspired to become an architect after seeing a building by modernist legend Rudolph Schindler, Ain worked for trailblazing architect Richard Neutra from 1930 through 1935, and during World War II he was chief engineer for Charles and Ray Eames.
Ain was unusual in that he had no interest in making big architectural statements; he was interested in what he described as “the common architectural problems of common people,” and was an early pioneer of tract housing during the thirties and forties.
His career began a decline in the early fifties when he was blacklisted during the Red Scare; like with many in Hollywood, the Joe McCarthy crew did a good job of squashing Ain’s career, too. (It’s interesting to note that four of the original tenants of the Avenel complex were also blacklisted.) McCarthy’s House Un-American Activities Committee cost him his place in John Entenza’s landmark inquiry into modernism, the Case Study House Program, and in the final 35 years of his life, he succeeded in building just three more houses. J. Edgar Hoover called Ain “the most dangerous architect in America,” which is my idea of a ringing endorsement.