Dirt February 28, 2023
By Pauline O'Connor
It’s often said, “Those who can, do, while those who can’t, teach,” but that certainly wouldn’t be the case for Case Study architect Thornton M. Abell. Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, in addition to heading his busy solo practice, Abell taught architecture at USC, his alma mater, and design at the Chouinard Art Institute, where one of his fellow instructors was Richard Haines, a WPA muralist who later went on to head the painting department at the Otis Art Institute.
In 1951, Haines commissioned Abell to design a home for himself, his wife Leonora, and their two sons, in Santa Monica Canyon, the bucolic neighborhood where Abell’s own family lived, and where he produced a number of other residences. Built in stages, the Haines residence eventually consisted of a main house, a detached art studio, and a guest house above the garage. It remained the family’s home for nearly half a century, appearing on the market for the first time in 1997, following Leonora’s death.
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