Monday, July 18, 2011

Billionaire Ron Burkle Buys Ennis House

In case any of the children missed it on Curbed (and elsewhere), supermarket billionaire Ron Burkle coughed up "just under $4.5 million" to purchase Frank Lloyd Wrights sublime but somewhat bedraggled Ennis House in Los Angeles, CA.

The Mayan-inspired house, built in 1924 for Mabel and Charles Ennis, a retailer with architectural chutzpah, came to be owned by an entity called the Ennis House Foundation who first put it on the market in the summer of 2009 with an optimistic asking price of $15,000,000. The price subsequently plunged dramatically to $5,999,000 before Mister Burkle stepped in to save the real estate day with his close-to $4,500,000 purchase. A press release issued by the Ennis House Foundation stated that Mister Burkle plans to continue a restoration that Your Mama would bet our long-bodied bitches Linda and Beverly will undoubtedly cost the new owner many millions to do correctly.

Listing information for the multi-level concrete block-built mansion shows it measures around 6,000 square feet and includes a total of 4 bedrooms, 4.5 bathrooms, five exceptionally detailed fireplaces, a window- and column-lined loggia that makes Your Mama dizzy with delight. The loggia frames a capacious courtyard on the street side of the house that includes a swimming pool and on the other side of the windows and terraces offer unimpeded canyon, city and distant ocean views.

A conservation easement held by the Los Angeles Conservancy states Mister Burkle must allow public access to the historic house at least 12 days a year which means that all us architectural looky-loos will get to gape at the stunning structure once its meticulous restoration is complete. Where do we get in line for a ticket?

photo: Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times


Anonymous said...

Impressive historic artifact, but I would prefer to live in Liz Taylor's place. I have doubts about how "comfortable" it could be.

Anonymous said...

Love this story. I hope this sets a standard for other monied architecture fans to purchase homes that will stand the testimate of time and will be properly restored for all to see.

There are hundreds of pieces across America that need private purchase and restoration.

On to other topics. Dayum! Petra Eccelstone (who bought THE MANOR) is looking HOT HOT laying around on her yacht in St. Tropez.

Yes, I have a jealous bone!

Anonymous said...

M O N E Y Pit....but worth it. He will eventually donate it to the City, State or a University. It will also need an endowment for up keep. Anyway, thanks Ron...for saving a historical landmark for L.A. More billionalres should do stuff like this.

Anonymous said...

not my style. at all.

FonHom said...

Thank you, Ron Burkle.

In contrast, consider AOL co-founder Jim Kimsey's opinion of the Frank Lloyd Wright home that was blocking his view: "Knock it down." (
Ha ha ha - he meant it! Eventually reconsidered.

Anonymous said...

It is a good day for architecture! Thanks Ron Burkle for taking on the preservation of a monument (albeit quirky) to America's greatest architect. Say what you will about his architecture, but Wright dragged the US from a backwater of copy cat design into 20th century modernism. @FonHom: the only arrogance that rivals Kimsey's is that of Wright himself!

Anonymous said...

I want to say Thank you to Mr. Burkle as well. A billionaire with a sense of noblesse oblige: how (*)(*) refreshing.

The Devoted Classicist said...

Since old estimates projected a restoration budget of $10 million, I would say this sale to a billionaire is a good match.

lil' gay boy said...

Oooo, FLLW!!! My favorite subject (apart from moi, of course...)

One of four textile block houses FLLW built in California (along with the first one, La Miniatura, recently put up for sale), one owned by Joel Silver and the last going to a college, they were called textile block houses for the unique construction that, if done correctly, would have made them impervious to weather & earthquake. By "knitting" dual layers of concrete blocks together with steel rebar along horizontal & vertical channels in the block edges, a flexible building "fabric" was thus achieved.

Unfortunately, poor materials & labors practices meant rust and crumbling concrete that meant eventually all four houses needed expensive restoration; (FLLW often outstripped the building technology of the day, pioneering this and radiant floor heating for example). It's a testament to FLLW's artistry that they have all survived by catching the eye of discerning restorers.

The Ennis House was supremely comfortable for its era (20s/30s) because the layer of air between the block walls insulated it from the hot sun in the summer (pre-air conditioning) and the cold in winter with some of the rooms radiantly heated) Although small in modern terms, the accommodations included a comfortable master suite, guest suite, and chauffeurs quarters across the motor court, as well as a pool addition later on. You may recognize it as the set for such iconic movies as Blade Runner, House on Haunted Hill, and the particular block pattern reproduced (after the rights to the block design were released) on many other sets & as individual works of art from such places as the Metropolitan Museum of Art (yes, I do have one...)

StPaulSnowman said...

Kudos to the Burkle!

Anonymous said...

Isn't this the place that towers over the spooky Perelson mansion that has stood vacant since the murder/suicide there in the late

Anonymous said...

OMG this place is so cool, I would love to live in this place.
And well done Mr. Burkle.

Carla Ridge said...

This is one happy Hollywood ending, even if it takes place in Los Feliz. That gush of wind you felt last Friday was a collective sigh of relief being exhaled all across the L.A. Basin.

When we talk about whether the house is 'comfortable', if furnished with things you love, it would be. I've seen less workable room arrangements in more supposedly 'modern' houses. If I were doing the place, I'd cram it full of Chinese and Russian antiques, some good Deco, a little Knoll here and there...just everything good from EVERY century (that I could afford). OH and some Wright pieces, of COURSE, LOL.

And even given the ongoing maintenance, I pronounce the sale price a BARGAIN. BIG round of applause to the savvy and civic-minded Ron Burkle.

PS: I can't wait to visit the house again, this time I hope for a festive party, as opposed to a hectic commercial shoot.

PPS: Wonder if the block-patterned doghouse remains?

Anonymous said...

To 4:34, oh my yes. the Perelson mansion is directly below the Ennis House and if not for the intervention of some very brave and committed people that spooky Christmas disaster of a house would have gotten a face full of textile block.

A couple months ago I had a couple cocktails in the house and now I have a raging Alex Forrest for it. Owning it, assuming I was ever in that position, would be the end of me. I think I would pour everything I had into it. It's kinda special.

It is a work of art but it's going to take a lot. Beyond the infrastructure restoration the house is simply dark at night, the pool takes up way too much of the terrace and the powder room off the entry is interesting to say the least.

Still, this is fantastic news! The house has received a second lease on life and when this restoration is complete I'm confident that just like Auldbrass Plantation in Yemassee, SC we will have an entirely new appreciation for the Ennis House.

Congratulations to everyone who worked so hard!

lil' gay boy said...

Carla, to my knowledge there are at least three or more surviving FLLW doghouses ––– Ennis & Berger, both in California, and the Hagan Residence near Fallingwater in Pennsylvania.

Anon 7:17; I feel your pain about living in a work of art––– as even its creator admitted, "... there is always some part of my anatomy that is permanently back & blue from having sat on one of my own designs..." But I guess that's what FLLW meant when favoring honest arrogance over false humility.

Shame there is only one of his houses here on LI.

Unknown said...

How do I plus one this Carla Ridge broad? She's funny AND informative.

I still think he should renovate it into a flagship Food4Less.

hippie canyon said...

Oh, LGB. If I had a dime for every time I sat on something of my own design that left me black and blue, I could have bought this place!.

Anonymous said...

And what exactly are you supposed to do for the 12 days when everyone is sniffling around your boudoir? Lie by the pool in the altogether?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the 4-1-1, lil' gay boy. I was once corrected, in the most snide manner, when I called radiant floor heating a "newer" method. The person said, in a very upper class Brit accent, "That's not new. It's been around since the Romans." Turns out the snob was wrong, it's actually been used since 10,000 BC by the Chinese. The Romans were using it by 500 BC. That said, FLLW was no pioneer in that department.

Lady J

midTN said...

Very happy for the Ennis house. I hope it lives another hundred years or more.

It will be interesting to see what Mr. Burkel untimately does with this unique pile.

p.s....(Wright is so overrated)


StPaulSnowman said...

I don't believe you can overrate the genius of Frank Lloyd Wright's domestic architecture. Corporate buildings......not so much. You can, however, overrate Landry's oeuvre. Something we have seen here time and again.

lil' gay boy said...

Lady J, I believe the Koreans & Japanese also innovated in that area; I think it was them who originally inspired FLLW to try it in a modern building. I recall him writing in his memoir about visiting the Emperor of Japan's "Korean" room, so-called because it was heated in the winter by a fireplace flue that passed in diagonal loops under the floor. On that visit he was commissioned to building the Imperial Hotel, the only major building of either Japanese or Western construction to survive the 1923 Tokyo earthquake & resulting fire due to his innovative foundation design & ornamental pools used to wet the wooden components.

I was speaking of the application of building technology with the pioneer comment; particularly attempting to embed pipes in the concrete slab when no one else would in the US.

When most of the West had turned its back on Eastern knowledge on many fronts, and discount the wisdom of the ages, FLLW was willing to take a risk, sometimes at the owners expense. Tales are legion of his homes notoriously leaking, yet today restorers use modern materials not available in his era to correct those problems today ––– probably why he gets a bad rep sometimes.

Anonymous said...

...and congratulations to my sister, Linda Dishman at the LA Conservancy for her hard work on EVERYTHING she's done with regard to the Ennis House. (She told me while we were lounging by a pool in San Diego over the 4th of July that it had been sold, or was about to be sold.)