Located 20 minutes from Palm Springs, Sunnylands Center & Gardens is a peaceful haven that celebrates the union of landscape and architecture. Spread over nine acres, the botanical gardens and interpretive center pays tribute to the cultural legacy of diplomat and philanthropist Walter Annenberg and his wife Leonore. For many years, the couple’s adjacent 200-acre estate was a retreat for U.S. presidents, foreign dignitaries, and celebrities.
In this serene property where nature prevails, visitors discover over 53,000 individual specimens representing 70 different species of native and arid-adapted plants from North and South America, Africa and the Mediterranean. OJB Landscape Architecture—led by Jim Burnett—worked closely with horticultural consultant Mary Irish to create these gardens, which are dedicated to contemplation and discovery.
Everything was designed to be an ode to the desert with more than 1.25 miles of walking trails that lead to a circular event lawn and labyrinth garden, among other interesting features. “We like desert plants for their beauty, sculptural habits, and color,” says Burnett. The Annenberg collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings—bequeathed to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1991—was one of the most important sources of inspiration for the OJB Landscape Architecture team.
The edges of the gardens reflect a free flowing energy, while more geometric shapes prevail closer to the Sunnylands Center. Los Angeles architectural firm Frederick Fisher and Partners restored the building, originally designed by A. Quincy Jones, honoring its midcentury modern aesthetic and earning the 15,000-square-foot space a LEED Gold rating. It hosts an exhibition space, cafe, theater and gift shop. Whether inside or out, visitors enjoy views of the San Jacinto Mountains, which further complement the idyllic decor.
Always focused on creating emotions and transforming perspectives through creative projects, OJB Landscape Architecture aimed to conceive a quiet place where natural elements are the main protagonists in this splendid story. In addition to mirroring the desert sky, twin-reflecting basins provide the relaxing sound of water.
Beyond the careful consideration of the landscape design, efficiency and sustainability of the entire project was a priority. As explained by the OJB Landscape Architecture team, “cutting-edge water efficiency measures throughout the site allow the garden to thrive using only 20 percent of its water allocation from the Coachella Valley Water District.”
Peaceful and perfectly aligned with the surrounding environment, Sunnylands grounds prove the veracity of OJB Landscape Architecture’s belief that “landscapes have the power to heal and restore cities and their communities.” ojb.com
PHOTOGRAPHS: (CLOCKWISE FROM TOP) COURTESY OF MARION BRENNER, KEN HAYDEN AND DILLON DIERS
It’s an urban oasis, as immersive and cool as a Mediterranean breeze and just as refreshing. The Rooftop Park crowning RH West Hollywood – The Gallery is an eden, complete with a reproduction of the storied Louvre sculpture “Winged Victory of Samothrace,” which surveys the City of Angels with some drama.
Working in collaboration with design architect James Gillam of Backen Gilliam & Kroeger, RH Chairman, and CEO Gary Friedman projected the flagship, a showpiece of Venetian plaster, Tucson colonnades and Hellenic touches, straight onto reinvigorated Melrose Avenue.
As described by Friedman:“The Gallery on Melrose Avenue is a study and a reflection of human design in regard to balance, symmetry and proportion, while respecting the hierarchy and integration of environment, architecture and humanity to create a feeling of harmony.”
More residential than retail, the stunningly conceptualized store—40,000 square feet of exquisite interiors, garden courtyards and outdoor terraces trellised with climbing vines—opens to the street, raising the stakes for experiential trade.
To say that the Rooftop Park is the crescendo of it all is to say quite a lot, but this gift to the neighborhood is an invitation for an exodus, with graciously appointed green space and a view that thrills.
Conjured in the spirit the Jardin des Tuileries in Paris, the splendid exterior is flush with decomposed granite, century-old olive trees in massive steel planters accented with waterfalling rosemary, and a centrally installed trellis festooned with canvas that flaps like the sails on a boat in calm waters.
The Park is further adorned with a 40-foot-long table made from reclaimed pine and long low sofas. Aromas of citrus and French lavender waft through the air while shimmering chandeliers and cooing fountains stir an intimacy for showcasing RH Outdoor collections. With its angelic anchor presiding over the immediate scene and the Hollywood Hills beyond, one’s impression comes clear and quick: it’s absolutely divine. restorationhardware.com
It’s one thing to see a fetching countertop online or in a magazine—then admire its elegant profile and wonder how it might look in your home. But it’s quite another to see it in the flesh, run your hands along its surface, see your reflection in its mirror-like finish and know it’s perfect. This difference, between image and real life, is resolved at Cambria in downtown Manhattan Beach.
The glossy gallery—open by appointment only—is steps from the pier, and offers a place for consumers and designers, architects and builders alike to experience the Le Sueur, Minnesota firm’s rich supply of elegant quartz surfaces and applications firsthand. “We want them all to come and see us,” says Summer Kath, Cambria’s executive vice president of design and business development.
A point of pride for the family owned company is its status as the only American-made producer of natural stone surfaces, all made of natural quartz and boasting Herculean levels of strength and durability.
A point of pride for the family owned company is its status as the only American-made producer of natural stone surfaces, all made of natural quartz and boasting Herculean levels of strength and durability. “You can toss wine on there, leave it there for a month and wipe it up—and it will not absorb,” says Kath. Not always the case with surfaces like marble, soapstone or granite, she points out, which also sport veins and fissures, making them more vulnerable to cracks.
Cambria’s non-porous factor is a boon for the white and pale-gray palettes currently in vogue among coastal and contemporary homes. Those interested in this look might swing by the gallery to check out Brittanicca, a signature Cambria design—white with soft gray veining—that’s ideal for elegant, sunlit South Bay homes.
When one thinks of stone surfaces, it’s easy to think of only countertops, or bars and islands. But the mind is expanded after stopping by the Cambria gallery. There are shower and tub-deck surrounds for a luxe spa look that reduce cleaning hassles due to an absence of grout. There’s wall cladding and dramatic kitchen backsplashes. Other uses include tiles—cut to any size—and fireplace surrounds. (Tip: Use a clean edge with mitered corners for a mod profile, or trim with a decorative edge for an ornate look.)
Since Cambria surfaces are “not beholden to Mother Nature,” says Kath, unlike the aforementioned natural surfaces, there’s an endless selection of Cambria design palettes to suit a kaleidoscope of tastes. “It’s like making brownies,” Kath says of the Cambria process, which results in a uniform product where the outcome and look are assured.
“You take crushed-up natural quartz, 93 percent of the whole composition is quartz,” she explains. “It’s a natural mineral, the hardest mineral on Earth—diamond is the only thing harder.”
A binder and a resin give it tonalities. After this, the mixture is baked, and the resulting slab is polished. “Because it’s put through that process, and cured,” says Kath, “we don’t seal it, and it’s not treated. You never have to seal it.” cambriausa.com
Photographs: courtesy of Cambria
In architectural design, it is best to sweat the details. This is precisely the approach that prominent L.A. practice KAA Design took to create this substantial—and substantially stylish—residential spa and gym.
Faced with the hillside site’s cavernous underside, KAA Design’s Grant Kirkpatrick (founding principal), Patti Baker (principal), Vaishali Makim and Jennifer Wu devised an ingenious architectural solution: situate the 5,000-square-foot facility (including the outdoor covered space) underneath an existing cantilevered tennis court for what Baker calls “an unexpected whimsical moment.”
Others might call it as a serious power move on the part of KAA Design. Certainly the AIA thought so, recognizing the South Bay space with its 2013 Honor Award for Excellence in Design.
Constructed entirely independent of the existing concrete structure, the spa, which includes exercise facilities, an Olympic lap pool, steam room, spa baths and lounge, is private, tucked into the hillside and open up to the large gym space. This central volume opens via a floor to ceiling frameless operable glass wall to the lap pool and then to the arroyo and terraced garden space beyond.
Because this feature separates but does not obstruct, the pool, in a state of repose, offers a contemplative reflecting pond effect. The sheaths of white plaster forming the ceiling gently bows upward, appealing to the light and reaching to the gardens. The result both exposes and cocoons.
“Our vision was to create a place to renew and relax,” says Baker. “There’s a certain sense of transparency seen and felt throughout the gym. The frameless glass doors create a seamless connection with the surrounding nature, while the roof shape pulls natural ravine into the space.”
In doing so, KAA Design brought modernist thought to a typically utilitarian space, forming a fitness facility for now. Their version is functional, as is customary, but highly sensitive and attuned to landscape and lifestyle, melding all attributes in an artful way that is not.
The clean effortlessness that permeates the space is illuminated by a simple but textured palette of Travertine, custom stainless steel hardware and details, and reclaimed teak, striking a tone that is precisely right for the intention behind it.
“The open plan allows for an abundance of natural sunlight to enter the gym and spa,” explains Grant Kirkpatrick, founding partner of KAA Design. “Pairing this with natural and man-made structural materials created something unique. Incorporating different types of wood brought warmth and elements of nature into the area.”
Not only is the Monaco Drive gym and spa a perfectly shaped space, it’s one with a strategy. Smart looking, it is elegantly sparse but not severe, an inviting place to be and to move. And, in conjunction with its components and contemporary thinking, it puts more weight on the importance of designing a well-rounded fitness facility at home. After all, the more appealing the space, the more motivation one has to use it. kaadesigngroup.com
Photographs: courtesy of Farshid Assassi
A posh pool house in back of a Brentwood abode reflects the California cool aesthetic of the L.A. design duo behind Studio Life.Style
What does a formerly bi-coastal family do when they permanently settle on the West Coast? Judging by the pool house in the backyard of their contemporary Brentwood home, the smartest thing they ever could: bring on Studio Life.Style to oversee its design. And did they ever take the plunge. Known for its California cool design aesthetic, the West Hollywood design practice approached the pool house in keeping with its creed of creating versatile spaces that blur the line between indoors and out.
“The client wanted to make the most of the California dream,” say Studio Life.Style designers Shannon Wollack and Brittany Zwickl. “The main priority of the design was to maximize the indoor-outdoor potential for the space” and, in doing so, coax the client outside as much as possible. One simply could not find a more effective means of encouragement—the space stuns.
Approximately 500 square feet, this is no typical pool house, all flippers and floatables. It’s a fully functioning aerie, with a 15-foot-long pocket door, a kitchen window that opens to a side bar, an indoor-outdoor shower, and a bar set-up right off the kitchen.
“With moveable furnishings, the intention was to streamline the transition between pool party venue and guesthouse quite easily,” say the designers. This they’ve done. As a quiet getaway apart from the main house for each member of the family to enjoy, the space is a warm-weather retreat and, when needed, a social zone on two floors, “the downstairs being dark and cozy, equipped with a media room for the teenage boys to cheer on their favorite basketball team, and a quiet downstairs for the homeowners to settle in with a bottle of wine or book in hand!” Murphy beds free up space when necessary.
The building’s low profile does not dominate the scene, but adds to it, buffering and completing the pristine poolscape with a modern-chic silhouette. Inside, where it is all clean lines and cool tones, nothing is overdone. Design choices infuse the space with a sense of effortless California flair: woven textures warm the striking neutral palette of dark gray and crisp white, accessories are artfully arranged, and contemporary art provides pops of personality.
The kitchen is especially pleasing, airy and open, with its generous window placing one near the action in the pool, but safeguarded from its splash. Also accessible to the pool area, the shower is a saving grace, negating the need to traipse through the house sopping wet, leaving puddles behind.
In creating a highly serviceable space with a seriously smart look, Studio Life.Style took the ultimate dive into intentional modern design. studio-lifestyle.com
Photographs: courtesy of Stephen Busken
Written by Nicole Borgenicht
Presented by Altamura Real Estate Group and Kathy Kernochan of Shorewood Realtors
List price $13,500,000
This custom-built home at 712 John Street exhibits leading-edge design with its contemporary L-shape and foliage-filled landscape that comprise over 12,000 feet of full lot space. The house itself offers seven bedrooms, six baths, a home theater with reclining chairs, and an indoor and outdoor first floor that leads to a sunny salt-water pool and fireplace under designer cabana settings. This prominent corner lot home also offers ocean views from all floors yet remains free of wind due to its construction and grounds arrangement.
“Many weekends we would all walk back to the house, grabbing some groceries for an evening barbecue,” shares homeowner Nancy Batter of returning home after a perfect day at the beach with family and friends. “The kids would hit the outdoor shower, then dive through the waterfall that flows from the cabana roof into the pool, while the adults relaxed in the cabana or spa. We have a big dining table outside where we eat and everyone [can] easily flow in and out of the house, whether grabbing food from the kitchen or squeezing limes for margaritas in the living room bar. The kids would often end up watching a movie in the family room and the adults would stay by the outdoor fireplace and gaze at the stars.”
Throughout the house are specialty wood beam ceilings, floors and trim that blend well with the partially wood-stylized furniture in each room. A short walk to the beach and downtown, this home is fully enclosed by security gates to provide for a reserved presence. According to realtors John Altamura and Kathy Kernochan, “This is casual, yet elegant beach living infused with the contemporary/modern design. It’s definitely a timeless look that a lot of buyers are gravitating towards. It exudes a great deal of sophistication with high-end finishes and a wide-open floor plan. Completely sheltered from both 8th Street and John Street, the home incorporates the ‘indoor/outdoor’ aspect seamlessly. This is clearly seen in the thick foliage surrounding the home, which creates a natural, green fence for a private oasis feel.”
While working with Jon Starr, of Jon Starr Design Group, Batter and her husband were thrilled with his distinctive design and materials, and how facilely Starr collaborated with them in creating the indoor/outdoor lifestyle they had enjoyed during their Hawaiian vacations. “The lines between indoor and outdoor space blur, and you feel equally at home in both spaces,” Batter explains. “The way our house is laid out, all the rooms on the main floor open onto the backyard, pool and cabana area, which gives us that easy indoor/outdoor flow. I love that you can see what’s going on from every room whether inside or outside, especially when trying to keep an eye on [the] kids. The layout of the house also really shelters our pool and outdoor entertaining area from the wind.”
In addition, interior angles and inset shelves, fireplaces and windows all have beautiful wood trims that synchronize with their furniture. Going the full distance, custom features include: Dynamic Architectural Windows and Doors from Canada; mahogany doors, windows and cabinetry; and vertical grain Douglas Fir wood ceilings and cabinetry in the pool table room. Outdoors, the cabana is also mahogany, yet with Jarrah wood floors. Custom furniture is from Nancy Russert of Les Beaux Interiors.
One can see and feel the care that has been taken to create every detail of this home, with elegant woods corresponding the beauty of nature.
Whether gazing outside at the ocean or viewing the 500-gallon salt-water aquarium inside, the home presents a peaceful, natural environment. Nonetheless, one of Batter’s favorite areas is outside. “I love the pathway under the big coral tree that leads to my daughter’s garden area, the grassy area out front where the kids run and play, or the lush tropical backyard with tall Brazilian fern trees gracing the sky,” she says. “We had Wolf’s vision from Wolf’s Botanical to create coastal modern magic!”
The outdoor haven and the entire pool area receive more sun throughout the day, keeping it warm and accessible all year-round. Sunsets over the ocean are best viewed from the front of the house, and are especially enchanting from the two family rooms.
This spectacular home has it all: the comfort of a classy, independent retreat near the action of downtown Manhattan.
For More Information, Visit 712john.com
Written by Nicole Borgenicht | Photography by Paul Jonason
Presented by Robb Stroyke of Stoyke Properties, Inc.
List price $4,999,000
Private without through-traffic, 717 24th Street is a newly custom built luxury home with floor-to-ceiling windows facing the Pacific Ocean. Together, the owners— husband Chris Cubic, of Clearview Development, and wife Danette Cubic, of D3 Design Inc.—created a contemporary dream house.
The home’s construction and design blend seamlessly; for example, specialty wood floors and cabinetry coordinate as artistically as do thick metal window frames and stainless steel kitchen appliances. Continuity in a variety of symmetrical design features embraces the full scope of the 5,200-squarefoot home, boasting large suite bedrooms, full walls of walk-in closet wardrobes and a premium fresh-air circulation system. In addition, the turfed terrace overlooking the ocean with wide-open entry to the kitchen and dining area give this home a natural indoor-outdoor beach lifestyle ambiance.
Chris Cubic constructed the home to encompass views from every room. He says, “You can even see the ocean standing in the backyard. Huge pocketing sliding doors disappear into walls, leaving nothing to obstruct full panoramic scenery. It really allows the perfect indoor-outdoor flow, and never a feeling of being confined inside. This home faces west and with so many oversized windows, everywhere you walk feels open to the outside.”
As for prime efficiency: There are three separate controls to easily, and independently, heat and cool three zones in the house. In addition, Nest thermostats function as an energy saving response to one’s preference (thereby avoiding large turns in temperature that incur more energy) for natural climate control. Turn your setting up in the morning, or down at night, and it will default to your last routine. And natural sunshine and ocean-facing breezes do their part to maintain healthy airflow throughout the house.
Danette, meanwhile, has integrated several of the highest-quality materials into her designs. They include engineered wood flooring, Caesarstone counter tops, custom manufactured glass, European designer tiles and green and recycled materials. “The fireplaces are linear ribbon burner technology with glass and stone that emits a tremendous amount of heat…beauty and function,” she says.
Capitalizing on her creativity, Danette harmonizes and highlights top-grade materials in color, tone and texture across the layout of the house. “My goal,” she explains, “was to create a contemporary modern home with innovative, cutting-edge finishes that was still warm and inviting.” Take the materials. “Instead of disguising the appliances, I opted to use them as focal points similar to art pieces with the 60-inch Viking Professional freestanding range at center stage. I chose Graphite Grey as opposed to traditional stainless steel so that I could complement it, as with the massive five by fourteen island that has integrated Caesarstone Quartz Reflections and an open chef’s stainless steel work station, both with waterfall edges for continuous flow.” Furthermore, Danette Cubic’s exquisite designs contrast dark wood cabinets that parallel a variation of tones in the wood flooring.
Another nice feature is the view from the top floor. “You can actually stand in the highest point of the house and see to the lowest,” Chris says. “It’s a pretty great view. All of the windows on the top floor finish at the ceiling. There’s no wall space between, therefore the ceiling seems to flow to the outside eaves, expanding the openness for light and views. As open as it is, you still feel privacy.”
From the giant metal and glass pivot front door to the 70-inch Spark Modern Fireplaces also placed in Luxe Boutique Hotel lounges, the Cubics have mastered security with elegance. With friendly neighbors, kids walk to school and safely play outside on the private cul de sac; and the Greenbelt is only a half block away for a run or a walk, making the home sublimely situated, just six blocks to the beach or downtown.
Written by Nicole Borgenicht | Photos Courtesy of Stroyke Properties
Elegantly decorated by renowned Hollywood television designer Erinn V, this fully remodeled four-bedroom, three-and-a-half bath home, which is only three blocks from the ocean, is doused with analogous patterns and complementary shades of brown, silver and teal. The home’s 3,836 square feet are spaciously separated into rooms enriched by rivers of texture, from stainless steel to walnut ceiling, and cabinetry to flowing multi-fabric drapes, providing a luxuriant continuity.
The home’s Mediterranean exterior has a subtle trompe l’oeil modern interior, with natural characteristics any beach lifestyle homeowner would applaud. “The house was very traditional when we started the project, and we wanted to make it feel a little more fresh and modern,” says Erinn V, describing some of the finer renovation details. “Being so close to the beach, the use of natural elements was important, such as beautiful walnut woods and stone in the bathrooms. The house also needed a youthful, modern touch, which was added. Cabinetry was all updated, including new fixtures and doors throughout. Even though this home offers the charm of Mediterranean, it also boasts modern features that today’s buyer desires, such as a chef’s kitchen, open floor plan, and a his-and-hers master bathroom. When you surround yourself with colors found in nature, the space feels larger and more inviting.”
Each room has a harmonious and individualistic tone, with complementary colors and materials resonating throughout the home. Chandeliers and other accents as well as an array of variegated stone provide texture and elemental interplay. Plus, there are a variety of circular, square and octagonal motifs, such as wall hangings and carpet patterns, which boast enchanting, signature decorative patterns. The sun boldly shines over these intimate settings, displaying a terrace view sunset across the ocean that’s beyond one’s imagination.
Homeowners Frank Addante, CEO and founder of The Rubicon Project, Inc., and his wife, Allison Addante, have enjoyed every pleasing moment of their home. “We love the indoor/outdoor living, both in the front and the back. One of our favorite things to do is to open the sliding glass doors at sunset [and] have a fire going inside and outside while we watch the sunset and listen to music from Meiko,” says Frank. They listen through their Savant system while watching a photo slide show on their Apple TV inside, which is viewable from outside. Frank adds, “Watching the sunset and then the day turn to night with the fires going and the lights dimmed through the Lutron lighting system is the perfect transition from the business of the day to the relaxation of the evening…Later, we’ll head down to the theater and watch an hour or two of TV.”
In the quiet community, with friendly neighbors surrounding the home, is an Episcopal church. Situated across the street, it has an area presence. Consequently, plentiful parking is in this Hermosa Sand Section. Nearby is a 10-acre park, clubs, restaurants and award-winning schools, all in walking distance, too. The Addantes’ morning ritual has been a workout in their theater, which doubles as a gym, and then a run or walk on the beach followed by breakfast near the Pier.
“Hermosa Beach has been going through an amazing transformation— and now has the perfect mix of a small community feel: we say hi and wave to our neighbors every morning on the way to work. We walk to the beach, a restaurant, or grab a glass of wine at places like Dia De Campo, Mediterraneo, Rockefeller, or we may do wine tasting at Uncorked as the perfect mix…The revamp of Pier Ave has had a dramatic impact and continues to create a rippled effect of quality,” says Frank.
The stately 1801 Monterey designer home is an inviting presence in the Hermosa Sand Section. In addition, this modern single family abode is just a modest stroll to the sand and sea.
Written by Constance Dunn | Photography by Adam Wilson
Back in the 1980s, whenever Susan and John McFarlane came across an interesting home or a beautiful room, they would save an image of it and place it in a file. Soon, the file was bulging with clippings and photos; not long after, Susan figured it was time for she and her lifeguard captain husband to make their move. The duo set to work with a band of local craftsmen and a South Bay architect, Donald Lee Hovis, who, like John, attended Redondo Union High School. By 1992, the McFarlane’s had capped off the finishing touches on their dream home— a Modern Eclectic home heavy with Craftsman influences, a stone’s throw from the sand on one of Hermosa’s most coveted walk streets—where the two would idyllically dwell for the next couple of decades. “We took our dream ideas, and to see them come true is one of the most exciting things about this house,” says Susan. The home’s exterior, tall and slender and clad in redwood, with two green-patina pipes extending from its roofline, is eye-catching all right; but then you open the door and step into a warm, textured atmosphere—one of mellow woods, meticulously hand spun details and a three-story floor plan of pure geometry, with angular, open floors stretching upward.
“Nothing came stock from anywhere,” says Susan with a chuckle. Among the standout details are hearty lodge fireplaces and tasteful brick details constructed of salvaged bricks from the Lincoln Building, a now-extinct wing of Redondo Union High School. Select rooms are constructed from architectural-grade Clear redwood (“Almost impossible to get anymore,” Susan points out). There are big wood beams with exposed fasteners stretched across the ceiling. Nearly every door is handmade and fitted with handrails constructed from copper pipes, hand-distressed to a green patina by John.
The home’s Arts & Craft lighting is from Arroyo Craftsman, a firm that reproduces fixtures found in some of the movement’s most famous homes, including those designed by Southern California’s famed Greene brothers, whose aesthetics very much influenced the McFarlane’s. “When the Greene brothers did houses in Pasadena,” remarks Susan, “they would look at a piece of wood and see a picture in it. They were always looking at the wood as if it was alive.”
THE SUNNY SIDE OF THE STREET
Of note is the bounty of slender windows that bring in soft light throughout the day, and the home’s spacious patio and decks, situated to make the most of the shifting sunlight. “The light rotates along the home,” explains Susan, who goes on to describe how she and John enjoy breakfast on the deck that faces the walk street, “and by the time it’s evening we’re sitting in the back sipping a little margarita and talking about our day.”
“The home speaks to you through the warmth of the wood, the openness of the public spaces and the high-vaulted ceilings,” says the home’s realtor Barry Host. “It wraps itself around a quality of life.”
Adds John, “It’s constant beauty. The calm days, the stormy days—it’s just like you’re living at a constant event. And it pulls you into staying active.” It’s compelling testimony from the veteran waterman whose sharp blue eyes and energetic demeanor belie his years. His life on the water is documented by captivating black-and-white surfing and lifeguarding photos from the 1940s and 1950s that line the walls, and in the foyer there’s a small bronze statue that stands as part of his Lifeguard Lifetime Achievement Award. (John is also a member of the Hermosa Beach Surfer’s Walk of Fame.)
“When I was very young, Hermosa Beach was a little Beatnik place,” recalls Susan. “It’s always been a very open place, and that has not changed.” It’s the presence of this spirit, impossible to fabricate, that pervades this very special walk-street home, a place spun from years of loving effort on the part of its owners and, by extension, members of the community. When asked of her feelings about moving on from the home, Susan says slowly, “I look at it with fondness and nostalgia. Whoever gets the house will come in and have a similar feeling. They’ll really enjoy being here. They’ll understand.
Architect to the stars John Elgin Woolf gets his close up with a new exhibit at Palos Verdes Art Center.
Written by JocLene Davey
The golden age of Hollywood ushered in new beginnings in film production and celebrity culture. During this time silent film became a thing of the past; production and sound quality improved greatly; and costume and set design became more elaborately detailed, yet always yielded the center of attention to the star. The growing industry paved the way for the dawning of the new Hollywood elite. The studios all but required the celebrities of the day to be seen socializing, hosting grand parties and living lavish lifestyles reflecting the characters they often portrayed on set. As the movement of the mega-star and the glamorous life ensued, so marked the beginning of a new era in architectural style called Hollywood Regency.
The PV Art Center has been given the rare opportunity to share a large collection of works by one of the originators of Hollywood Regency style, John Elgin Woolf. Woolf’s works have never been released for travel from the University of California Santa Barbara until now; therefore this glimpse into the past right here in the South Bay is both temporary and a must-see for those who appreciate architecture and interior design.
When John Elgin Woolf, an architect from North Carolina, came to Los Angeles, the building trends at the time were modern, clean-lined and simplistic. Everything needed to be thought of as pure. “Woolf’s work was revolutionary, and he was considered to most to be the first postmodern architect on the west coast,” states Joe Baker, CEO and executive director of the PV Art Center. Woolf, who had a gift for theatrics, initially came to Hollywood in hopes of landing a movie role, and instead found himself in the midst of Hollywood’s A-list celebs, building homes for the likes of Joan Crawford, Bob Hope and Errol Flynn, to name a few. Woolf wanted to bring the theater and the love of theater into the homes of the celebrities for whom he built. His approach to architecture was completely fresh and contradictory to the era. He had an uncanny ability to blend perfectly 19th-century French, and Neoclassical Greek Revival, both with a modernist flair. The look was completely avant-garde and after the creation of the famous Pendleton house, everybody in Hollywood wanted one.
“Known for his attention to detail, Woolf was more like a French fine cabinet maker building homes that look like jewel boxes” says Scott Andrews, communications director for the PV Art Center. Mansard roofs with sky-high Pullman doors, columns and oval windows were signature styles in Woolf’s designs, not typical of the time. He and his partner, Robert Koch, filled the highly decorative homes with elaborate fabrics and color while keeping the furniture on a smaller than normal scale to accentuate the celebrity in the room. Rooms were built to stimulate conversation, with sitting areas and settees; rooms weren’t built around the TV, as they are often today. It was a time when people communicated face to face.
Within the exhibit, running at the PV Art Center through July 19, 2015, are original sketches and floor plans, photography, furniture and lighting designs, as well as some very interesting correspondence between Woolf and celebrities like the aforementioned Bob Hope and Joan Crawford as well as Robert Guggenheim.
One of the many highlights is the case study of Craig Ellwood’s ultra-modern experimental home of glass and steel that Woolf renovated to resemble an elaborate Greek Temple with Doric columns and a Hollywood Regency facade. Thus proving that “anything can be changed into anything,” as stated by John Chase in his book, Exterior Decoration: Hollywood’s Inside-Out Houses.
Another display to not miss is the well-known Pullman doors, a piece featuring some of Woolf’s more famous works with spectacular facades, such as the Pendleton and Menifee homes with the exaggerated Pullman doors reaching to the stars.
All is, of course, a fitting tribute to a true luminary-one known as the “architect to the stars.”
Photos Courtesy Art, Architecture & Design Museum, UCSB.