Open House Report, LA: Visit a Cliff May Hacienda and Thornton Abell’s Rustic Canyon House


One of the best reasons for weekend open houses is the opportunity to see interesting architecture that someone else owns. Open this weekend, an early Cliff May house in Pacific Palisades we wrote about last year and now back on the market. A few minutes away in Santa Monica’s Rustic Canyon neighborhood, Thornton Abell’s own c.1937 house— in fairly dire condition, and an important bit of LA’s rich architectural history.

Despite what most people think, realtors are not there to show off the house off but for to troll for potential clients. So be prepared for a little interrogation, but don’t let that stop you from having a look. In terms of being visually vetted as a buyer in LA, you might want to worry about what you’re driving more than an old t-shirt and dusty Pradas. Both are open on Sunday, March 4 from 1:00pm to 4:00pm, and there are more images at the address links.

1300 West Minorca Drive, Pacific Palisades, $6.999M (pictured above)
One of Cliff May’s big, brooding ranchos and built in 1937, the 7-bed, 8.5-bath house is on a huge lot, surrounded (insulated) by hedges and arranged around an inner courtyard (above) that opens on one side to the swimming pool. Most likely still with the original exterior color scheme of dark green and tan and white interiors and in good, if dated, condition and big enough for an entourage. 

In 1937, May’s career had just taken off with a number of big residential commissions in addition to his very successful designs for developers, but before the luminous white ranchos he became best known for after WWII. We had a look at this house last year when it first came on the market— it belongs to the man who built the Star Trek franchise into what it is today— and was asking $7.3M. The previous listing shows the same rooms, just with more clutter, and the address has changed from West Sunset Boulevard and gone around the corner to Minorca Drive where the driveway is. Click on the address link for more images. Open Sunday, March 4 from 1:00pm to 4:00pm

469 Upper Mesa Road, Santa Monica, $1.895M
Described in the magisterial Los Angeles Architecture by Gebhard & Winter as “a gem of the regionalized International Style Modern.” this was the house that architect Thornton Abell designed and built for himself. It’s only “regionalized” by the authors’ Le Courbusier/Mies Van deer Rohe/Breuer slant on Modernism. Looking back, the house is very much in sync with contemporary houses of Robert Mallet-Stevens in Paris and Erich Mendelsohn in England.

In a Santa Monica Canyon, it steps down the steep hill in blocks, with bands of casement windows and terraces on top of each block. The house seems to have had some recent exploratory surgery and our guess is the current owner found it to be too daunting a renovation. Expect crowds at the open house—LA Modern fans will be out in droves. There’s something about “original condition” that brings out the most rabid fanboys/girls. Click on the address for more images. Open Sunday, March 4 from 1:00pm to 4:00pm 

More news: