Bel Air Beauty
Built by A. Quincy Jones, this Los Angeles house has been lovingly updated by Frederick Fisher and Moore Ruble Yudell
Edie Cohen -- Interior Design, 6/1/2009 12:00:00 AM
A. Quincy Jones and Frederick Fisher met only once, but they share quite a history. Frederick Fisher and Partners Architects occupies the Los Angeles building designed in the 1950's for the office of Jones & Emmons, and Fisher became friends with Jones's widow, Elaine, during the renovation. But it didn't stop there. Art-world connections subsequently brought Fisher in contact with philanthropist Cynthia Lasker, who lived in a Bel Air house built by Jones in 1965 and decorated by William Haines Designs. "When she started thinking about selling it, I realized it was important to get the right buyer," Fisher recalls. "It wasn't huge, but it was on a big piece of land, and it was in danger of being a teardown." That's when he made a pitch to real-estate developer Robert Maguire III: Buy the house, and save it.
The CEO of Maguire Investments and a confirmed modernist, Maguire was undoubtedly hooked by both the provenance and the architecture, a stucco U around an imposing entrance court. Then there were the multimillion-dollar views of the J. Paul Getty Museum and the Pacific Ocean. He grabbed the property, snapping up three adjacent parcels as well. Now, the 10-acre spread allows him to indulge in gentleman farming. His vineyard and crimson chicken coop share the premises with an existing tennis court and swimming pool and Fisher's cabana and guesthouse.
The main house is a single story at 8,300 square feet. (Yes, in Bel Air, that's actually considered modest.) "Our job was to change it from an old-fashioned front-of-the-house/back-of-the-house layout to a contemporary all-living house," Fisher says. Needing particular work were sections now containing the living area, dining room, and kitchen as well as a guest room. To make the kitchen the focus, partner David Ross explains, he and Fisher enlarged and restructured it by knocking out a pantry and service facilities to create a contiguous kitchen and family room. Cabinets, lacquered the crisp primaries that Maguire prefers, serve as a perfect foil for Frank Stella's exuberant 12-foot-long mixed-media piece, dominating an adjacent wall.
In the rest of the public areas, Fisher and Ross worked on the envelope. They replaced fussy oak parquet flooring, part of the Haines legacy, with planks of rift-sawn white oak. The architects also replastered the fireplace surround, a freestanding element located just about dead center, and painted it a matte red. The existing 11-foot-high front doors were coated in high-gloss red automotive paint. "I wish I had Haines's bronze Egyptian pulls. They went for thousands of dollars at a local auction," Ross says. The current handles are unadorned stainless steel.
Off-white walls are a backdrop for cream furnishings chosen by Moore Ruble Yudell Architects & Planners director of interior design Stanley Anderson, who had moved across California's north-south cultural divide, from San Francisco to Santa Monica. Brought in at the tail end of the renovation, Anderson had never collaborated with Fisher's firm before but, in yet another small-world scenario, Maguire Investments operates out of an office building by Moore Ruble Yudell. "Rob would have been content to live in a more austere environment," Anderson says. "We came in and softened it."
Charles Pfister's seating, covered in nubby cotton, and equally classic surfboard-shape tables by Charles and Ray Eames are grouped on enormous silk rugs. Anderson cycled in some of Maguire's antiques as well: a Biedermeier chest and settee in the entry, a Regency table in the dining room. Maguire also owned quite a collection of contemporary art and purchased more. "Jones designed the house well for art, with all the panellike walls, skylights and sidelights, and long sight lines," Fisher notes. A huge profile portrait of Maguire's father greets guests, while a landscape photograph hangs next to the grand piano nearby. The tomato-red fins of a sculpture by John McCracken, installed on a wall above one of the Pfister sofas, face off against a Stella in acidic corals and greens. Just outside the dining room, sure to dominate dinner-party conversation, is a sculpture court where a trio of bronze female nudes stand in a reflecting pool, silhouetted against walls painted an arresting cobalt blue.
Down-slope are the two new buildings. At 500 square feet, the guesthouse is a compact pavilion with a bedroom, bath, and living-dining room. The slightly smaller cabana is partially open to the pool. "Both are built along horizontal lines with infill panels," Fisher explains. For the cabana, those panels are red or yellow fiberglass, and the crushed glass on the roof is blue. Factor in the other surfaces in white and the black-painted steel grid of the frame, and you've got a live-in Piet Mondrian.
Photography by Art Gray.
CHRIS CONOLLY; PAUL HOWARD; CHRIS JIMENEZ: FREDERICK FISHER AND PARTNERS ARCHITECTS. BUZZ YUDELL (PARTNER IN CHARGE); KINNERET ATIA; TINA BEEBE; SEPI SALEHIRAD; AMY SKLAR: MOORE RUBLE YUDELL ARCHITECTS & PLANNERS. OLIN; NANCY GOSLEE POWER & ASSOCIATES; CAMPION WALKER: LANDSCAPING CONSULTANTS. SAIFUL/BOUQUET CONSULTING STRUCTURAL ENGINEERS: STRUCTURAL ENGINEER. SAMARA ENGINEERING: CIVIL ENGINEER. FINTON CONSTRUCTION: GENERAL CONTRACTOR.
FROM FRONT MANSOUR MODERN: CUSTOM RUG (DINING ROOM). B&B ITALIA: CHAIRS (DINING ROOM, KITCHEN). WOVEN ACCENTS: CUSTOM RUGS (LIVING AREA). HERMAN MILLER: COCKTAIL TABLES. KNOLL: SEATING (LIVING AREA), DINING TABLE (GUESTHOUSE). BULTHAUP: CUSTOM CABINETS, HOOD, SINK FITTINGS (KITCHEN). HUGONET THROUGH JANUS ET CIE: FURNITURE (POOL AREA). AMERICAN ACRYLIC CORPORATION: CUSTOM PANELS (CABANA). SPEAKMAN COMPANY: SHOWER FITTINGS. MODERNICA: CREDENZA (GUESTHOUSE). CRATE AND BARREL: BED, RUG. THROUGH YLIGHTING: LAMP. DRIADE THROUGH DESIGN WITHIN REACH: TIERED TABLE. BALERI ITALIA: OTTOMAN. VITRA: CHAIRS. FLEETWOOD WINDOWS & DOORS: CUSTOM DOORS. BOFFI: SINK, SINK FITTINGS, TUB FITTINGS (BATHROOM). ZUMA: TUB.