In Residence: Pamela Shamshiri

The Hollywood Hills are peppered with several architectural wonders from pre-war Austrian and German designers. However, none lay quite as enveloped by its natural landscape as the 1947 Rudolph Schindler-built home of Pamela Shamshiri—the interior design maven whose client list includes Oscar-winner Anne Hathaway and musician Beck.

Austrian architect Rudolph Schindler built Shamshiri’s Lautner house—named after the original proprietor—in the weeks following a visit to the prehistoric masonry dwellings of the Pueblo native Americans who built their homes into cliff faces. Wedged in a V-shape in the side of Laurel Canyon, the Lautner home captures the same spirit of the earthenware masonry homes that were both a part of nature and voyeurs on it.

Shamshiri has frequently commented on how her home resembles a tree house; endless glass walls provide uninterrupted views of verdant nature in the valley beyond and below. Clerestory windows diffuse light throughout the building and sliding doors honor Schindler’s intention to create rooms that invite nature in.

The LA-based designer spent eight years restoring the modernist building back to Schindler’s original design, aided by early black-and-white photographs, plans and drawings diligently archived by University of California Santa Barbara. Half a century and eight owners later, Shamshiri sandblasted 17 layers of paint to reveal the building’s natural grain, and tore down marble, drywall and black granite to showcase Schindler’s stainless steel fireplace and brick columns.

Shamshiri also reinstated key furnishings such as built-in asymmetric sofas, a mirrored bar and a pull-out dining table. However, not all the renovations were beholden to the spirit of Schindler’s master plan. The galley kitchen was extended to fit more people and an entirely new Onsen-like bathroom was built, boasting a cedar tub and plywood cabinets. Shamshiri has matched her own design eye with Schindler’s philosophy of using low materials for high design to create a truly modernist family home, one which has been revealed as a gift to architectural history.


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