The Kaufmann House Sells for $19 Million

by hookedonhouses on May 17, 2008

Architect Richard Neutra designed the Kaufmann House in Palm Springs, California, in 1947, and it still stands as a prime example of modernist architecture.

The house was commissioned by Edgar Kaufmann, a department-store tycoon, who had hired Frank Lloyd Wright to build Fallingwater in Pennsylvania the decade before. After Kaufmann died in 1955, his Palm Springs house stood vacant for several years, but later had a series of famous owners including Barry Manilow.

Its auction at Christie’s last week made international headlines. The auction house expected it to sell for upwards of $25 million, but in the end an anonymous bidder scooped it up for $19.

The house was made famous by photographs taken by Julius Shulman such as these:

In 1992 it was purchased by Brent and Beth Harris for $1.5 million and they spent another $5 million painstakingly restoring the home to its original design. Neutra had died in 1970 and the original plans were unavailable, so the Harrises looked through the Neutra archives at UCLA and Columbia University and studied original, never-published photographs of the home’s interior taken by famous photographer Julius Shulman.

The couple divorced, however, and the home was sold at auction by Christie’s as part of a high-profile sale of contemporary art. The auction house had priced the house as being worth up to $25 million. According to Christie’s:

Neutra’s Kaufmann House is one of the most important examples of modernist residential architecture in the Americas and remains singular as the most important example of mid-century moderist architecture in the Americas to remain in private hands. It sold for $16,841,000 – and the buyer exercised an option to buy the orchard, taking the total for the house to $19,025,000.

Some are speculating that the anonymous buyer may be Brad Pitt, since he reportedly looked at it recently and has an interest in modernist architecture in general. Besides, he and Angelina will probably need another house to contain their growing brood (can you believe she’s having twins?).

Here’s a photo of Brangelina at the Cannes Film Festival on May 14. Does it look like they’re thinking, “Boy are we excited about that Kaufmann house”? Look deep into their eyes and tell me if you see anything that might give us a clue.

Today critics consider the Kaufman House among the five most important houses of 20th century architecture in the U.S. along with Fallingwater, Robie House, Gropius House and the Gamble House.

You can watch a slideshow of the home that includes more of Shuler’s photographs and read more about this house at The New York Times.

Photo credits: exteriors at top of post, Tim Street-Porter/Esto, via the NYT; interior and pool photos copyright Julius Shulman; Angelina and Brad copyright of Tony Barson,

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JLB May 17, 2008 at 10:02 pm

This house is an icon. It has been features or duplicated in hundreds of ad’s over the years and kind of defined the Palm Springs Style. A similar home was in the movie Oceans Eleven.
It is not my style ,but it sure is cool. before I even read the part about Brad Pitt I was thinking I bet Brad Pitt bought this. He is a huge architechture buff. And who else would pay such a price for a piece of real estate.

courtney @ nesting instincts May 18, 2008 at 1:40 am

I looked deep into their eyes, and I’m pretty sure they were thinking, “Where should we put the couch in our newly aqquired Kaufman house?” or better yet “Where will we put all our kids in the Kaufman house?”

Marie May 18, 2008 at 8:42 am

I looked deep into Brad’s eyes and what he said to me cannot be repeated on a public blog. Sorry.

Cool house, though!

courtney @ nesting instincts May 18, 2008 at 9:31 am

oh Marie….LOL…!!!

maryjane May 18, 2008 at 5:38 pm

My husband would love to live in this house and so would I! As for Brad and A. what a wonderful space for a family….

Angela May 18, 2008 at 7:18 pm

LOVE the house! I would love to tour mid-century homes in Palm Springs–including this one, while Brad and Angelina were there. Oh, maybe just when Brad is there. Or maybe when they are both at the store and I could go through their stuff. No, I would never do that. But I can’t say I wouldn’t be tempted.

Amy May 18, 2008 at 7:32 pm

It’s amazing. However, I can’t help but wonder: does a truckload of Fisher Price for the Jolie-Pitt crew really go with the modernist aesthetic? : P

Diana May 18, 2008 at 8:56 pm

WHOA!! Love it – thanks for posting.

Amy May 19, 2008 at 11:46 am

I’m typically a cottage girl, but I’ve always had a soft spot for modern arcitecture like this. Love it!

Tori May 19, 2008 at 5:00 pm

What an artistic and beautiful house. Though I must
say for some strange reason I picture extremely
skinny women and extremely fit men doing some sort
of unrealistic walk across the floor toward the pool.

Max Neutra May 23, 2008 at 4:36 pm

Hi there,

Max Neutra here. Great Grandson of Richard Neutra. If you are interested in seeing how I am continuing the creative bloodline through contemporary art, stop by my solo art shows opening next month in Los Angels.

You can find more info here:

alberto zavala July 5, 2008 at 11:58 pm

wow,if the master would of known who were going to
to live in the master piece… have to check on NO renovations!!!!!!

VeronnicA May 9, 2009 at 10:10 pm

Personally, I wouldn’t pay 10 bucks for that house. It
s so boring and plain!

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