In 1952 Paul R. Williams designed and built this home for his own family in the upper-middle-class Lafayette Square neighborhood of Los Angeles. Created in 1912 from fields and pastures by L.A. banker/developer George L. Crenshaw, Lafayette Square was designed as an "elegant residential park" with a broad palm-lined avenue. (Lafayette Square marketing brochure) The Square was the last of ten developments by Crenshaw and was home to many of the most influential people of Los Angeles.
Building a home within one of the city's planned residential communities was not an option for many residents; financial resources were not enough. In Los Angeles developers often included a "restrictive deed covenant" preventing African Americans, Asians, Jews and even actors from living in the planned residential developments. The discriminatory covenants were enforced until 1948 when the United States Supreme Court ruled in Shelly v. Kraemer that it was unconstitutional. (Watters. Houses of Los Angeles: 1920-1935, 2007) By midcentury the formerly restricted Lafayette Square became the home to many affluent African American professionals.
The house Williams designed and built for himself in Lafayette Square (1952) was unlike those he was building at that time for Hollywood personalities in Beverly Hills, Flintridge, or even Palm Springs. It was also unlike the older residences in the area built in an eclectic mix of styles that included Craftsman, Italianate Villas, Spanish Colonial Revival and American Colonial Revival. Williams designed the home for his family without his usual architectural adornments of columns, terraces or fountains. The Internationale style of his home with the upstairs deck and wide lawn made a statement about his belief in the future of residential architecture in Los Angeles.
Williams is often acknowledged as one of Southern California's best practitioners of period revival architectural styling. His choice of the Internationale for his family home, with its clean lines, smooth outer skin, soft interior architectural curves and space for extensive indoor/outdoor living, illustrated his personal design taste in California living. The serpentine-shaped exterior wall with accent lights hide a large garden area in the rear of the residence where the family enjoyed entertaining. This outdoor space became the site for many personal and social events including a much talked about garden party held in 1947 for William H. Hastie, Governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands. Williams' home and its siting reflected his design philosophy that, "One does not entertain, usually in one's front yard." (Goldman. Hollywood's African-American Architect Paul R. Williams, 1996)
The interior decoration of Williams' family residence was a gallery showcasing many of his personal interior design favorites including the famed textile maker Maria Kipp. Kipp provided the custom, handloomed fabric for his home as well as many of his Hollywood clients. In her unpublished autobiography, Kipp described working with the important Southern California architects of the day as a collaborative effort "to develop their special ideas" but she only mentions two by name-- Herman Sachs and Williams. Williams admired her fabrics with their complex, "distinctive beauty" and Kipp praised his "honesty and integrity."(Studies in the Decorative Arts. Fall-Winter 2000-2001)
The Williams' home on Victoria Road inspired other architects and builder-contractors working in Lafayette Square to expand their design repertoire for prominent or up-and-coming clients wanting to build in the area. His personal architectural choice influenced the designs of a number of other homes built on Victoria Road. (City of Los Angeles Planning Department. Lafayette Square Preservation Plan, September 25, 2008)
In a June 1960 column in the Los Angeles Times, society writer Joan Winchell described a reception sponsored by the Women's Architectural League of Southern California for newly licensed architects at the Williams' residence. "We arrived at the Paul Williams' on time. Since Mr. Williams is one of our town's most prominent architects, the first thing we noticed was his home — subdued modern, luxuriously appointed and pleasing to the eye. Their favorite color is soft pistachio, from the telephones to the piano ... it was a most memorable experience. We didn't know a soul on arrival but left with the feeling that many hostesses could take lessons from Mrs. Paul Williams on being a genuine, simpatico hostess."
While the subtle use of color was a well-known Williams' design trademark, he also believed intangibles were as important in creating the right residential atmosphere. In a newspaper article about his design approach, Williams said that the selection of paint, furniture and other details were important elements in the total look of a home, but the "guests and the host and hostess ... provide the color." (Los Angeles Times, October 11, 1970)