Mass Appeal

The postwar housing boom produces some modernist havens, among them a Valley tract


Photographs by Tim Street-Porter

Tract developments took the demands—monetary and mental—of building a new home off the backs of postwar couples hard at work raising businesses and families. By the 1960s, huge subdivisions blanketed L.A. from the Valley to Long Beach, with some of L.A.’s most celebrated architects participating in their planning. Modernist Joseph Eichler concentrated on Northern California but did oversee a model community in Granada Hills that became his sole L.A. County contribution. For the 108 homes—completed in 1964 and called Balboa Highlands—he hired the local team of A. Quincy Jones and Frederick Emmons to conceive designs that continued his tradition of bringing the outside in. Large sliding glass doors form entire walls, and sunlight streams into the atrium.

Jeff Morritt grew up in modernist homes in Canada and was looking with his wife, Ana Maria, for midcentury versions on the Westside—“none of which I could afford”—when he stumbled on the Eichler tract in 2007. He used old photos to re-create the interior, replacing the long-gone Philippine mahogany on the living room wall with Nepal teak and scouring eBay for clocks, lamps, rugs, and furniture (the sofa came from Florida) of the period. The big score: a Zenith record console from a collector. Morritt bought matching grooved siding at Far West Plywood in the Valley for a damaged area in the front, but the door and its satellite doorknob are original. When it came time to paint the exterior, he used colors more in keeping with Palm Springs than the mustard hues favored by the builder. In the backyard, the refurbished pool looks out on a panorama of scalloped hills and a sycamore-lined creek.


Three Other Tract Stars

Long Beach | 1954
» Known for his horsey properties in Brentwood, May gave the Mexican hacienda a modernist makeover for the area’s Rancho Estates.


Northridge | 1958
» The team put tiki touches in the interiors at the 160-home site. Their historic Corbin Palms development in Woodland Hills tallied more than 280 houses.


Mar Vista | 1948
» Ain, who worked for Charles and Ray Eames, collaborated with landscape architect Garrett Eckbo for the project.



Illustrations by Paul Rogers 

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