FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Los Angeles, January 2018
Prolific Southern California, Mid-Century Homebuilder Created an Iconic Home and Lifestyle
By Chris Lukather, Foreword by Alan Hess
Chris Lukather Publishes Book Examining the Life and Work of Southern California Builder of the iconic Mellenthin “Birdhouse” Home
Chris Lukather, founder and editor of the literary journal, The Writing Disorder, publishes new, full-length book, A Birdhouse in Paradise: William Mellenthin and the San Fernando Valley Ranch Homes. In the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s housing developments began peppering the available land outside of Los Angeles. Affordable, family-friendly communities like the San Fernando Valley initiated an exodus to the suburbs. It was in the Valley that designer-builder William Mellenthin developed his singular brand of cozy, charming home which became known as the Mellenthin Birdhouse ranch home—so called because they featured a cupola or dovecote built prominently into the roof. Architect, author and historian, Alan Hess, describes why Mellenthin’s homes were so coveted: “the dovecote, or bird house, (Mellenthin) incorporated prominently into gables facing the public street reinforced the straight-shooting, unpretentious utilitarianism and friendly rural values” of the times. These values were reflected in shows like Leave it to Beaver, or the songs and images of musicians like Bing Crosby.
Although his company, Wm. Mellenthin Builder, built over 3,000 homes throughout Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley, until now there has been little information published about his life. After chancing upon a Mellenthin home during his own house-hunt, author, Chris Lukather, searched for material on Mellenthin and became intrigued by the lack of any substantial biography about the builder. Gathering information from original Mellenthin homeowners, articles, brochures, as well as the Mellenthin family, A Birdhouse in Paradise reveals many facts and details about this industrious and influential man. The volume features rare photographs and documents (many never seen before) that illustrate a young, burgeoning San Fernando Valley as it became “the new suburban paradise,” as well as floorplans and photographs of the iconic, Ranch Home.
Alan Hess, notes that Mellenthin’s homes exemplified “the democratizing influence of the Ranch House,” a style that many of us grew up in and still gravitate to today. Because of their nostalgic style and quality construction, Mellenthin homes are still sought out by knowledgeable home buyers. William Mellenthin’s influence on the style and trends of the southern California mid-century ranch should be recognized alongside well-known designers such as Cliff May and Joseph Eichler. Anyone interested in the history of the San Fernando valley or mid-century homes should pick up A Birdhouse in Paradise and learn about the life and work of this reclusive designer.
Chris Lukather is a Cal Arts graduate, who follows his passion for art and design, California subculture and obscure Los Angeles history. A fifth generation Californian, Chris has discovered a lot of local history through his own family. His great-grandmother was part of a vaudeville dance act that performed all across the state. Chris is currently editor/publisher of The Writing Disorder, a quarterly literary journal established in 2010.
A Birdhouse in Paradise:
William Mellenthin and the San Fernando Valley Ranch Homes
112 pages, black and white & color photographs, softcover
For more information, please contact:
Chris Lukather, author