Craig Steely’s Innovative Lavaflow Architecture in Hawaii

Craig Steely is a native of California but has found a certain flow in Hawaii. He works in both places, but Hawaii is where the architect placed his ambitious Lavaflow series, a sequence of striking modern homes in stupendously attractive landscapes. Different residences, same idea. Which is, says Steely,

“how architecture can augment and amplify the power of living in an environment as visceral as Hawaii.” Beautifully, harmoniously, pick your platitude. Yet none is likely to capture the degree of refinement, nuance, and lack that characterize these sensitively and intuitively approached buildings.

One of the most majestic of all is Lavaflow 5, which interacts with 30 acres of remote pastureland overlooking the Hamakua coastline on the eastern slope of Mauna Kea on Hawaii’s Big Island. Trapping “sea and sky with structure and line,” the home expresses a broader want of “large open expanses.”

This the home is, positioned on top of the property, protected from a perpetual assault of strong winds, and prominent with light and walls of varying opacity supported by the slenderest of steel frames.

At the outset of the project, Steely was immersed in researching early steel-framed houses—X100 by A. Quincy Jones, Case Study House 26 by Beverly Thorne. “I like how light these houses sit on their sites,” he says of the references. “There is nothing heavy about them—neither in the size of the structure or detail.

This is one of my complaints about most current steel houses. Their proportions feel wrong and they all seem so heavy. I was lucky to meet Beverly Thorne through the process. I learned so much about detailing ‘lightly’ from him.” This would account for the perceptible lightness and near perfect proportions of Lavaflow 5, which, elevated over a reflecting pond, has a kind of mesmerizing floating effect.

The home’s reedy profile, its overall trim profile, is what allows it to melt into the immediate vicinity as if careful to not disturb it. “The interesting thing about the property,” says Steely, “is it still retains the original shape from the ancient Hawaiian land grant called an ahupua’a,” a long thin lot running from the mountain towards the sea. 

Land was divided up this way so a single hui (group) could grow diverse crops at different elevations.” (This is not just an interesting side note: That Steely considered Hawaii’s rich traditions of land, of living itself shows his broader sensitivity to the project.)

Beyond the view, the extent of the ahupua’a is visible, a facet of the home that Steely, who was raised on a walnut orchard in the country and spends a great deal of time surfing—“I don’t like being inside,” he says—was certain to highlight. Given that the architect also derives artistic inspiration from the city, Lavaflow 5 is as pristine as it is primordial, an intersection of his everyday influences.

A more literal interpretation of the environment also found its way into Lavaflow 5; this too is a Steely signature. The home features passive cooling through cross ventilation and solar heating; it is also responsibly scaled at a sensible 2,500 square feet, which accommodates three bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a carport more than comfortably.

Outside is a lovely lanai. The intentionally spare palette of galvanized steel, waxed concrete, western red cedar and pine complete the home’s natural progression “from nothing, to glass, to screen, to solid.” Its minimalism might be seen as a metaphor for Steely’s reductive approach: limited materials, sparse construction, and a linear plan to open the home to the surrounding elements of land, sea, and sky.

The strong sense of economy that underscores Lavaflow 5 shows that the home was bestowed far more imagination than those with sprawling square footage, disparate elements, and little context. Rather, Lavaflow 5 is much like the scene on the other side of the glass, intentionally and pervasively unfolding. A view of before recalibrated for now.



The Timeless and The Unique | The Stack House


2,000+ SQ. FT.
$1.399 MILLION

Designed and developed by architecture firm FreelandBuck in collaboration with Urbanite Homes, this modern vertical structure known as “The Stack House” is comprised of four stories embedded into a sloping hillside in the coveted Mount Washington neighborhood. “This property beckons a buyer who appreciates unique architectural elements and thoughtfully selected luxury fixtures throughout,” says René Wiebensohn of Pacific Union International, who is listing the residence for $1.399 million.

Expect cutting-edge appliances, sustainable and smart-home features, French white oak flooring and custom cabinetry, along with seamless indoor-outdoor living via multiple balconies and floating landscaped decks offering jetliner views of the San Gabriel Mountains. Inside is 2,000-plus square feet of open living space featuring a kitchen, dining area, living room and den on the third level, along with a trio of bedrooms on the fourth story. The second level serves as an ideal guest retreat with a kitchenette and separate entry, while a two-car garage makes up the ground floor.



$3.995 MILLION

A 110-year-old Craftsman bungalow in the Hollywood Foothills is available for the first time in 35 years. “Rarely do you find a house of this pedigree,” says Stefan Pommepuy, who is co-listing the property with Jonathan Ruiz, both of The Agency, for $3.995 million. “An authentic, well-preserved piece of history, it makes you feel like you’re in the deep canyons of Malibu, with complete privacy and serenity yet steps away from the vibrant city.” 

Situated at 2002 La Brea Terrace, the two-bedroom residence is highlighted by a beamed living room with a new wood-burning fireplace; sky-lit indoor/outdoor dining room; and remodeled chef’s kitchen with painted white wood flooring, a center island and high-end appliances. Outdoors is a classic kidney-shaped pool and spa, as well as a sitting area with a fireplace and built-in barbecue. The fabulous finale: a matching Craftsman house sporting a teak patio, along with a separate two-story building used as an art gallery/office.


A Piece of History – 1530 N. Ogden Drive

1530 N. Ogden Drive ≫ Sunset Square Historic Home

4 Bed  |  2 Bath  |  2,518 Sq. ft.  |  $2.995 Million


The second residence designed by the eldest son of famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright is for sale with Crosby Doe Associates for $2.995 million. Built to Lloyd Wright’s specifications for contractor Henry O. Bollman in 1923 (using handmade concrete blocks), the home now is listed as Los Angeles Cultural Historic Monument No. 235 and anchors the Sunset Square Historic Preservation District.

The early modernist abode at 1530 N. Ogden Drive references pre-Columbian Mayan architecture, while allowing for light-filled interiors that offer a natural flow out to the gardens. It has since been modernized with expanded living space, as well as updated kitchen and baths.

Other notable features of the two-level, 2,518-square-foot residence include four bedrooms; two baths; and living and formal dining rooms that open to a private patio surrounded by a tropical paradise. An added bonus? The new owner will receive significant property tax savings to help maintain the historic structure.

Written by Wendy Bowman  |  Photography Courtesy of Tim Street-Porter

Nature’s Way

The Landscape of a Contemporary Hillside home from KAA Design offers a postcard impression of indoor-outdoor living in Los Angeles

From Tower Grove Drive, looking out from a wonderfully designed home whose precipice is a hillside in the southern Santa Monica Mountains, the view is truly grand—a sweep that extends dramatically past Los Angeles to the Pacific. And yet the home itself is intimately attuned to the site-specific setting right outside its expanse of its windowed walls.

KAA Design, a boutique studio in Los Angeles, helmed the three-year project, which produced a sustainable two-story structure at its heart. The architecture, a warm, elemental mix of wood and stone, featuring clean lines and other early-modernist undertones, is best understood as an engagement with both the landscape and its homeowners, a couple much inclined toward nature, whose previous home was far more traditional than the Tower Grove contemporary they now inhabit. And while their view from the top is certainly magnificent, so too is the hillside, a thing of real beauty, honest and humanly scaled, a harmonious blend of natural and manmade environments.

This is the point. “One of the things that we bring to the table is a holistic design approach that really looks at the project as not only a house on a property or a hill, in particular, but a house integrated with the hill,” says Duan Tran, partner and principal architect at KAA Design. “How will the architecture and landscape come together to create an indoor/outdoor experience?”

The answer is swift and assured: “We do this collaboratively,” says Tran. In working together from the outset, a KAA Design project not only has a sense of aesthetic, but a visual logic as well. With Tower Grove Drive, the collective approach produced a fluidity not only felt, but pervasively so, from the motor court to the courtyard garden and beyond. Fundamentally important to all parties was that the architecture be sensitive to nature—to try and, as Tran puts it, “stay out of the land as much as possible, but to work with the hillside.” Tree placement, plant selection and the use of gray water from the house to help irrigate the landscape were all facets of the exterior scheme.


Tasked with creating intimate spaces that still have a sense of openness fell to KAA Design’s Jerry Williams, a landscape architect who used native and climate-appropriate plantings that served both a practical and aesthetic purpose. With the overall aim to tie all the elements together in order to create environs of rich character, Williams selected plants to provide that landscape color and texture, with much of the vegetation edible. (Right off the kitchen is a production garden for a bounty of herbs and vegetables for the house.)

“Creating individual spaces also was really important to this project,” Williams says. “The homeowners wanted more intimate space.” A lovely example is the sitting area just off the husband’s office; suspended over the hillside, it seems to float, grounded only by a few spiky plants of varying height. Discreetly placed plantings throughout the landscape allow for quiet observation, a glass of wine. The wife’s green roofed office, however, with its perimeter fringed in the grass also used over the garage, has a deck with a firepit and chairs for a livelier gathering.

This property also reaches out to the landscape with truly striking architectural features, such as the concrete wall festooned with spidery green growth that stretches across the infinity-edge pool, forming a portal through which the pool can pass. Set slightly back from the pool, frozen in dramatic repose, is a towering single palm tree. If in the water, one looks below to find a patch of succulents. “A secret garden,” says Williams.

“One of the things you try to do in a home like this is unveil the layers,” says Tran, accounting for the way the architecture slowly opens first to the tremendous vista, then to all the beautiful pockets of earth, in one artfully conceived embrace. Though placed in its hillside setting, Tower Grove Drive feels entirely at home in this context, as if it existed long before it was realized—an entirely natural place to be.

Written by JENN THORNTON | Photography Courtesy of MANOLO LANGIS


House Proud

From a remodeled Mid-century Hollywood home to a Malibu retreat with all the bells and whistles, architects, builders and designers create homes of their very own

Scandinavian Stunner

Partners in both life and business, Ryan Brown and Diego Monchamp of L.A.-based Brown Design Group ( fell in love with a 1960’s Hollywood Hills home, purchased it from the original owner, and then remodeled it down to the studs.

Their intention? To work with its Mid-century architectural roots, but also to design a residence suitable to their family lifestyle by creating an indoor-outdoor flow, opening everything to views of the pool and surrounding hills. “We both have a strong affinity for clean, modern design,” says Brown. “We also entertain a lot and have a busy family life, so flow and layout are paramount.”Known for their casual, California approach to design, the pair began the remodel by incorporating 40 feet of sliding glass doors to the rear of the house to open it up to the pool and to serve as a great feature for entertaining. They raised the ceiling in the main living area, and infused the interiors with materials such as wood, tile and bronze; vintage lighting; and a mix of old and new furniture from favorite designers. They also used an all-white base color for the interior (Dunn Edwards’ Cool December) to spotlight their vibrant artwork and furnishings. “This being our home, we moved a lot of artwork and accessories that we had acquired over the years and that all have a story,” says Brown. “Our dining table is a solid, 14-foot teak table that we have had since we met and has lots of great memories attached. We like to be true to the architecture of our projects, and our own home was no exception. Keeping the interior clean and classic allowed us to use great pieces that really reflect us.”

Coastal Homage

While seeking a spot in Malibu to call home more than a decade ago, Chicago-based real estate entrepreneur Sean Conlon toured numerous properties and ultimately settled on one of the first places he viewed—an amazing Harry Gesner-designed house that he went on to salvage and restore from near ruins, keeping the architect’s outside signature design and transforming the interiors to serve as a true cathedral to the ocean, complete with soaring ceilings and glass windows opening to every level. “When compared against everything else I saw, I couldn’t pass up the energy that this home had,” says Conlon, chairman of CONLON & Co. ( and host of CNBC’s The Deed: Chicago.

“It sits on some rocks at the top of Broad Beach perched above beautiful old Cypress trees, kind of like a treehouse on Big Sur. It is my escape from a mad-mad world!” Conlon infused his classic Old-World meets a modern twist style with Gesner’s bent toward nature by rebuilding original windows that inspired the Sydney Opera House to retain a portal to the ocean. He also employed natural stone and wide hand-scraped walnut flooring to maintain a warm, Zen feeling. Along the way, he added personal touches, including unique artwork and pieces collected while traveling such as beautiful old books, 2,000-year-old Greek statues and a 1500’s charcoal drawing once owned by David Bowie. “I would like to think the home reflects my personality, with lots of diversions for small, perfectly curated pieces and unique in style, but never losing sight of the fact that life is short and can be beautiful,” says Conlon. “My home never allows you to forget that; it’s all about the majestic unbridled power of the Pacific Ocean and the home’s purpose is to immerse you in that feeling.”

At One with Nature

Upon setting out to design a modern residence in Pacific Palisades in 2010, husband-and-wife architects Mark Cigolle and Kim Coleman were intent on creating a meticulously executed home that would mesh the natural surroundings with cutting-edge technology and sustainability, all while using durable and adaptable materials. What emerged at 17455 Tramonto Drive is a brilliant orchestration of concrete, steel and glass that captures extraordinary ocean, mountain and city views from virtually every point in and around the three-level home. “In response to the truly incredible landscape and views, we wanted the architecture to sit quietly in the landscape,” says Coleman of CIGOLLE X COLEMAN, ARCHITECTS (

“The main living areas of the house are carved into the gentle slope of the site, with exterior walls made entirely of glass. Movement through the house was designed as a procession. At different moments, one may be more aware of the surrounding landscape—the ocean, mountains and sky—or interior spaces, some public and others private.” Now on the market for $11.5 million (listed by The Agency), the four-bedroom abode is designed around a series of platforms and containers that comingle to present an auto/sports court; studio/guest house; main indoor-outdoor living spaces; and a covered outdoor space/carport. Among the highlights: floating kitchen, dining and living areas; a master suite accessed by a central staircase topped by a massive skylight; a media room; and private garden and spa. “The house presents a series of places that are varied and dynamic, so that living and working are interchangeable,” says Coleman. “Walls slide out of the way, curtains subdivide or screen areas, and spaces transform to respond to climatic or programmatic changes.”


Good Vibrations

Scott Gillen has always had a passion for the creative process, first as a filmmaker and then as a custom builder, applying his hands to every facet of the process, from architecture to interior design. He crafted his first home on Abbot Kinney and then embarked upon a new Malibu property—The Carbon House—that he now resides in with his family. He designed and built the one-level, 6,800-square-foot residence on approximately 4 acres on Carbon Canyon Road, complete with his signature exposed beams, open spaces, soaring ceilings and custom furnishings throughout.

Massive windows on both sides of the 240-foot-long home allow for breathtaking ocean and mountain views from every room. Some of the show-stopping features include a massive great room with an open chef’s kitchen featuring custom ash wood cabinets and Wolf appliances; an ocean-view master suite with a private patio; a gym; and a media room.

“It’s a great house,” says Gillen of Scott Gillen UNVARNISHED ( “It’s large, but very cozy and intimate at the same time. It’s got a beachy vibe…a good vibe.” What’s next for the developer in Malibu? Selling the newly completed 15,500-square-foot property—The New Castle—that just hit the market for $85 million. Plus, a new project—The Case—featuring five Mid-century modern homes atop a bluff in the guard-gated Malibu Colony community, set for completion in mid-2020.


Sustainability Plus

Completed in 2010, L.A. architect Michael Kovac’s Sycamore House was one of the earliest LEED Platinum homes in California, with a design approach that was conscious of the many existing sycamore specimens on the property. “We have always incorporated environmentally sensitive design concepts and materials into our work, and this project was the perfect opportunity to really dive deeper into that and explore lots of new things,” says Kovac of Kovac Design Studio (

“We considered it our ‘green laboratory.’” Situated near the top of the Pacific Palisades at the edge of Santa Monica Canyon—with views of Downtown L.A., Will Rogers State Park and the San Gabriel Mountains—the modern home is rife with green systems, including solar photovoltaic power with battery backup; solar thermal hot water; radiant heating and cooling; gray water re-use; and rainwater capture. “Our favorite green features are passive, relying on the basic laws of nature,” Kovac says.

“For instance, the entire house is designed to maximize natural airflow and ventilation. There are windows on the lower level that pull the prevailing cool ocean breeze into the house and higher, clerestory windows that allow the warmer air inside the house to escape.” Materials inside the home also were chosen to be as maintenance-free and natural as possible, including walls finished with an artisan veneer plaster rather than paint, along with wood floors reclaimed from an 1800’s barn and a cement panel board exterior with a high recycled content.

“Everything feels warm and inviting to the touch, not cold or pretentious,” adds Kovac. Perhaps the most crowning achievement is a shadowy pattern of sycamore trees created by artist Jill Sykes that has been hand-blasted into the facade’s cement panels and offers an ever-changing dance with the real shadows cast by the surrounding sycamores.

Mix & Match

Widely acclaimed designer and tastemaker Martyn Lawrence Bullard combines glamour and exoticism in sophisticated interiors

Among his clientele of A-listers are Khloe and Kourtney Kardashian, Tommy Hilfiger and Ellen Pompeo, to name a few. But British-born, Los Angeles-based designer Martyn Lawrence Bullard is something of a celebrity too, having gained a reputation on the TV show Million Dollar Decorators before showing his mastery of a broad range of styles in many residential projects in Hollywood.

Located just below his studio, his recently opened showroom on Melrose Avenue—the Martyn Lawrence Bullard Atelier—offers a glimpse into a world of colors and patterns that reflect a true sense of audacity. “The first thing I do when I arrive at my studio is lighting one of my Signature Extraordinaire aromatic candles,” he says. “Then, all my senses are stimulated to start a creative day.”

Constantly traveling the world to discover new cultures and places, meet new people and visit museums, local markets and shops, Lawrence Bullard channels his adventurous spirit to design eclectic interior spaces and products (including furniture, fabrics, wallpaper, perfumes, jewels and fashion accessories). His motto, “live, love, decorate,” imbues everything he does. A collector of photographs, design books, watches, silverware and drawings—made with the Sanguina technique—Lawrence Bullard recharges his batteries both in his Mediterranean villa, situated in L.A.’s Whitley Heights neighborhood and furnished with antiques and contemporary artworks, and his weekend home in Palm Springs. Inspired by the mid-century aesthetic, the latter is decorated with Italian furniture from the 1960s and ‘70s and Pop Art pieces.

Lawrence Bullard always finds the way to honor every client’s decorative dream, designing comfortable yet stylish spaces, matching natural materials such as linen, velvet, cotton, silk, and wool with different types of lighting fixtures, custom-made pieces and furnishings from high-end boutiques and flea markets all over the planet. In addition to his residential portfolio, Lawrence Bullard also has designed several hospitality projects, including the new Hotel Californian in Santa Barbara featuring Spanish Colonial Revival architecture and modern Moorish-themed interiors. Thanks to 

his eclectic flair, Lawrence Bullard masters the art of shaping bold yet inviting interiors.

Written by Karine Monie

Clarity of Vision

Reflecting the beautiful Southern New England landscape, The Glass House is a window into the world — and soul — of Architect Philip Johnson 

That legendary American architect Philip Johnson was a religiously focused believer in modernism is something of an enduring fiction. He always thought in a modern fashion, but did not believe that modernism was the one and only way to practice architecture, and he’d break with convention, and the thinking of some contemporaries, to create a modern aesthetic that could accommodate historical elements—domes, colonnades, and columns.

Then again, Johnson was unusually brilliant, a visionary both of his time and before it, with an encyclopedic understanding of a great many things, from art to 18th- and 19th-century European gardens. He studied philosophy and classics at Harvard, traveled throughout Europe during the late 1920s, and met the central figures of modernist architecture: Walter Gropius, founder of the Bauhaus, and another of its disciples, Mies van der Rohe. As director of a new architecture department at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Johnson co-authored The International Style, bringing Bauhaus practices to the American masses. He later returned to Harvard to study architecture, and followed Marcel Breuer’s lead to New Canaan, Connecticut, where land was plentiful, there was train access into Manhattan, and it was easier to register as an architect. Taken by the landscape, Johnson purchased five acres of 18th century farmland flanked by stone walls and designed the manifestation of an earlier interest—the Glass House.

A modernist in the countryside, especially one as erudite and urbane as Johnson, is not a complete contradiction. In fact not at all. Johnson was a native Midwesterner; his grandfather maintained a gentleman’s farm and he loved the idea of being in nature. So he situated the Glass House in a way that has more of a relationship to fellow Midwesterner Frank Lloyd Wright than the early period of modernism of which he is part: sort of nestled into a hill, with a lovely view of a manmade pond.

Most surprising about the structure to Hilary Lewis, chief curator and creative director of the Glass House, who spent 10 of her 25 years at the property working alongside Johnson, is just how much one place can change. How it shifts with the seasons, appearing different on a cloudy day than a sunny one. And just how much color actually exists in the minimalist masterpiece. The way its saddle-hued Barcelona chair, for example, turns coppery in streams of sunlight and the truly extraordinary expanse of green visible from every point. “Johnson used to joke that he had very expensive wallpaper,” says Lewis, referencing the extraordinary surroundings outside the transparent walls. “The whole point wasn’t to have some glass object; it was to be in nature. Johnson liked being surrounded by trees and greenery and seeing birds. He always had a home in Manhattan, but his place in Connecticut was where his heart was.”

Best comprehended as a porthole through which to view its magnificent setting, the just over 1,800-square-foot Glass House was completed in 1949 and maintains its initial design. It has very few things in it. Most of the furnishings, pulled from Johnson’s New York apartment, are Mies van der Rohe designs. The lone painting is a classical landscape from the 17th century attributed to Poussin. There is a fireplace for colder climes and centrally located doors in the middle of each glass wall that open the house up to nature. Opposite the Glass House is the Brick House, which is nearly completely enclosed save for skylights and circular forms referencing Brunelleschi’s Dome in Florence. The Brick House shelters underground connecting mechanicals and support systems for both buildings. A green courtyard separates the structures, but they are two wings of the same house.

The Glass House, which is how Johnson referred to the entire property (now totaling 50 acres), is actually one of 14 total structures of various architectural styles on the grounds. Aside from the pavilions made of glass and brick is the glass-ceilinged Sculpture Gallery, built in 1970 and partially inspired by the islands of Greece with works from the likes of Robert Rauschenberg and Frank Stella, as well as the Studio, a workspace built in 1980 with 1,400 books on architecture. Particularly personal is the Painting Gallery, constructed in 1965, home to Johnson’s and his longtime partner David Whitney’s vast art collection, with works from Andy Warhol, Cindy Sherman and Julian Schnabel. Johnson was as prolific an art collector—he met Kandinsky, he knew Klee—as he was a promoter of other architects, like Frank Gehry, with whom he was great friends and would see in L.A. en route to his house in Big Sur.

In letting the property evolve over time, Johnson expressed his diversity of tastes and willingness to not stay in one mode. “The different styles was his own form of consistency, as opposed to something that was in conflict,” explains Lewis. “To him, time would change, so styles would change. He had an appreciation for novelty and the newest developments. He kept up with what was happening in the world. It’s all Johnson’s interpretation of European Modern placed in the context of Connecticut.”

Prior to his death in 2005, Johnson endowed the National Trust for Historic Preservation with the Glass House, opening up his remarkable view to—and of—the world.



Splendor, by the Sea

The historic mansions of architecturally diverse Newport express the spirit and ambition of an age

One thinks of a summer cottage in mostly quaint terms—a place of some modesty, wrapped in quiet, with a nice view. But in Newport, Rhode Island, once dubbed “The Eden of America” for its postcard locale, the “summer cottage” produces a far more elaborate picture of early American progress as seen through some of the country’s most celebrated mansions.

At the start of the 19th century, the once thriving mercantile port of Newport was settling into its new role as a refuge for American artists and Southern planters fleeing the summer heat. The conclusion of the Civil War brought economic reconstruction and industrialization to the country, and, to Newport specifically, those who profited from it. Lured by Newport’s setting and mild climes, some of the nation’s most prosperous families bankrolled stately “summer cottages” of diverse architectural origin within its beautiful environs, forming a heartland of a certain conceit, removed from sweltering cities thick with industry.

The boom years of large-scale buildings in Newport—1880 to 1914, the height of the Gilded Age—graced it with some 250 villas; showpieces of varying scale whose construction was motivated, at least in part, to “an unspoken desire to reinforce one’s station in the social order, or seniority within a family, by building on an ambitious scale,” says Paul F. Miller, curator of the Preservation Society of Newport County, which oversees 10 of the area’s most beloved mansions turned museums. But in balance, he notes, with a “conscious interest in fostering the patronage of American art and architecture.” This two-handed investment—in social capital and cultural sponsorship—produced a lasting architectural legacy.

110 West 80 St-4R, NY, NY 10024
212 874 3879

This heritage is as vast as the square footage of Newport’s most famous mansions. Hunter House, a timber-framed Georgian built after 1749 for a prominent sea captain, was an auspicious start, with 8,000 square feet. The 19th century introduced the likes of Kingscote, a Gothic Revival shadowing the churches of Medieval Europe from 1841; Chateau-sur-Mer, a grand interpretation of Victorian era architecture erected in 1852; the Isaac Bell House, a Shingle Style jewel on Newport’s storied Bellevue Avenue from 1883; and Rosecliff, constructed in Classical Revival style with a glazed terracotta façade in 1902.

Most popular of all the Newport estates is The Breakers, a mammoth illustration of Italian Renaissance design built in 1895 for Cornelius Vanderbilt and his wife. Tremendous in both riches and reach, the mansion, which sits on 13 acres and sprawls a tremendous 138,000 square feet, boasts touches of Greek and Roman architecture and a level of ornamentation favored by upper-crust tastes of the time. The only rival to The Breakers in any contest of size is The Elms, a 1899-1901 reinterpretation of an 18th-century French chateau—but just slightly, and only in percentage of land, 13.5 acres.

The Newport Mansions, says Miller, “represent in the history of American domestic architecture a search for a national style, ranging from the Georgian-inspired architecture of the Colonial period to the internationalism of the historical styles represented by Beaux Arts architecture, and are the result of a collaboration between the most important architects and patrons in the nation at that time.” As museums, their holdings include a wide spectrum of possessions and collectibles, while also reflecting how their individual inhabitants perceived themselves. Ambitious, certainly, if not a good deal self-important, but also dedicated patrons of fine design.

The architecture also mirrors its particular period: in chronological style, interior floor-plan and, notes Miller, “in the way in which the house embraces its setting, with the wraparound wooden verandas of the early houses giving way to the imposing masonry terraces of the Gilded Age villas; in the way in which the service areas operate and are laid out, with a move towards ever more efficient and discrete service; in the volume and layout of furnishings and objects; and in the incorporation of the latest marvels of technology, from early interior baths to the introduction of elevators.”

The end of the Great War saw Newport’s popularity decline. The new income tax caused a lag in extravagance and expenditures, and newer, accessible resorts were on the rise. A number of Newport County mansions were demolished; others were transformed into educational institutions, condominiums, or museums. Many are still occupied as seasonal, single-family residences.

Taking in Newport as a whole, one cannot escape the irony: a colony of historic homes, all invaluable to the American story, built from the vast fortunes of the privileged few, but inherited and enjoyed by all.



Legend of the falls

The consummate example of Frank Lloyd Wright’s organic architecture, Fallingwater is the architect’s masterwork—and the full expression of his nature

He looked at the site and saw it: a house emerging from the hillside, its peninsular planes seemingly suspended and staggered downward to emulate the stony cliff over which rushes a surge of mountain stream. The elevations, the geometry, the complexities, he saw it all. A vision that only a true visionary possibly could.

But Frank Lloyd Wright, well into his sixties at the time, produced nothing tangible for nine months thereafter. Everything was in his head. The commission, he knew, had the potential to reignite his career, one that he began when America still turned to horses for transport. And here it was, 1934, the Great Depression, with Wright in the wilderness of his professional life, having completed just a handful of commissions in the last 10 years. Many wondered if Louis Sullivan’s protégé, who helped pioneer the Prairie School and designed both the Unity Temple and the Robie House, was all washed up.

Not Edgar and Liliane Kaufmann, however, who commissioned Wright to design for them a weekend home on a wooded site in the mountains of western Pennsylvania. Prosperous department store owners, they were a good match for Wright in every way, both worldly, with operations in Pittsburgh and an office in Paris. Kaufmann was a larger-than-life character who loved big ideas and interesting people. His wife was a woman of great taste and an exceptional eye; she was devoted to beauty and ran a specialty shop with an international selection of haute couture on the 11th floor of the Kaufmanns’ department store. They also shared the architect’s love of nature and appreciated his honest expression of materials and form. They showed Wright the site, then waited.

Myth often has it that Wright conjured the design for Fallingwater almost from thin air. But three of his apprentices—witnesses to the following events—told it somewhat differently. Kaufmann, in an effort to get something out of Wright, made a series of calls to Taliesin, Wright’s home in Wisconsin, telling the architect he was en route to see the plans. On the day Kaufmann was to arrive, “Wright finished breakfast and went into the drafting room with his apprentices around him,” relays Lynda Waggoner, director of Fallingwater since 1996, who knew each apprentice. “They said all they could do was sharpen pencils. But because Wright had this incredible ability to design things in his head, I’m sure that during that nine-month gestation period he thought through the night, did a little sketch here and there, so that by the time Kaufmann arrived to see the preliminary sketches, he just drew it all out.” In an unpublished essay Kaufmann later wrote for an exhibition at Fallingwater, he confessed to not fully seeing the house at this stage.

Which might explain the surprise the Kaufmanns felt when they realized that Wright’s final plans did to not include a view of the site’s natural wonder, which they loved and clearly expected to see from the house. A terrific salesman, Wright reminded the Kaufmanns that the waterfall had always been a destination point for them on the site. They had picnicked there and watched the falls. His plan would help retain that sense of destination. Because if they were always looking at the falls, he explained, it would become commonplace. Wright would have his way.

In 1938, after a few rough patches, Wright realized what is an ingenious configuration of structure and site that exposed the depth of his unorthodoxy and architectural gifts. Fallingwater had traces of his earlier work (the cantilever, taken to its absolute limit with this project, and concrete, a modern material he used early in his career), but was unlike any building he’d ever done—the very model of organic architecture, which for him meant the merging of architecture and nature. “But it’s more than that,” Waggoner explains. “It’s a principle; a holistic view of the world that man has a place in nature . . . Wright believed that there should be as many styles of buildings as there are types of people, and they should be individualistic.”

Accordingly, Fallingwater stands alone. With its exaggerated planes of reinforced concrete and bands of steel-framed windows, the house is best understood as a response to what the architects of the International Style were doing. It is exceedingly geometric and horizontal, characteristic of that style, but with a humanity often lacking in the buildings it produced. It was all Wright: singular, suited to his client, and of both the times and the spirit of the place.

Fallingwater offers a contrast of experiences and juxtapositions—light and dark, danger and safety, smooth concrete and rough stone—that give it a wonderful richness. Passing through the front door, which is hidden between two walls, is a bit like entering a cave, sheltered and safe, but glance diagonally to the opposite end of the room and the outstretched terrace beyond and it’s open and bright. The exposure conveys a sense of danger that one has when looking at Fallingwater from a distance, its serrated arrangement appearing unanchored.

Like the Kaufmanns, one expects to see the waterfall, but doesn’t, not for a long time, by design. “Wright was really smart in his sense that we all have a final impression of something—so he saved it for the very end, so that the waterfall would be the final memory one has of the house and not overshadow the experience of it,” Waggoner explains. “Because when you go through the house, it is very intimate, like a meander through the woods. You go around corners and things open up and close down. It’s dark and light. You walk the terraces. Then, when you go down to see the actual view of the waterfall, you think, this is just incredible, because you have come to understand the house. So he knew exactly what he was doing when he designed it.”

Fallingwater reestablished Wright’s place in architecture, exactly as he hoped. He appeared on the cover of TIME Magazine with the house behind him and, at age 67, embarked on the most prolific period of his career, completing the Johnson Wax Building, the Guggenheim and many more buildings. Mostly, though, Fallingwater exemplified what Wright spent his entire career trying to create: a distinctly American architecture. It has all the features of this vernacular—a connection to the setting in a way that blends the two together; an open plan; the geometrizing of elements; a play with interior volume; and unity through a limited palette of materials—to touch something deep within us that Wright understood intuitively: the desire to reclaim our place in the natural world.

“That’s what Fallingwater does for us,” Waggoner says. “It’s the physical demonstration of what freedom is about. It teaches and amazes. I think that’s the testament of a masterpiece.”


Fit for a CEO

Real estate veteran Nelson Rising’s historic gated residence in La Cañada Flintridge has entered the market for the first time in 32 years, listed by Janice McGlashan of Coldwell Banker Global Luxury for $8.5 million 

Found on almost 2 acres at 435 Georgian Road, the six-bedroom, 11-bath Georgian Colonial estate was designed in 1924 by noted architect Ray Kieffer. Expect 8,000-plus square feet of living space, complete with a spacious living room boasting a fireplace; an elegant formal dining room that seats 22; and a library with built-in bookcases and a fireplace.

Yet other highlights include a solarium, a kitchen with butler’s pantry, a wine cellar and a private office. Outside, the park-like grounds are showcased by mature oak trees, manicured lawns and a rose garden.

Rising is known for building some of L.A.’s most iconic buildings—including the US Bank Tower—as well as new communities such as Silicon Beach’s Playa Vista and Orange County’s Coto de Caza. He also chaired Tom Bradley’s campaigns for mayor and governor, and produced the movie The Candidate starring Robert Redford.

Creek-side Paradise

A private setting, one-of-a-kind guest house and gorgeous newly constructed family home combine to make this Brentwood property the ideal Westside offering

This contemporary farmhouse-style property in Brentwood might portray a seemingly modest curb appeal, yet there are many delightful surprises beyond its casual façade. Think a striking Frank Gehry-inspired cubist guest house designed by El Segundo architects Susan Lanier and Paul Lubowicki that was recognized with a prestigious Decade Honor Award by the L.A. chapter of the American Institute of Architects upon its completion in 1998. Add a secluded creek-side setting on an oversized lot featuring mature sycamore and eucalyptus trees, and endless strands of bamboo, along with convenient access to nearby amenities, and this home strikes the perfect balance between privacy and Westside living.

“Because the lot uniquely sits along a year-round flowing creek, you have a beautiful and natural barrier between other properties,” says Diana Tsow, who is co-listing the property with Richard Stearns (both of Partners Trust) and Laurent Mamann Slater of Hilton & Hyland for $5.895 million. “The home itself is located in a prime flat area of Brentwood that is just a short stroll to lively restaurants, shops and farmers’ markets along Montana Avenue, and San Vicente and Wilshire boulevards.”

Situated on .23 acres at 1007 Wellesley Ave., the former main residence has been completely transformed from its days as a 1928 Spanish bungalow that served as a second home to prominent O.C. landowner and Democratic Party activist Richard O’Neill and his conservationist/philanthropist wife Donna. Constructed in 2017, the new modern, two-level abode was designed by architect Karen Putman and built by Structure Homes. Expect more than 5,000 square feet of living space rife with family- and entertainment-friendly touches, including a butler’s pantry with additional sinks, stoves and dishwashers, double stacks of washers and driers, and much more.

“This home is meant to be lived in and sure to be the venue of many festive gatherings,” says Tsow. “Family and friends will enjoy the indoor-outdoor living from the loggia that overlooks the new pool, creek and mature landscaping. The gem of this property is the guest house, which the sellers preserved not only because it is stunning, but also because it completes their family-focused planning and makes the property perfect for a large, multigenerational family.”

Six bedrooms (including a master retreat that opens to a large balcony overlooking the yard, a downstairs bedroom that can be used as an office, maid or guest room, and one bedroom in the adjacent guest house), as well as an open-concept kitchen featuring Calacatta marble countertops, professional-grade appliances and a spacious butler’s pantry are among the home’s standout features. La Cantina bi-folding doors lead to a loggia that is ideal for year-round alfresco dining next to an outdoor fireplace, and a lushly landscaped lawn boasting a pool, spa and sizable decks.

“Every room in the house is unique and full of character,” says Mamann Slater. “Each bedroom has an en-suite bathroom featuring different materials. Also an entertainer’s home, there are numerous areas in and around the property where you can hold a lavish dinner party. Then step down to the second yard, and you enter a creek-side paradise with a cool, modern guest house.”








Architectural Showcase

PerLA on Broadway is set to boost DTLA’s renewal with first-time homes complemented by a wealth of upscale amenities

Written by Wendy Bowman | Photography Courtesy of SCG America

Once a street struggling to survive, Broadway is back and better than ever. Now adding to the historic thoroughfare’s resurgence is the first new large-scale development in more than a century. Named PerLA—Spanish for pearl—the $300 million, 35-story CallisonRTKL-designed condo, residential and business tower promises to be an extravagant and stylish discovery in the heart of the city, much like the precious gem found in an oyster.

“Under Bringing Back Broadway—a recently completed 10-year initiative spearheaded by City Councilman José Huizar—the area has experienced a surge in new development,” says Hamid Behdad of developer SCG America. “This project will be a catalyst for further redevelopment in the neighborhood, as well as an integral part of [the] plan to revive this historic corridor. The project will also finally fill a void in the market by catering to first-time millennial homebuyers.”









Situated at 400 S. Broadway St., on the corner of 4th Street—on a .85-acre parcel that previously held 1980’s-era retail storefronts—PerLA on Broadway will offer 7,000 square feet of ground level retail and commercial space, as well as 450 residential condo units ranging from 400 to 1,300 square feet, priced from the mid-$400,000s. Groundbreaking was held in late September, with the project slated for completion in 2020. Presales are set to begin in spring 2018.

Expect contemporary Hirsch Bedner Associates-designed environs that recall the area’s historic roots, replete with textured metal screens inspired by the ornate wrought-iron grilles and vintage railings of adjacent historic buildings complemented by modern materials, technologies and finishes. Yet other highlights include a lavish lobby boasting intricate art-deco details (such as a floating registration desk finished with a deep-rich lacquered green), along with a four-story, sky-lit atrium holding a fitness center, yoga/Pilates rooms, media room and WeWork office spaces.

“HBA’s finish selections incorporate creative ways to utilize classical materials in a contemporary application,” says HBA associate Richard Tennill. “Luxurious veined marbles laid in a playful manner share the space of the lobby with textural painted corrugated metal panels expanding the full height of the space. Rich wood floors fold up the walls to create a wainscot element, which in instances, creates a ledge or hides warm LED up-lighting. Patterned tiles create graphic repetition in an art-deco manner, yet with a contemporary look.”

Other standouts at PerLA on Broadway: 48,000 square feet of outdoor space spanning the roofs of the lower podium and tower. There one will find a pool deck offering sweeping views of the city; decks and kitchens; cabana lounges and seating areas; and fire pits and grilling areas. There’s even a dog walk, complete with an owner’s lounge and grooming station. 




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