Rare Modernist Home Soars Above L.A.’s ‘Aerospace Capital’

Real Estate

On any other part of the planet this midcentury modern house might seem out of place. But in Palmdale, California, a city north of Los Angeles known as the “Aerospace Capital of America,” it looks for all the world like a Hollywood filming location.

Palmdale, surrounded by rugged desert terrain against a backdrop of mountains, has been a proving ground for United States military aircraft for decades. NASA maintains an Armstrong Flight Research Center site there at the U.S. Air Force Plant 42. Aerospace is a principal industry.

The home, built in 1986, is thoroughly rooted in the antics of the era when cropped tops, power suits and aerobics were the rage. Top Gun was drawing crowds at the movie theater while the unusual dwelling, designed by James Herbert Brownell, was being completed at 36005 Tierra Subida Avenue.

Modernist Brownell, who drew design ideas from his travels to Japan and Europe, Scandinavian architecture and Danish furnishings, was no doubt influenced by the home’s 2.5-acre hilltop site. An article in ModernSanDiego.com quotes him as having written this about his underlying design philosophy: “… the structure should be suited to the physical environment, honestly expressing the use of simple materials, dramatic, warm in feeling and designed to function well for the intended purpose.”

If viewed from a fighter jet screaming through the sky, the driveway side of the 6,000-square-foot house could almost be mistaken for several rows of giant-sized bleacher seats. The series of terraced rooftops are not whimsical, however. They are functional. The stepped platforms enclose an indoor swimming pool stretching the length of the home. A stone wall and lush greenery inside give the space an atrium effect.

Seen from the lake view side, the wood-clad dwelling is a mass of geometric shapes, outcroppings, expanses of glass and extensive decks set above a six-car garage.

Inside, the sunken living room, with stone tile flooring, wide sliding glass doors and wooden ceiling beams, takes in views of the city, Lake Palmdale and the Antelope Valley. An undulating hearth wraps the floor-to-ceiling stone fireplace.

Glass walls with clear glass shelving enfold the formal dining room. A breakfast nook with windows on three sides sits steps up from the center island kitchen.

A circular staircase with vertical panes set in wood trim follows a curved wooden banister upstairs, connecting three levels. There are a total of five bedrooms and seven bathrooms.

Beyond the rare architecture and obvious cinematic possibilities, listing agent Kenward Cooper of Strand Hill Properties, sees the home as appealing to multiple audiences.

“I envision someone with an artistic interest to appreciate the house,” he says, imagining space used for a recording or artist studio.

“Also someone who prefers seclusion,” Kenward says, “or enjoys being immersed or surrounded by nature’s scenic beauty.”

The asking price is US $1.499 million.


Strand Hill Properties is an exclusive member of Forbes Global Properties, a consumer marketplace and membership network of elite brokerages selling the world’s most luxurious homes.

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