Wallace Neff Did Not Design This House!

He designed this one.

9531 Hidden Valley Road in 1954 (Maynard L. Parker)

Curbed L.A. is always on the money when it comes to L.A. real estate and yesterday they pointed out the embarrasment of riches in Wallace Neff homes currently on the market including the Judy Garland/David Rose house in Stone Canyon. They also pointed out another, just listed for $6.5 million, at 9531 Hidden Valley Road in Beverly Hills P.O., the current residence of producer Stacey Sher and her husband, musician/producer Kerry Brown.

A “Wallace Neff” home gets such attention because, quite simply, he was a genius and to own a Wallace Neff home is to own a work of art as executed in stucco and steel. Neff knew what he was doing and his extant homes have a timeless quality about them that appeals to the home buyer of 2011 as much as they did to the home buyer of 1929. Good taste, scale and proportion never go out of style and that is why people will pay extra $$$ today just to have the distinction of being the owners of a Wallace Neff original.

Neff's design for the first floor of the Hornstein House (1948)

That said, even Wallace Neff wouldn’t begrudge a future homeowner the right to remodel their home to fit the changing times and his/her taste, but there is a difference between a remodeling and altering the very DNA of a home. In the case of 9531 Hidden Valley Road, it would be wrong to continue to call it a Wallace Neff. This is a very different house than the graceful chalet-styled home Neff designed for cannery executive Myrtle Hornstein in 1948. It is now a modern home circa 1976, a lovely home it seems, but most assuredly not how Wallace Neff envisioned this property and it would most assuredly not be recognized on sight by the lovely Dame Julie Andrews who lived here during the making of THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE in 1967. To continue to call it a “Wallace Neff” strikes me as patently unfair to the architect/contractor/gifted amateur who decided to rework Neff’s design in their creation of this unique residence. Wallace Neff was a modest man and I am sure he would disavow any claim to its current design. So here, just so you know the difference, is another picture from Neff’s original design and a group of pictures from the Redfin listing. As Wallace Neff, Jr. was to write of his father’s original design, “For Myrtle Hornstein, Neff employed his personal design vocabulary to build a house comparable in quality to the work of the Los Angeles modernists, who set a very high standard in those days. The House won an Honor Award from the Southern California AIA in 1955.” Ahhh, but what does he know.

(Maynard L. Parker)

 

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4 Responses to Wallace Neff Did Not Design This House!

  1. David Ko says:

    It is a huge insult to leverage Neff’s name when this home was clearly butchered in every aspect. Neff rarely used unpainted bricks on his facade.

  2. Unfortunately, architecturally significant houses in affluent areas can suffer from insensitive remodeling just as those in depressed areas can. Education is the only answer, but that does not always follow along economic lines either.

  3. Steven says:

    This is the same as people who gut homes down to the frame, throwing all the old fabric into a dumpster, and build a new house in the frame. Then they stick a plaque on the new house stating it was built in 1776. Sorry, nope, it’s a new house built onto, or in an old post and beam frame. The 1776 house no longer exists and the construction date is 2011. I’ve written several books on local landmarks and taken flack from home owners for stating their beloved home was built in 1999 ( or whatever) when they claim it was 1800. Money doesn’t always mean the person has taste!

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