Art: New Shells

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Indoors & Out. Neutra's house for the B.s had been finished and occupied by last week. Viewed from the street it lay along the hillside like an airy fort, constructed of redwood, rosy-beige stucco and plate glass. A solidly railed, angular deck jutted out at one side; a larger, unrailed deck of slat-grill redwood served as the entrance porch. The living room was an 18 by 32 ft. rectangle staggered irregularly by a guest closet, bookcases, birch-trimmed dining alcove and flagstone hearth. Along one wall were 27 ft. of plate glass windows, with sliding draperies. The opposite wall, facing out into a patio and three-tiered garden, was 32 ft. of almost solid glass.

The two bedrooms were contrastingly tiny—only 12 by 14 ft.—and so was the 8 by 19 ft. kitchen, but with their built-in furniture they had the neat efficiency of cruiser cabins and galley. There was nothing to sweep under, and no space to mislay things. The two bathrooms had overhead infra-red lamps to take the chill off. Neutra, with his characteristic attention to detail, had taken down a hanging from his own house to show Mrs. B. how the living-room draperies should be made.

The 1,250 sq. ft. of house were more than doubled by the accessible decks, patio and garden. The B.s agreed that it cut down on housework and let a lot more sun, space and air into their lives. It would not date—at least not for a long time—it fitted all their special needs, and it was handsome in a boldly simple way. When they had sold their antiques and moved in, Mrs. B. could think of only one word to describe the way she felt about it: "Liberation."

With the B.s, as with most topflight architects, the contest of modern v. traditional may be all over, with the verdict going to the modernists. The general public has still to be convinced. Architecturally, argue modernists like Neutra, the public has nothing to lose but its chains. But to millions of Americans the chains the modern architect removes are still among the comforts of life: the overstuffed warmth of their living rooms; bedrooms big enough to serve as separate castles—and a refuge from the rest of the family; space to putter and store things in attics and cellars; walls that shut the outdoors out and make the inside cozy.

If what is now called "modern" eventually becomes traditional in the U.S., it will be not merely because more & more people have learned to like it. Modern architects will have been learning, too, merging clean lines, common-sense convenience and liberating openness of style with the warm overtones of home.

* Such "functional" handsomeness is not confined to the modern. Among older U.S. examples: early Cape Cod cottages and Navajo Indian hogans. * Sons Dion, Raymond, Frank L. and Mrs. Neutra.

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