LOS ANGELES — “You could call it my paean of love to the neighborhood,” says Los Angeles architect Barbara Bestor of her new book, “Bohemian Modern: Living in Silver Lake.”
Part architectural guide, part community album with a meet-the-neighbors casualness, the beautifully produced boxed volume, due out later this month from Regan Books, explores Los Angeles’ Eastside neighborhood that in recent years has become the apogee of hip. Bestor’s personal and idiosyncratic portrait of the area is revealed through a sprinkling of anecdotes and cocktail recipes, colorful graphics and photographs.
The architect’s relationship with the enclave, known for its rich vein of midcentury modernist architecture, began two decades ago, when the Cambridge, Mass., native and Harvard graduate would wander the hills looking for hidden housing gems. And there are many — including homes designed by Richard Neutra, John Lautner and R.M. Schindler. The book includes Schindler’s 1953 house inhabited by filmmaker Thom Andersen and artist Roger Herman’s plywood castle, built in 1988 by Frederick Fisher, whose work includes the P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center in Queens, New York.
The Eastside area, including Silver Lake and adjacent Echo Park, has long been at the forefront of avant-garde Los Angeles, from its role as the site of the pre-Hollywood film industry through the postwar modernists and finally to its current critical mass of artists, musicians and actors. But when Bestor first arrived, the area was dormant. “In those days, it was very sleepy, pretty mellow,” she says. For better or worse, she was among the vanguard of new residents who began the shift. In 1989, she designed stores on Vermont Avenue for streetwear brands X-Large and X-Girl, the first of the busy hub of shops and cafes that exists today.
Bestor rolled out more shops for the brands in the U.S. and Japan, and gradually expanded into residential work. “I have strong modernist training, but I’m suspicious of any orthodoxy,” she says. “I leave things a little bit raw. I prefer houses to be somewhat mute and simple outside, combine rooms into big spaces inside, and have lots of indoor-outdoor space.” While her architectural projects now include a beach house in Santa Barbara for photographer Dewey Nicks, Silver Lake remains her zip code of choice. She is building four houses there, among them a hillside home for “CSI: NY” actor Hill Harper.
This story first appeared in the April 18, 2006 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
For Bestor, the book represents the neighborhood in more than just subject matter. Fellow Eastsider Geoff McFetridge, an illustrator whose film work includes the opening titles for “Adaptation” and “Virgin Suicides,” did the illustrations, and California Institute of the Arts professor Michael Worthington handled the graphics. “I wanted people on the experimental side of graphics to complement the experimental side of the architecture,” Bestor says. “How great is it that there’s this progressive community here, combined with progressive design? It’s not flashy. It’s still modest. And people love the area because of that.”