When he’s not busy crafting the design of Tesla’s latest electric vehicle, Franz von Holzhausen is using the notable wealth he’s accumulated as Tesla Motors’ longtime head designer to scoop up architecturally significant SoCal properties. Case in point: this 1960s Malibu estate that was stripped down to the studs in 2009 and reimagined from the ground up by W3 Architects, which he and wife Vicki picked up this month for $23.1 million — a big discount off the original $29.5 million ask — and Richard Neutra’s iconic Tremaine House in upscale Montecito, which that he bought for exactly $12 million less than a year ago.
After launching his career at Volkswagen in 1992, von Holzhausen worked on the New Beetle before making the move to GM and later Mazda. It’s his Tesla craftsmanship, though, that made him a bonafide auto design rock star. The 53-year-old Syracuse grad has created all of the company’s mass-market production vehicles to date, including the Model S, X, 3 and Y, along with the unveiled but not-yet released Cybertruck, Semi and second-generation Tesla Roadster. Keeping it all in the family, Vicki von Holzhausen also is a well-known designer, spearheading the von Holzhausen fashion label centered around vegan leather products made from plant-based materials.
As for the couple’s most recent acquisition, the gated estate was sold to them by “Wonder Years” creators Neal Marlens and Carol Black, who had owned the property since 2004. The house rests on a nearly 2-acre blufftop parcel of land in the tony seaside community of Encinal Bluffs, complete with panoramic ocean views and direct beach access. But that’s not all — the structure also incorporates the latest in sustainable technology, including large expanses of southern-facing glazing for optimum solar gain; an in-floor hydronic radiant heating system; a 3,000-square-foot green roof planted with native grasses; a mezzanine-level reading loft that serves as passive exhaust for the main level; and an array of solar panels for every energy need.