Friday, January 11, 2013

Francois Pinault Snags Sassoon's Singleton House

SELLER: Ronnie Sassoon
BUYER: François Pinault
LOCATION: Los Angeles, CA
PRICE: $16,500,000

YOUR MAMAS NOTES: Some of you may have read it first somewhere else but Your Mama first learned from the kids at Curbed that multi-billionaire French luxury goods purveyor François Pinault just dropped $16,500,000 on the so-called Singleton House, a glassy, low-slung Richard Neurtra modernist affair in Bel Air commissioned in 1959 by L.A.-based industrialist Henry Singleton.

Monsieur Pinault, if the name doesn't ring a bell, heads up PPR, the Paris-based multi-national conglomerate that wholly or partly owns a long and impressive list of luxury goods operations including Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent, Alexander McQueen, Balenciaga, Boucheron, Brioni, Puma and Tretorn. Since the late 1990s Monsieur Pinault has held a majority interest in the illustrious Christie's auction house. He's the father of François-Henri Pinault, the headline making hubby of Mexican bombshell actress Salma Hayek and—far more scandalously—supermodel Linda Evangelista's baby daddy.

Anyhoo, the Singleton House was bought in 2004 for about six million clams by hair care mogul Vidal Sasson and his wife Ronnie who gave the place a complete and much disputed redo and expansion that many architectural purists complain does not remain true enough to Neutra's original design. According to an April 2011 article in Architectural Digest, when re-construction was completed the couple called up haughtily flamboyant Million Dollar Decorator Martyn Lawrence-Bullard to consult on the interiors, "particularly upholstered pieces and textiles."

Whatever opinion one may hold as to the purity of the Sassoon's redo of the 5.23 acre gated estate, it none-the-less remains a cocky and courageous example of modernist architectural chutzpah nestled gingerly on a tree-shaded knoll high above the Stone Canyon Reservoir with the exact sort of canyon and city views from which some L.A. residential real estate dreams are made.

According to the most recent listing, the single-story residence spans about 6,400 square feet with four bedrooms, five bathrooms, a living room with an imposing stone fireplace, an open-concept dining room/center island kitchen and a roomy media room with built-in seating lounge, sunken wet bar and a wall of floor-to-ceiling glass sliders.

The grounds of the estate are mostly left au natural except immediately around the house where the painstakingly tamed landscaping includes large stones allegedly placed into the broad flat lawn that surrounds the swimming pool by the Japanese-American artist and landscape architect Isamu Noguchi.

The Sassoons first put the Singleton House up for sale in 2007 with a eye popping $19,995,000 asking price. However, the property languished on and off the market for years at a variety of prices during which time they sold their Hal Leavitt-designed house in Beverly Hills that they'd previously had re-worked by architect Larry Totah. Last May (2012), the well-maintained 84-year old Mister Sassoon died at the Singleton House after a two-plus year battle with leukemia.

P.S. Given Monsieur Pinault's well-known propensity for collecting blue chip contemporary artworks, Your Mama can't help but wonder if the sleek and contemplating Anish Kapoor sculpture that the Sassoons set in a courtyard next to a huge and wonderfully gnarled olive tree was included in the purchase.

listing photos: Westside Estate Agency


Anonymous said...

Actually, the original /Sassoon Sotheby's listingin 2007 put a price of $25 Million on this Singleton House. They even made out that they had received an offer of more than $20 Million. The original Sotheby's listing has been deleted, but Luxist notes this piece of history:

From $25 Million to $16.5 Million is quite a price chop. But considering that the Sassoons' "renovation" was more like an "architectual lobotomy" that left very little of this home's original personality, $16.5 is an awful lot of money to pay for a parcel of land in far-from-prime Upper Bel Air with a house whose substance now owes its essence to a literally no-name architect squatting on where Neutra's used to be. Yet another re-make of "Invasion of the Architect Snatchers." Or did I miss the name of the Sassoons' "renovation's" architect in Yo Mama's write-up?

The Swan said...'s still a NEUTRA whatever one wishes to pretend! Beautifully restored with 21stC additions much needed that seem to not even whisper IM HERE LOOK AT ME, a feat on its own whether by the original architect or newer. One mustn't wear their tattered original Balenciaga out to the Met Gala without having loving hands restore and amend it to the new owners height and build...same for Architecture by Noted Architects and Art by Famous Artists damaged overtime either by assault or age...ART IS BEAUTY WHICH IS THE HIGHEST FORM OF MAINTENANCE.

A Blessing for LOS ANGELES that this Jewel of Bel Air is admired Worldwide, and that those fortunate enough to understand the heavy burden of curatorial endeavors can bear this knowing the Legend will include their tenure...last I heard and have seen, much of Beverly Hills and Bel Air not too mention Holmby Hills can only be reminisced by those of us who remember or viewed in old print BOOKS not Kindles!

Anonymous said...

If I recall correctly, the Sassoons blew out the bedrooms, combining their spaces into the current enormous kitchen/greatroom that bears not a trace of Neutra in it's conception of execution or materials. The new master suite is actually in an entirely new addition, and I believe Neutra's car port has been enclosed and incorporated into the house. Vast quantities of ultra-lux materials and finishes have now been installed, although they were available to Neutra in 1959 and expressly rejected by him. There is one - count 'em, one - remaining Neutra bathroom.

A few years ago I spoke to one of the best young architects in Los Angeles, who had just returned from viewing the then newly-renovated renovated house. This modernist - who also has made quite a name renovating all sorts of places in all sorts of styles, and is by no means hostile to adaptive reuse - said about the renovated Singleton: "That's not Neutra. Whether you like it or not is another thing. And I'm not saying it's bad on its own. But it's not Neutra. And whether replacing a Neutra - especially THAT Neutra - with what's there now was wrong is a whole separate thing again." That pretty obviously nails it. It's silly to pretend the place has just been "updated" or treated with a light touch.

Jayne said...

Neutra or not, it's a beautiful destination for those lucky enough to afford such a place.

The Swan said...

I do recall the Ennis couple luxed up their beautiful Wright home with Marble, Copper fireplace sheaths in full Aztec Repousse relief, sunken tiled tubs, marble console bathroom sink with bronze legs, and on and on...after Wright was dismissed before the end of construction, it's still a FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT designed home!

Last I remembered, an Architect Of note, NEVER copies another's Vision! Perhaps your Architect pal was just dismissing what he didn't get to wrestle with, making an old jewel sparkle!

Gypsydog said...

I'm Australian and I know next to nothing about all these architects and styles that everyone talks about....I'm slowly learning, thanx Mama and the children...but I like it and I think that deep down most of you would give your eye teeth to be living up in Bel-Air in a house like this regardless of who designed it!

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Duchesse de Guermantes said...

Whatever happened in the end to the other Singleton Estate, the one on Delfern Drive?

lil' gay boy said...

Ennis & Singleton -- apples and oranges, and has little to do with updating for the 21st century.

I gather few folks would actually want to live their daily lives in a museum-quality, historical restoration; however, changes in materials & finishes are a far cry from a complete reworking of an architect's programmatic vision.

After time, the changed materials in the Ennis House, although perhaps not part of the original materials list, have become familiar, if somewhat anachronistic friends.

The complete gutting & reworking of the Singleton House is more akin to architectural rape -- almost nothing remains of Neutra's original program.

But then it is costing a pretty penny even at the chopped price; certainly within the means of those who can afford to reverse the damage done.

The Swan said...

Hardly Apples and Oranges...Concrete, Plywood and Formica were EXPENSIVE building materials at the time used by both architects...who knew they would not last nor appreciate in value.

Live where you wish, with whatever decor within, but certainly...this is still NEUTRA and WRIGHT we are talking about. If you've been to Venice to the Palazzo Grassi, which Pinault owns as a museum to his collection not too mention Tadeo Ando reworking the entire interior of the Customs House on the Grand Canal, also paid for by Pinault...well, you would know his Art will fit in perfectly as did Sassons collection...and no one admonished those restoration/renovations!

It's Architectural Rape when the building is GONE! Butchered with another facade is a whole other story...I'm glad it's still with us, and applaud Vidal!

Anonymous said...

I agree, The Swan.

Where is Quentin Tarantino placing his head these days? He sold his Bel Air pile a few years back.

lil' gay boy said...

Sorry, my fine feathered friend, but I must respectfully disagree...

Materials such as concrete & plywood were not expensive, then or now -- they formed the basis of the palette FLLW used on his Usonian Homes (the Ennis House being a textile block house, a precursor to the Usonian) specifically because of their affordability; it was his aim to elevate them as materials by the geometry & grace of his designs -- not always successfully, sadly.

However, swapping out polished concrete for marble flooring, or asserting one's taste in furniture (something FLLW rarely agreed with his clients on) is not the same as gutting or adding wings or changing the orientation of interior to exterior -- to me this is destruction, not updating -- but it is a gray area, somewhat like that legal concept of pornography: I may not be able to define it, but I know it when I see it. Thank heavens they didn't add a story -- that is so rarely, if ever, successful.

What puzzles me most, however, is what in God's name does the suitability of an interior's remodel/redesign/bastardization with the owner's art collection have anything at all to do with architectural integrity? Why is comparing some centuries-old Venetian palazzos to some 20th century SoCal residences not apples & oranges? Where's the thread between an 18th century European palace and a 20th century suburban American home?

This Neutra house has not been murdered, but it has indeed been raped; IMHO Sassoon was at best misguided, at worst dead wrong.

But hey, his money, his house, his prerogative; he was free to do what he liked with it -- doesn't mean I have to like it or agree with it.

Edward said...
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Rugby E. Root said...

I'm really not the clear as to what the controversy is here. To my eye, the house looks like a Neurta design.

I went to school at St John's College in Annapolis, which is home to Neurta's (little-know) Mellon Hall, designed a year before this house. The two are extremely close is so many elements, from the pebble-dashed concrete on the exterior to the warm, buff-colored wood to the terrazzo floors.

Looking at picture of the house, Sassoon made no changes to the exterior. He didn't even succumb to the LA weakness for tearing out the original pool and replacing it with something big and stupid.

What changes made to the interior were done with some care. Personally, I'd rather see someone alter a house to fit the needs of modern living than to tear it down or ruin it with insensitive remodeling or restoration.

The Swan said...

To clarify...ancient buildings esteemed thru time, whether on the Grand Canal, Versailles, Buckingham Palace, Thw White House or the Singleton House...all MUST adapt to changes in human needs, but the footprint aka soul remains!

Concrete, plywood and Formica were revolutionary when utilized, but certainly expensive as there was science behind their creation. Wright cheapened the building cost of the textile blocks by utilizing decomposed granite indigenous to the building site when mixing the concrete. Never realizing this was porous ending with results of destruction.

The Prism of Beauty bears many facets...but Time alters ALL, even YOU & I.

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Ernesto said...

Gawd...I would love to see what architecturally acclaimed houses that all you critics out there live in. It's only a house. If you get off on Neutra, there are a ton of books you can read, not bother with what someone is doing to their private property.

Unknown said...

I went to visit the house when it was on the market before it was purchased and renovated...

A few things about this property:

1. While people may say it's in BelAir, its not's on Mulholland (right by Woodcliff)...if you live there, your going to be going to the Valley way more than the city...5 minutes vs 15+. I'd call it sherman thing I like about Charlie Sheen (who lives at Mulholland Estates (north side of Mulholland, just east of Beverly Glen) is that he says he lives in Sherman Oaks! (though property is BHPO).

2. The house looks the same from the exterior, at least from these photos.

3. The kitchen was a galley kitchen, closed off from rest of house. Clearly, this is the biggest change as the Kitchen seems to have been completely relocated. While not true to the original design, it's the way people live today.

4. The property is really feels very remote, with no neighbors, but also feels like anyone could break in without anyone noticing...there some sort of city zoned work area next to house, and it would creep me out a little.d

5. I thought it was way overpriced at 7mm...but then again, high end real estate would appear to be the best investment in the world these days!

lil' gay boy said...

As with most things Wright did (Pyrex tubing for skylights @ Johnson Wax, for example), he tended to overreach the available technology -- sometimes with disastrous results.

FLLW added local materials to concrete in order to blend it with the site, not for any purposes of economy -- that he hoped to achieve by a design (textile block, Usonian automatic) that allowed the client to build the house themselves (sometimes taking decades to do so), thus saving on labor costs; or via prefabs such as the Erdman projects.

Although the sanctity of one's property is pretty much sacrosanct, no purchaser of a landmark (or near-landmark) architectural building can claim to be totally unaware of a degree of stewardship that accompanies such buildings, nor claim total surprise when someone objects to their personal vision for such an edifice (such as the disastrous Coonley house dependencies). FLLW was aware of this and in at least one case, the Hanna house, he made provision for a growing & changing family.

No one can honestly say the Singleton house has been destroyed; truly, the remodel is even somewhat sensitive, and because it is a private residence we have only photos to go by for the most part.

But as the recent Kaufman House auction demonstrated, these buildings straddle the fine line between residence & art; as such, it is not just their prohibitive cost that should give one pause before any construction begins.

nursedeb said...

huh---I know next to nothing about this house. but it doesn't look comfy.
iffin sassoon wanted all this "new" stuff, why didn't he just build.

Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

Wow, I love the outdoor concept. The stoned walls and walkways are really comforting to look at, what more to walk on. They really show the elements of nature and are really pleasing to the eyes. The interior of the house is however different and instead shows a modern concept. Nonetheless, the neat and tidy overall idea creates a refreshing and airy atmosphere, with the floor to ceiling windows which let the bright sun in, naturally lighting up the entire house. Even the kitchen looks clean with storage cabinets occupying only the bottom half of the walls to reduce the cluttered feel.

Unknown said...

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