10 of L.A.'s Most Iconic Residences
The epicenter of the American dream. A playground for the rich and (in)famous. A case study in cultural excess. An eclectic hodgepodge of the weird and wonderful. However you want to describe Los Angeles, one thing is certain: The City of Angels is never boring. Neither are its residents — or its residences, for that matter. It’s only fitting that a city that's home to screen idols and beautiful people would boast some of the most stunning houses of the 20th century. It’s also not surprising that a city where you can watch movies among deceased celebrities or buy a souvenir on your way out of the coroner’s office has its fair share of quirky abodes. We’ve compiled a list of L.A.’s most iconic residences — from the glamorous to the innovative to the downright bizarre — all of which capture the city’s eccentric charm better than words ever could.
1. The Stahl House aka Case Study House #22: 1635 Woods Drive, Hollywood Hills West
This striking modern home, designed by Pierre Koenig in 1959 for the Stahl family, was part of the Case Study House Program, an initiative of Arts & Architecture magazine in 1945 to introduce modernist style into America’s architectural landscape. It was made famous by a 1960 Julius Shulman photograph that depicts two women sitting in the living room at night, gazing out over the glittering lights of the Hollywood Hills. You may also recognize the home from the countless movies and fashion editorials that have been shot here. The Stahl House’s sleek and streamlined structure, panoramic glass walls and open-concept layout have made it a hallmark of midcentury modern design. It was designated a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument in 1999, made the AIA’s “America’s Favorite Architecture” list in 2007 and holds a spot on the National Register of Historic Places. The best part is that the Stahl House is open to the public year-round for private and group tours. Visit the website to book a tour and get a little taste of architectural history.
2. The Spadena House: 516 Walden Drive, Beverly Hills
Any Real Housewives fan probably would argue that there are more than a few witches in Beverly Hills, but this one takes the cake. The Spadena House (more frequently referred to as the Witch’s House, for obvious reasons) is straight out of a Brothers Grimm fairy tale, though the quaint structure — replete with bridge and moat — is more adorable than it is menacing. An exemplar of the storybook architecture style popular in 1920s L.A., the house was built by Hollywood art director Harry Oliver in 1921 for Irvin Willat’s Culver City studio, and showed up in a few films of the silent era. It was moved to the corner of Carmelita and Walden in 1934, and there it stands today, to the delight of children and adults alike. It even had a cameo in 1995’s Clueless, and if that doesn’t qualify it as some sort of national landmark, I don’t know what does. One of the greatest things about this house is the fact that it’s situated smack dab in the middle of an otherwise normal residential street (well, as normal as you can get in Beverly Hills). Not exactly inconspicuous — but Angelenos wouldn’t want it any other way. When real estate agent Michael Libow bought the house in the late 1990s and began interior renovations, he started receiving hate mail from angry locals who feared he would demolish the house. Clearly, the witch’s broom is staying parked for the time being.
Photo by Gwynedd Stuart
3. The Hobbit House: 3819 Dunn Drive, Culver City
Lord of the Rings fans, brace yourselves: There’s an honest-to-goodness Hobbit House in Culver City. The whimsical fairy-tale cottage features roofs that look like mushroom caps, stained-glass windows, a tree shooting through the roof and an outdoor pond that’s home to a group of resident turtles. Like the Spadena House, the Hobbit House is another great representation of storybook architecture, but what makes the Hobbit House unique is its interior, which is just as fanciful as the outside. The home has its original stone hearth, ship wheel motifs on everything and trippy dimensions that would put Alice’s Wonderland to shame. You’d half expect one of Snow White’s dwarves to pop out of one of the hand-carved wood cabinets. The home is just one unit in a series of similarly styled residences completed in 1970 by former Disney artist Joseph Lawrence. The compound was designated as a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument in 1996, and you really should keep your eye on the MLS — occasionally you’ll find one of the units up for rent. It’s a pretty great alternative to a cookie-cutter condo.
4. The O’Neill House: 507 N. Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills
This elaborate dwelling appears to have been designed by a cake decorator with a penchant for white fondant. In actuality, the fondant is white cement, and it wasn’t designed by a master chef but by former owner Don O’Neill. In 1978, the Beverly Hills art dealer decided to redo the home’s parlor and guesthouse in the art nouveau style. His wife, Sandy, loved it so much that they planned to extend his vision to the entire property but, sadly, Don died in 1985. In a moving tribute to her late husband, Sandy decided to continue the project they’d started together. The result was nothing short of decadent. Today, the Gaudi-esque residence still stands, its voluptuous, fluid loops and swirls evoking images of a cupcake melting under the L.A. sun.
5. The Playboy Mansion: 10236 Charing Cross Road, Westwood
Known simply as “the Mansion” to insiders, this oversized bachelor pad has hosted some of L.A.’s most notorious parties – and celebrities — since 1971, when Playboy magnate Hugh Hefner moved in. The entrance to the sprawling, 21,987-square-foot property beckons to visitors with grand gates, a road sign cautioning that “Playmates” are at play and the occasional squawk of a tropical bird — one of many that reside in Hefner’s personal zoo and aviary. (The Mansion is one of the few private residences in Los Angeles with a zoo license — not to mention the only one with a year-round fireworks permit.) Built in 1927 by architect Arthur Rolland Kelly, the Tudor-style mansion has 22 rooms, including a screening room with a built-in organ, a hidden wine cellar (left over from the Prohibition era) and the top-secret “Elvis Room,” where Mr. Presley is rumored to have spent one fateful night with no less than eight Playboy bunnies. And let’s not forget the outdoor pool and its notorious grotto. Sure, the decor inside the actual mansion may be dated (wood paneling, anyone?) but who wouldn’t give their right arm for a chance to party here? The Mansion recently made headlines when it was put on the market for a whopping $200 million, with one important stipulation: The buyer must allow Hef to continue living there for the rest of his life. (Hef's next-door neighbor, Daren Metropoulos, the 32-year-old billionaire owner of Twinkies, bought the mansion and eventually plans to join the property with his own.)
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