Hollywood Hills Tile House Took 40 Years and A Lot of Patience

In honor of Obscura Day last Saturday, the international "day of expeditions, back-room tours and hidden treasures in your own hometown," we were treated to a tour of George Ehling's master work: his home in the Hollywood Hills. (Full disclosure: I was one of the organizers from de LaB). Sponsored by furniture showroom Ford&Ching (principal Willard Ford not only provided the passenger van, he also piloted it) we were treated to a tour of the home George Ehling bought in 1967 (it was built in 1927, the same year he was born).

Ehling, a former professional wrestler, actor and carpenter for the studios (which also provided him with many of the decorative sculptures at the house from movie sets) has been creating mosaics by hand throughout the house for 40 years. Like Watts Tower's Simon Rodia, Ehling also uses found materials such as wine and beer bottle bottoms and tiles people have thrown out.  He then cuts the discarded materials down to size to create the tesserae he needs for his intricate tile work.

Ehling has been making and constructing the tile work for 40 years, leaving almost no part of the home untouched. Inspired by Roman, Byzantine, Renaissance and Moorish mosaics, the tile work ranges from simple, repetitive motifs to complex portraits (including a self-portrait).

While Ehling entertaining our group with stories about Jack Palance, his days as wrestler "Cowboy Cassidy" in Europe in the 1930s, and how he once save a drowning woman in the Seine, we studied the colorful, elaborate ceramic inlays built on arches, columns, and ceilings. All done by hand, all designed by a self-taught Ehling.

Ehling admits that he probably wouldn't be able to tile his home today, as the Hollywood Hills neighborhood he lives in has gentrified. He mentioned that the Cypress trees at the bottom of property grew tall enough to shield him and his scaffolding in the later years from his neighbor's prying eyes. A nosy building inspector once visited the home and informed Ehling his garage wasn't up to code. "I stopped tiling for year, then started again. These guys move on, or forget, or are fired."

Lax code enforcement is the city's loss, our gain.

Find out more about Obscura Day here.

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