Wallace Neff may have been the preeminent architect of Spanish colonial-revival houses in Southern California, but surprisingly little has been written about him, despite the publicity he received for designing great estates for Hollywood legends such as Mary Pickford. "I just build California houses for California people," this exceedingly private architect told friends and clients. In fact, Neff was an ambitious and inventive designer who was not only adept at manipulating traditional styles to please famous, wealthy clients like Cary Grant, Claudette Colbert, and Darryl Zanuck; he was also a pioneer in low-cost housing and pneumatic building. The Bubble House, as his best-known Airform structure was fondly nicknamed, had a social vision as compelling as that of any modernist housing project. Wallace Neff and the Grand Houses of the Golden State
tells the life story of this significant architect, who was raised as Southern California aristocracy -- an heir to one of the founders of Rand McNally & Company -- and grew up to influence the course of architectural history in California. Illustrated throughout with lush black-and-white archival photographs that document Neff's family life and professional accomplishments, journalist Diane Kanner's compelling narrative offers a behind-the-scenes look at the development of residential architecture in Southern California. The first comprehensive analysis of the life and work of this undiscovered master, it is sure to become a classic.
Pilar Viladas is the design editor of the New York Times Magazine