USC graduate Paul W. Trousdale entered the Los Angeles building business between the World Wars with ambition and a $10,000 bank loan. Trousdale soon became the builder of choice for movie stars, successful executives and established society. As a master of both estate-size and smaller, affordable houses, the builder changed course in 1954 and purchased 410 acres of Doheny Ranch. Trousdale moved from builder to developer converting the empty acreage near Beverly Hills into one of the last residential enclaves for the rich, famous and aspiring. The strict zoning laws in Trousdale Estates limited construction to single-story homes on generous-sized and heavily landscaped lots. Divided into 539 lots, the development became an exclusive Los Angeles community and home to many 1950s celebraties including Dean Martin, Elvis Presley and Dinah Shore. (Los Angeles Times, August 8, 2004)
In Los Angeles in the 1950s and 1960s, electrical engineer Michael J. Garris' star was also rising. Acknowledged by his peers as a master of lighting, he was devoted to designing innovative electrical illumination or candle-power for homes, apartments, churches and office buildings. Garris believed that "lighting can be majestic or it can be mediocre" and poor design could mean the "difference between popularity and rejection" of a commercial building. (Los Angeles Times, March 15, 1964) His commitment to providing custom lighting design as a "singular solution to achieve and integrate the lighting with the architectural concept" made his company, Michael J. Garris & Associates an industry leader in Southern California. By 1963, his firm had designed "the lighting and power systems for more than 1,000 buildings valued in excess of $500 million." (Los Angeles Times, February 3, 1963) A number of these projects were designed by Williams or his firm including the Guardian Angel Cathedral in Las Vegas and the original St. Jude Children's Hospital in Memphis. (Edward F. Barry Collection. The Brother I. Leo O'Donnell Archives at Christian Brothers University, Memphis, TN)
Buying a lot in Trousdale Estates was a financial stretch for Garris, but the young, energetic engineer was confident of his future. Selecting a site with panoramic views of Los Angeles, Garris asked his friend and business colleague Paul R. Williams to design a home for his family in 1958. (Los Angeles Times, January 6, 1963) The 4-bedroom, 5-bath home was completed in 1959 and includes similarities to other Williams' residences — the Chasen and Ball-Arnez homes.
Garris believed both architectural and lighting (natural and artificial light) design were "integral ... with aesthetic as well as practical planning and execution." Designing the rooms for the best views, Williams successfully captured the California light — an effect appreciated by Garris and one the family still remembers.
Owned exclusively by the Garris family, the house has not been altered and remains as Williams designed it. A recent visiter describes the house as "walking back in time."