Yesterday was great! I had a party downtown in the evening, so I went into LA a little early and spent some time up at Hollyhock House. Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1919, and built on the top of a hill in Los Feliz, it’s spectacular. The house was commissioned by an heiress named Aline Barnsdall, who was a bit of a rebel – in a good way! Her dream was to create an art complex with a couple of theaters, and studios for potters and painters and all kinds of other artisans, plus a school for her young daughter to play and learn and grow. So she bought this large hill – Olive Hill – in Eastern Hollywood, and hired Frank Lloyd Wright to design it all. Most of the project was never completed – but the main residence was – Hollyhock House, named after the design motif Wright employed throughout the house, based on Miss Barnsdall’s favorite flower.
I first discovered the house back in the early 1990’s and I’ve brought many friends to tour it over the years. It feels like this private, special place, sort of hidden away in plain site, in the middle of the city. The view of the Griffith Observatory and the Hollywood sign can’t be beat – especially if you’re on the roof of Hollyhock House. And in the other direction is all of downtown. It’s amazing at sunset.
The house itself is concrete and leaded glass and the abstracted Hollyhock motif shows up in all sorts of interesting and imaginative ways. I remember reading long ago that FLW choose olive as the main color for the house, since Olive Hill was of course covered in olive trees at the time. He intended the walls to be the color of the underside of the leaves, and the main accent to be the darker green color of the top of the leaves. It’s a beautiful thought! And the violet and the white in the leaded windows are in reference to the colors of the Hollyhock flower. Then as a further accent, the windows were rimmed in wood painted gold. In 1994 the house was damaged in the Northridge Earthquake – and I remember cracks in the walls, and scaffolding around the house for years afterward. And then as repairs were made, the city choose what I call “parks and recreation green” as the accent color for the house – you know, the bright green paint they always use on picnic benches in national parks. Almost a kelly green? Totally wrong and garish-looking on Hollyhock House. Thankfully it’s been replaced by a much more authentic olive green since then!
It had been a while since I’d been up to Hollyhock House. It’s one of my favorite places on earth and one of the all-time top ten homes in LA, and one of the top ten Frank Lloyd Wright homes – so very very special – but I realized I hadn’t been in a couple years, so I was glad when I found myself with an extra hour in LA on an unexpectedly beautiful balmy day, right at sunset. And the house hasn’t changed. It’s still the most peaceful, pleasant, blissful spot in the city. There’s also an art museum on the property and they do a lot of art education – it’s a real asset to the community. To me it’s the best part of LA – truly!
Then after Hollyhock House, I headed downtown for a friend’s BIG studio opening. I’m incredibly happy for and jealous of Rob and his girlfriend Vanessa. They’re getting to live the fantasy life of many many artists – a huge vintage loft in the old Southern California Edison building, circa 1903, in The Brewery Art Colony. It’s the kind of place you see in the movies when the character is a hip, successful artist. In fact, right after they took possession, CSI: Miami shot an episode in their space – it’s that cool!
Here’s a few links if you’re curious…
And a super cool video of the party, shot by Tony Bisson! I make a quick appearance at about the 2.5 minute mark…