Design from His
Home and Studio
by Carl Liggett
Specialist, Modern Design
In our upcoming Art & Design auction on June 28, 2020, Toomey & Co. Auctioneers is pleased to begin the Modern Design section with some excellent examples of furniture by architect Lloyd Wright — eldest son of Frank Lloyd Wright (also with several items in the sale). Lot 365 includes a dining table and pair of chairs by Lloyd Wright. Lot 366 and Lot 367 respectively feature a pair of end tables and an impressive bed frame attributed to Lloyd Wright as well.
The Estate of Michael Rabkin
These and several other items in this section of the sale come from The Estate of Michael Rabkin and the West Los Angeles, Lloyd Wright-designed home, completed in 1937, where Michael and Ginger Rabkin lived for many years. To learn more about the Rabkin’s collection, you may reference an earlier post, “Art Deco Material from The Estate of Michael Rabkin” (featuring furniture from early modern designers such as Gilbert Rohde, Paul Frankl, Donald Deskey, Warren McArthur, and others).
Perhaps appropriately these Lloyd Wright items will immediately follow a set of three Kalita Humphreys Theater seats in Lot 364 designed by Frank Lloyd Wright himself — also with Rabkin provenance.
Biography of Lloyd Wright
On March 31, 1890, Frank Lloyd Wright Jr. became the first son to one of the world’s most famous architects. Later known simply as Lloyd Wright, he spent much of his young life at his father’s studio in their hometown of Oak Park, Illinois, just west of Chicago, as well as at what would become the site of Frank Lloyd Wright’s sprawling estate, Taliesin in Spring Green, Wisconsin. Growing up under this influence, it should come as no surprise that Lloyd Wright, too, would become an accomplished architect and designer.
After briefly attending the University of Wisconsin–Madison, Lloyd Wright found a position with the esteemed Olmsted Brothers landscape architecture firm in Boston, Massachusetts. The firm sent Wright to San Diego, California to assist with the landscape design of the 1915 Panama–California Exposition. This would be Wright’s introduction to the Southern California region, where he would continue to live and complete the majority of his best-known works.
The John and Ruth Sowden House
In the 1920s, while assisting his father on various projects, such as the Aline Barnsdall Hollyhock House in East Hollywood, Lloyd Wright also began his own independent career with a number of works in the Los Angeles area. Perhaps most recognizable and well-regarded was the Mayan-influenced John and Ruth Sowden House, located at 5121 Franklin Avenue in Los Angeles’ Los Feliz neighborhood, which appeared in such films as L.A. Confidential and as Ava Gardner’s residence in The Aviator. Although not well received at the time, the home’s use of decorative concrete blocks would eventually become popular and is now seen as a signature characteristic of Lloyd Wright’s California homes, as well as those of his father.
The Frank Lloyd Wright Jr. Home and Studio
Lot 365, the Lloyd Wright dining table and chairs in our upcoming auction, were made specifically for another of Lloyd Wright’s best residential projects from the period: the architect’s own home and studio at 858 North Doheny Drive in West Hollywood. Completed in 1927, this beautifully compact, 2,413-square-foot space was arranged into two separate units — one for living and one for work. Again, decorative concrete blocks were used here, this time in an interlocking, stylized Joshua Tree motif. By the 1990s, the home had fallen into a state of disrepair, some interior elements were let go, and a full restoration was undertaken by Lloyd Wright’s son, architect Eric Lloyd Wright.
Other Architecture in Los Angeles by Lloyd Wright
If not for carrying the Frank Lloyd Wright name, and working in the shadow of his father, it is likely that the beautiful architecture and design of Lloyd Wright would be even more greatly appreciated today. We invite you to research this somewhat lesser-known yet highly accomplished architect. In addition to The Frank Lloyd Wright Jr. Home and Studio and The John and Ruth Sowden House, other notable Lloyd Wright-designed homes from the 1920s in Southern California include: The Martha Taggart House, 2158 Live Oak Drive, Los Angeles, California; The Henry O. Bollman House, 1530 North Ogden Drive, Los Angeles, California; The James Derby House, 2535 East Chevy Chase Drive, Glendale, California; and The Louis Samuel-Ramon Novarro Residence, 5609 Valley Oak Drive, Los Angeles, California.