Glowing on a ridge, overlooking the trendy Los Angeles neighborhood of Silver Lake and its reservoir, sits the famed Silvertop house with its monolithic domed concrete roof supporting a wall of glass that frames an incredible panoramic view that includes the San Gabriel Mountains, the Hollywood Sign, downtown Los Angeles, and the Pacific Ocean. It is an engineering marvel built by legendary mid-century architect John Lautner who was lauded by Frank Lloyd Wright as the “next best architect on earth.”
Silvertop is part of Hollywood’s love affair with Lautner’s mid-century architectural masterpieces, many of which have not only popped up in a number of movies, TV shows, and music videos, but have also enjoyed a high level of celebrity occupancy/ownership. In fact, Lautner’s unique style was the inspiration for Tony Stark’s stunning cliffside mansion in the Ironman movies.
Silvertop was originally commissioned in 1956 by Kenneth Reiner, a businessman and inventor, who happened to be the perfect partner-in-crime for Lautner and his future-thinking vision. They set out to build a modern home full of technological wonders, and any piece of technology that Lautner did not have, Reiner would invent and make it.
Per Lautner and Reiner, “The house was to be quiet, both to the ear and the eye, and achieve a sense of natural beauty by blending into the natural surroundings.” The concept was to make it connect the indoors to the outdoors. A prime example is the expansive curving living room window made from hanging glass panels and custom mechanical glass doors that blend into the overall window, and the 80-foot monolithic concrete domed roof that mimics the hill the house sits on.
The groundbreaking Silvertop project featured the very first infinity-edge pool created - dreamed up by Lautner. Publications, at the time, were in awe of Silvertop’s pool, which was “spookily engineered so there seems to be no rim, just water to the edge,” per Life Magazine in 1962.
The house was filled with other technological wonders of its day, that are still fascinating today, such as a concealed and silent HVAC system, mechanical and electrical systems, concealed outlets and switches, faucetless sinks, a dining table operated by hydraulics that lowered for cocktails or raised for meals, ingeniously designed closets, niches and drawers, including hidden rotating closets (like a spice rack, but for clothing), motorized louvers and cork ceiling that slid open to turn rooms into glass pavilions, as well as a fully retractable glass wall and roof in the master bathroom creating an outdoor shower.
Lautner was known to possess a preternatural sense of light, which he incorporated into his repertoire of iconic architectural pieces. Silvertop was not an exception, with electrically-controlled skylights, and lights that pivoted into the ceiling, as much thought went into the lighting as he put into every other aspect of designing Silvertop.
After purchasing Silvertop in 2014 Beats By Dre President, Luke Wood, commissioned Bestor Architecture to embark upon an extensive restoration, which included discretely modernizing Silvertop while staying true to Lautner’s original intent by working with an architectural historian.
Any systems that were modernized or digitized were hidden from view, such as the heating and cooling systems. The lighting at Silvertop was updated with the latest technology and curated by KGM Architectural Lighting. Fixtures used included Diva multiples and Bongo surface mounted fixtures by Zaniboni Lighting.
The restoration and modernization of Silvertop has preserved the integrity of one of L.A.’s most important homes, while keeping its spirit of innovation alive. Silvertop remains as fascinating today as it was when it was built in the 1950s.