I Could Live Here: Venice's Lantern House
I often love both old and new houses equally, but it's when there's a strange mix of the two that I become smitten. As I've mentioned before, that's one of the reasons I have a crush on Venice—its mix of old bungalows and new, ultra-modern buildings. Last time I swooned over the latter. This time, I've got a date with history.
Anyone who has spent any time in Venice will recognize this place. Dubbed the lantern house, it sits on the celebrity-studded Milwood Avenue and its every tree branch and gate post is hung with glowing lanterns—300 in total. I don't know anyone who could resist peeking through the gates to try and see more of the architectural and artistic oddity. And now that it's for sale, we get the full picture. My favorite part? It's actually three houses, all petite cottages, that the owner, Scott Mayers, bought in the 1980s and renovated into a solo-dwellers compound. The front house contains an office and living room, the middle house a bedroom and the back house a kitchen, sitting room and dining room. While that may sound spacious, the total square footage of the three buildings is only 1,500. The lot itself clocks in at 5,400 square feet and its in all that open-air space where the magic happens (like an outdoor claw-foot tub, plenty of intimate seating areas, lush landscaping and a raised deck that makes the three buildings feel connected.
But here's where things get weird. The interiors, decked out to the eclectic owners very specific tastes, are bursting at the seams with a motley crew of antiques, wacky local art, tchotchkes, and early 90s furnishings. This wouldn't really matter except they are all included with the sale of the house. Whaaaa? From nosing around the web, there's no indication that Mayers has died, so apparently he's just moving on and casting off an extremely personal, if not potentially valuable, 30-year collection.
But if this video from 2011 is any indication, we can assume he's simply fed up with all the rich folks. While giving a tour of his house he explains: "Venice is being ruined as far as I'm concerned. Too much money. Arrogant, narcissistic people coming in and systematically ripping down what was the beauty of Venice, and putting up one ugly monstrosity after another." Ironically, if the house sells for what Mayers hopes, he will be quite a rich man himself. He's asking $5.4 million dollars, in cash. That is nearly twice the comps in the area, hence the all-cash stipulation (no one would be approved for a mortgage for that amount).
As to what I would do with the place if I were suddenly in possession of a dump-truck full of Benjamins? Well, Mayers has grown on me a bit over the last few hours of research ("Art is in the eye of the beholder" and "The world doesn't have a lot of patience for unique people," are just a few of my favorite quotes from him), so I feel a little bad about it, but here goes: I would first spend a week or so sorting through the contents of the house. I would invite antique extraordinaire and CH+D editor Mary Jo Bowling, because no one would have more fun there than her, and possibly an artist or designer like Darren Geise of Coup d'Etat…someone who could take a few of my favorite pieces and make a style-appropriate sculpture that could live in my new house as an homage to what it once was. Maybe I could even find a local museum who would commission an outdoor installation created with the 300 lanterns ("Venice Lights" by Chris Burden, anyone?). I mean, if I have $5.4 million, I'm guessing I've made my fair share of generous donations to LACMA.
Then…estate sale. Everything must go. Yep, all of it. Just looking at all the clutter in these pictures gives me goosebumps. Then the painters will arrive and turn all the walls and exposed beam ceilings white. The floors, which look like original wood, will all be refinished with a gray or ebony wash. The track lighting is out. So are the ceiling fans. That massive kitchen island has got to go as well. I would redo the kitchens and baths and add in a few architectural details, like some lovely fireplace surrounds, vintage chandeliers and a few built-ins to save space and define each room with a function. But otherwise things would stay pretty much the same, down to the fully functioning claw foot on the deck. I mean, the neighbors are apparently used to Mayers full outdoor bathing ritual, so I wouldn't want to take that undeniable charm away from the neighborhood.