The Bobertz House

Craig Ellwood's nearly forgotten gem

craig ellwood architect san diego mid century modern house renovation
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Above: The restored Bobertz House, Designed by Craig Ellwood (with Ernie Jacks and Jerrold Lomax) and completed in 1955. Photo: Darren Bradley

Located in San Diego, California is the wonderfully restored Bobertz House designed by Craig Ellwood (with Ernie Jacks and Jerrold Lomax) in 1953. The home was commissioned by Gerry & Charles Bobertz who were impressed by Ellwood’s Case Study Houses, the designs of which made Ellwood a star. Since its completion in 1955 the home had been through several owners and by the time it was purchased by current owners Keith & Jessica York it had been considerably – and poorly – altered, even surviving a rough stint as a student housing. After the tireless efforts of the Yorks the house today is beautifully restored and is what it was meant to be, a livable and lovely Modern home. Photos: Darren Bradley

The Bobertz House, designed by Craig Ellwood in 1953. Click on image for full view

The designer of the home, Craig Ellwood, is a bit of a character himself. Born Jon Nelson Burke in Clarendon, Texas, Ellwood moved with his family to California when he was a child. After serving in the army during the Second World War he started a construction company in 1946 under his newly made up moniker Craig Ellwood (taking the name after a liquor store called Lords and Ellwood located in front of his office). It was also during this time he took a second job as the head of publicity for the Hollywood Bowl, demonstrating a clear talent for promotion. In 1948 Ellwood’s construction company failed and he found work as a cost estimator for Jack Cofer of the architectural firm Lamport Cofer & Salzman in Los Angeles. While in his employ Cofer asked Ellwood to design the Lappin House (1948). With the success of the Lappin House Ellwood kept his new name and started his own architectural firm in 1949 – although not entirely legally as he was not a licensed architect. But that did not matter to Ellwood, who was a confident, determined visionary.

craig ellwood architect san diego mid century modern house renovation

Jon Nelson Burke aka Craig Ellwood (1922 – 1992)

case study house ellwood mid century modern

Case Study House #18 designed in 1956. One of three Case Study Houses designed by Ellwood.

case study house ellwood mid century modern

The Rosen House designed by Craig Ellwood in 1961. Photo: Life Magazine

case study house ellwood mid century modern

Case Study House #18 designed in 1956. One of three Case Study Houses designed by Ellwood. Photo: Taschen

case study house ellwood mid century modern

The Zack House, located in Los Angeles and designed by Craig Ellwood in 1954. Photo: Julius Shulman / Getty Archive

Ellwood enjoyed sports cars, was married four times, and fit in perfectly with the attention-getting lifestyle of Los Angeles. He was a master of promotion. Derided by the architecture profession, and rose to public fame when three of his houses were included in the iconic Case Study House series of Arts and Architecture Magazine. In 1977, he retired to a villa in Pergine Valdarno, Italy and painted for the rest of his life, passing away in 1992.

Info provided by ncmodernist.org


If you’re interested in seeing more of Ellwood’s work, here are a couple book suggestions


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