Case Study House #25: Modernist Living on the Rivo Alto Canal

Next in the series, let’s take a look at Case Study House #25, or the “Frank House,” designed by architects Killingsworth, Brady and Smith for their client Edward Frank and completed in December of 1962.

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Frank was the owner of Frank Bros. furniture store, which happened to provide modern furnishings for more than half of the Case Study Houses. But, it was Frank’s passion for boating that inspired the design of his home.

Located on the Rivo Alto Canal in the Naples section of Long Beach, the building site was ideal for a boating enthusiast—it even came complete with a 40-foot private boat dock.

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Because Frank believed that most visitors would arrive by boat, the architects situated the main entrance facing the canal. Upon leaving the water, visitors would approach the home by a pathway of stepping stones over a reflecting pool and enter through a massive 17-foot-high front door that reveals a two-story interior courtyard with open views to adjacent rooms. 

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The door itself is a marvel of architectural design, and while its sheer size makes it anything but understated, it plays an integral part in showcasing the volume of the courtyard without overpowering the total composition. Northrop Architectural Systems supplied the 3’6” x 17” slab door of honeycomb aluminum that was fabricated in one piece, like an airplane wing. It also came with the latest in home technology: an electronic opener which was controlled at the intercom in the interior of the house.

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Most of the interior living spaces looked out to the courtyard through two floor-to-ceiling walls of glass, which were positioned to allow for maximum glass exposure without compromising the privacy of less social rooms. This architectural sleight of hand was recognized when the house was built, with Arts & Architecture noting that “the house turns in upon itself, creating its own quiet and seclusion.”

The architects also had to grapple with building on a small city lot, which made privacy an even greater consideration. But, it was important to “develop maximum coverage” since the prime beachfront location made this site an extremely high dollar property. When the house was complete, all but 174 square feet of the available property to build on was utilized.

A magnificent 25’ olive tree was moved in to provide another layer of privacy from the outside, and screen view into and out ofthe house. The tree also softened the exterior plaster, which was applied with a sprayed finish to give the large walls some depth and texture.

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The house remains intact today, despite some modest modifications over the years that reportedly got the thumbs-up from the original designers. After staying off the market for at least a couple decades, it was listed in early 2015 for sale at $2.549 million. It sold later in the year for just shy of $2M at $1.994 million.

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1 Comment

  • Reply Travis LaRiviere July 12, 2017 at 1:40 pm

    I grew up in Long Beach and would always walk around Naples and the Rivo Alto Canal every year during the Christmas season with the light displays. This house always intrigued me because it stood out from everything else and never knew what was on the inside. I didn’t realize that after nearly 26 years that I had been walking by such a famous and iconic piece of modern architecture. Thank you for this article! I read the blog as often as possible.

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