From San Francisco to Los Angeles and everywhere in between, California abounds with dramatic natural scenery. Throughout the 20th century, local architects built homes in response to their rugged surroundings, cementing a tradition of groundbreaking modern architecture.
We’ve gathered some of the best modern California homes on the market right now, from a Palm Springs desert home posthumously completed by SCI-Arc founder Ray Kappe to Matthew Leizer’s treehouse-inspired Topanga State Park wood home.
Frank Sinatra’s former Hollywood estate
7 bedrooms; $21.5 m via Sotheby’s International Realty
William Pereira designed this lateral hilltop home, which once belonging to Frank Sinatra. A vision in glass and painted brick, the Byrdview Estate spans a promontory in Chatsworth, with panoramic views over the adjacent nature reserve. It has a 2,000-square-foot pergola lounge and glass-encased double-height living room with gallery walls. Byrdview is just one of four homes designed by the architect, but the estate is also notable for its connection to Hollywood’s elite. Rumour has it, Marilyn Monroe once lived in a guest cottage on the grounds.
A Case Study forerunner by Richard Neutra
Richard Neutra’s Plywood Demonstration/Brice Residence was built in Douglas for a House & Garden exhibition predating the Case Study houses. The Brentwood Glen property showcases the architect’s flat, surface style with a staggered overhanging roof, bands of windows and varnished panelled interiors with views into other parts of the house. Neutra also designed the artist’s studio in its garden for former owner William Brice, son of famed comedian Fannie.
David Ming-Lowe’s Venice Beach artist compound
Built in 1984 by architect and designer David Ming-Li Lowe, this 3,865 sq ft live/work loft is set a few blocks from Venice Beach. The steel structure features exposed beams, elegant cross-bracing, French doors and operable windows that evoke Japanese architecture. But the standout feature is the translucent Kalwall panelling, which brings a warm milky glow to the interior. Recently revamped, the Venice Beach property encompasses two mirrored structures connected by a raised deck and a central courtyard garden.
Ray Kappe’s last Palm Springs home
This multilevel, steel-framed Palm Springs home was the last residential design by SCI-Arc founder Ray Kappe, completed posthumously in 2020. It has a flowing, low-level design with cantilevered outdoor spaces that ensure minimal impact on its surroundings in Desert Palisades. In addition to teak panelling, built-in furnishings and polished concrete floors, the interior enjoys sweeping views from banks of glass across the Coachella Valley desert and mountains.
A Topanga treehouse home
Matthew Leizer celebrates the beauty of wood in this 1968 Topanga State Park treehouse-style home. From its vast windows to the oversized fireplace in the living room, features heighten the building’s quirky personality. The geometric roof produces wide overhangs, shading the views to the Santa Monica Mountains, while angular walls create a meandering 3,382 sq ft layout.
Ravenseye in Malibu
Harry Gesner’s 1997 ‘Ravenseye’ emulates the curve of a wave with its sweeping form, external wood arches and a glass boat-shaped façade. Its 30-ft-high great room, which may have been inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright’s Wayfarers Chapel, sits under a vaulted roof while cathedral-like windows frame expansive Pacific Ocean views. The 4,100 sq ft property is surrounded by lush tropical Malibu gardens, with a vintage 1957 Airstream trailer hidden amid the greenery.