Monday, February 17, 2014

UPDATE: Singleton Mansion

Let's start this week, butter beans and and kitten kaboodles, the same way we ended last week, with some juicy, high-grade Platinum Triangle real estate scuttlebutt...

On Friday Your Mama discussed a 15,000+ square foot Southern Colonial mansion in L.A.'s uppity Holmby Hills 'hood custom-designed in the late 1960s by much lauded and applauded Old Hollywood architect Wallace Neff for Teledyne co-founder Henry Singleton and his wife Caroline. The Singleton's manse had been on the market a few years ago for $85 million but since September 2013 the grand and gated estate has been listed on the open market with a lower but still astronomical $75 million price tag. In mid-February, according to various online listing sites, the property was put into escrow indicating it was on track to be sold. Since then rumors and swirled that the buyer might be a mysterious Englishman or perhaps the preposterously pampered 29-year old Formula One racing heiress Tamara Ecclestone.

However, children, buckle your real estate saftety belts because even though it was widely reported he paid $23 million for the old Harry Cohn house in Beverly Hills, Your Mama now hears via covert communique from Gloria Gotsthedirt that the buyer isn't a mysterious Englishman or a British heiress or a Chinese industrialist or, as some may have speculated, a Russian oligarch but rather veteran Tinseltown t.v. and movie producer Jerry Bruckheimer who, according to Miz Gotsthedirt, will shell out sixty-some million clams for the stately 7.65 acre spread that sits just north of Sunset Boulevard and is surrounded by some of L.A.'s most impressive and posh estates.

Just in case any of y'all might be under the illusion that Mister Bruckheimer's real estate eyeballs are bigger than his bank account you should keep in mind that, largely due to the Pirates of the Caribbean and National Treasure franchises, his high octane (if low substance) tent pole movies have grossed, according to this, nearly 4.7 billion dollars in worldwide box office receipts and the nine time Emmy winner's long and impressive list of television credits include (among many other programs) the wildly popular Amazing Race and CSI franchises. Back in 2010 Forbes (via The Richest) estimated his net to be around $850 million with an average annual income of more than $105 million between 2004 and 2011. If anyone in Hollywood can afford a $60-some million house that probably costs more than a million buck a year to maintain and operate, it's Jerry "Blockbuster" Bruckheimer.

Like other entertainment industry moguls who make money hand over fist, Mister Bruckheimer and his second wife, former Mirabella editor and novelist Linda Sue (Cobb) Balahoutis Bruckheimer, maintain an impressive portfolio of private residences.* Since the mid-1980s, when he bought it for $1,865,000, the Bruckheimers' primary residence in Los Angeles has been the so-called Siskin House, a gorgeous and glassy, Thornton Abell-designed international style affair in sleepy but swanky Brentwod with, according to property records, 7 bedrooms and 7 bathrooms in just over 6,300 square feet.

The couple also maintain a 400-ish acre ranch property in Ojai, CA, they picked up in July 2006 and where they annoyed some of their lesser heeled neighbors when they planted a bunch of trees near the property's perimeter that obstructed their views of the Topa Topa Mountains. In the mid-1990s the couple purchased the 1,200 acre Walnut Groves Farm in itty-bitty Bloomfield, KY, about 45 miles outside Missus Bruckheimer's native Louisville. A 2005 article about Missus Bruckheimer's preservation efforts in Bloomfield reveals the massive spread includes a restored and updated 1820s Antebellum mansion with landscaped grounds patrolled by peacocks, extensive equestrian facilities, a barn that hides an ice rink, a handful of guest cabins, a smokehouse turned billiard parlor, a wash house and a cannery (whatever those are), a stone-edged swimming pool and spa, a Grecian temple-like gazebo, and a restored slave cabin.

In other Holmby Hills real estate news: Your Mama hears through the Platinum Triangle real estate gossip grapevine that the recently completed and very contemporary, 14,000 square foot Estate Four-developed villa next door to the Singleton estate—quietly shopped off market, we were told, to an international clientele with an asking price of $55 million—is also in escrow and about to be sold but, in all honesty, Your Mama does not, unfortunately, currently have any more dish or details than that.

Interestingly enough another of Your Mama's informants heard the buyer of the Singleton mansion and the Estate Four villa are one in the same and that the buyer—who may or may not be Mister Bruckheimer—plans to raze the Singleton mansion and replace it with something probably bigger and more modern and use the Estate Four residence as a guest house. Now that, if true children, is how a hardcore real estate baller rolls...

All just unconfirmed rumor and gossip, kids, rumor and gossip. At least until you read about it in one of the more respectable property gossip columns.

UPDATE (01.19.14): We are now hearing that Mister Bruckheimer is not the buyer but rather, as was first snitched to Your Mama by Our Fairy Godmother in the Holmby Hills, a wealthy fella from London.

*In 1987 Mister Bruckheimer paid $2.4 million for a modestly sized residence on Malibu's Carbon Beach that he sold in an off-market deal in the December 2012 for $18 million to property collecting software tycoon Larry Ellison. Mister Ellison, as Malibu property watchers well know, owns a dozen or more properties along Carbon Beach and this property gossip wonders if he'd like to buy up all of Carbon Beach? Why not? He already owns the entire island of Lanai in Hawaii so why not the whole of Carbon Beach? But we digress...

listing photo: Coldwell Banker


Anonymous said...

Ha! What is he planning to do with it, I would like to know. I loved the post, thank you so much!

Anonymous said...

Mama are you forgetting that Bruckheimer bought the George's Marciano manse last year???

Anonymous said...

I wonder why he has waited for so long to purchase this.

Hopefully, Pacific Coast News, Splash, and X17 Online will make some fresh aerial photos of the estate.

We shall see.

lil' gay boy said...

Such mishegas over this property on the previous post; but as I said recently, "It doesn't take a chicken to recognize an egg; is it nicer than my own humble abode? Decidedly."

But like my personal favorite, FLLW, Wallace Neff (who is another favorite) is no sacred cow either; and as proof that even FLLW could produce a clunker, take a look at the Robert Lamp House.

In the case of this particular Neff design, however, it suffers from some odd material choices, colors & proportions (hence my pet mortuary comment). Despite its grandeur, the composition of the entrance court & facade is not only rather undomestic, but ill-proportioned & clumsy. The colors & finishes do not enhance the underlying program.

But I rather suspect it is the execution (read: contractor) more than the design itself.

Anonymous said...

How much does it take for a property to reach the stadium from pending to sold typically?

Little, do you have any example of those material choices, colours, and proportions?

I often wonder what do you who speak of proportions mean precisely? Does it mean that the spacing of the columns should be somewhat bigger, a precise number of feet, does it refer to front-façade windows? What is proportion here specifically? It is all too vague and general to me.

(P. S. Has anyone here bought the March issue of Architectural Digest? If someone has, are there any pictures of the Iovine residence in the Sandy Gallin interview? The Iovine house does look somewhat like the Singleton mansion. Both are Neff's designs, naturally.)

Anonymous said...

I would add that all that particular choice of trees around the house makes it look empty and uncared for.

Such a huge property, and when you open the front door, you see a parking lot with a wall staring right at you. Maybe someone should add something joyous and lively, like a fountain, perhaps. It is a cliché.

Anonymous said...

The fountain, I mean, but nothing else comes to mind now.

lil' gay boy said...

Anon 10:25,

To my mind, the one material choice I find troublesome more than others is the use of brick for the front court (not so much the back); although it photographs nicely, it is, IMHO, a bad choice for both foot & vehicular traffic (even if " never rains in California..") in terms of both safety & maintenance. As far as their coloring, I feel the appearance might have been better if they'd remained unglazed.

As for color in general, the major offense is the black of the window & door surrounds; although usually a safe choice with white brick/stucco, here the black tends to make the openings recede & appear to be in more shadow than they actually are; kinda contradictory for sunny southern California; and the rear bays come across as aftermarket, not integral. The blue of the hexagon tiles on the upstairs balcony is a tad jarring too, as it seems to reference nothing else on the property.

Proportion is tricky, because one needn't adhere slavishly to the Golden Ratio. But here, I feel the columns are too thin for the height & depth of the portico, and the portico cornice somewhat under-scale in relation to the steep, high volume of the roof. The rear balustrade also seems under-scaled for the height of the rear facade.

Inside, the lovely oval rotunda is (for me) spoiled by the overly monumental doorways that compete with the delicate tracery of the wrought iron railings and thin pilasters. In the living room, the trio of fanlight-surmounted doors seem squeezed into the center of the wall; coupled with the generous length of the room, it creates an impression of tunnel vision.

All nitpicking.

There is much more to like than dislike about this house (the extravagant chinoiserie, the delicate wrought iron, the crown moldings, the grounds -- despite the pool & tennis court), but I fear it is just not captivating enough to definitively say it is not a potential teardown; a sorry state of affairs.

Anonymous said...

By portico cornice you mean the whole of the front entablature?

lil' gay boy said...

The architrave and frieze are fine, proportion-wise (albeit rather plain); it's the tiny weeny, itsy bitsy cornice that irks me.

Good call!


Anonymous said...

See now. I love this talk of entablatures, architraves and Golden Ratios! I'm learning so much but i'm sure the snipers will be back soon enough to tell somebody they're being a pompous, uneducated ass.

Anonymous said...

Ha-ha! I'll have to take my magnifying glass and look closely because I really haven't yet noticed the inappropriateness of the cornice. :D

I love reading your opinion, especially when, like right now, you notice stuff that I don't, and I have to squeeze words out of you to get what I want. :D

For example, I really loathe the rotunda. I don't know if it's the inappropriate lens, which squeezes the whole thing and distorts it, or if it's really that ugly. The décor doesn't help. Too granny-link, pink... What is with those awful columns around it and the pilasters on them...

For a house this big, it seems so small. I was appalled.

I think you're onto something with colours... Something is decidedly off.

See now. I love this talk of entablatures, architraves and Golden Ratios! I'm learning so much but i'm sure the snipers will be back soon enough to tell somebody they're being a pompous, uneducated ass.

You've beat me to it.

Anonymous said...

- *ve.

Anonymous said...

I wonder where from Wallace Neff took this roof from. I really want to know. It appears in one or two other of his houses, I can now only remember the Joan Bennett house on South Mapleton Drive.

It is so low-slung and so huge, it doesn't really look like it comes from Southern Colonial houses, which are usually two or three storeys high, and how a somewhat different look.

Another departure from that style is the "massing", or how should I call it, by which I mean that the house is not one straight line with the colonnade stretching the whole length of the house. Instead, we have this avant-corps with the portico and four columns, two of which, the end ones, are double columns. Then we have the part further back, again ending in a column, and the third part, which I cannot see in the pictures.

It does look Southern Colonial, but with lots of atypical elements. I guess that is its strength and value.

Anonymous said...

I should say that what appears to be a façade made of metro-style tiles makes it look awkward.

Anonymous said...

I don't own the Diane Kanner's book Wallace Neff and the Grand Houses of the Golden State, but it seems to have some interesting titbits about the house: it is discussed on pages 219 and 220, and probably some others. An interesting subtitle that appears is Bigger Is Not Better. Apparently, Henry Earl Singleton wanted to purchase the Joan Bennet house from Hal B. Wallis and his wife, Martha Hyer, but didn't manage to so he hired Wallace Neff to design him a house.

The Singleton's insistence on high-class materials kept the house cost high, at $50 a square foot (nowadays I believe that Finton is at least ten times more expensive nominally).

Among aminities it had at the time was "a wine refrigerator that cost as a mid-priced car and hardwood floors worth nearly fifty thousand dollars". "Squash, handball, and tennis courts were as state of the art as the table tennis, pool, and billiards facilities."

If anyone owns the book, I'd like to hear the whole story!

Anonymous said...

Another note: An Architectural Guidebook to Los Angeles by David Gebhard, Robert Winter defines the style as "French Norman".

I guess it's the roof.

So the house might be half Southern Colonial and half French Normandy.

Carla Ridge said...

I think the main failing of this house is that it was just an enlarged reiteration of the (justifiably beloved) Joan Bennett house, on South Mapleton. That was (is!) beautifully proportioned and lightly detailed; this is the Spelling Manor version of that. I'm sure some internet cruising or Google doodling will find you kids some nice images; if you can score the floor plan, you'll really get the point.

PS: let's not forget, this might very well be a tear-down situation; the house is in decidedly worn shape and not to modern taste. Even for someone from Foggy Town.

Carla Ridge said...

P.P.S. Let's also remember the Singletons were part of that very competitive Reagan 'Kitchen Cabinet' and with this home they were basically trying to out-do the Bloomingdales, down the street. But they didn't have the taste or ambition as Al and Betsy, so what they got may have been bigger, but not better.

Anonymous said...


Why would someone from Foggy Town have more anqtiquated taste than someone from Los Angeles?!

It should be the reverse.

After all, so many styles in American architecture are direct imports from sunny England.

You are saying that there are floor plans online?

Joan Bennett's house has some frilly detailes, certain loggias, and the windows are a bit weird. Basically, I only like the roof.

Why do you love it?

Who designed Betsy Bloomingdale's house? It doesn't seem like a masterpiece.

Anonymous said...

Joan Bennett's house 15,082 square feet, Henry Earl Singleton's house 15,520 square feet.


They seem to be of equal size.

Anonymous said...

If you measure the houses, you will see that both are of almost equal length – 63 m or 64 m (207 ft or 210 ft). Joan Bennett's house (now Jimmy Iovine's and being redesigned by Sandy Gallin and his team) is about 14 m wide (46 ft) while Henry Earl Singleton's is around 19 m (62 ft).

Anonymous said...

Another house mentioned as being inspired by Joan Bennett's house is the house Wallace Neff designed for Eugene Allen and his wife: it is located at 110 North Rockingham Avenue.