Philip Ilsley may not be a household name, or even one that’s remotely familiar sounding to, well, almost anyone. However, anyone who’s ever admired or installed a free-form swimming pool has him to thank for his visionary notions of what an ordinary rectangular swimming pool could be. Sometimes referred to as “the father of the modern swimming pool,” Ilsley revolutionized pool construction and design in the late 1930s with the use of the pressure-sprayed concrete material known as Gunite. He went on to make the now iconic kidney shaped pool ubiquitous across southern California, and he famously built a piano-shaped pool for Frank Sinatra at his midcentury modern Palm Springs retreat.
In the mid-1930s Ilsley and his wife, Mildred, acquired a series of lots in the Sheltered Hills section of L.A.’s then somewhat remote Brentwood Highlands neighborhood where they installed a massive 70-foot by 40-foot swimming pool designed to look like a natural lake. Though the lake-like pool is long gone, the hilltop property remains illustrious in real estate-centric circles: it was owned by legendary bandleader Xavier Cugat in the late 1940s and is currently owned by mega-producer Joel Silver, who a year-and-some ago floated it for sale with a sky-high price of $77.5 million.
The Ilsleys decamped Brentwood for a secluded glade high in the mountains above Beverly Hills along famed Mulholland Drive with a canyon-framed view over the San Fernando Valley. For their new home, the imaginative swimming pool pioneer pulled out all the stops and built an exotically shaped number in the tri-pronged form of a hepatica leaf. According to The Intercontinental Gardener blog, Ilsley once claimed in a magazine article about free-form pools that the unconventional hepatica shape was both optimal and practical as it provides lots of sun-warmed poolside patios to sunbathe between the watery lobes and the most swimming and diving space using the least amount water. (Sometimes if less than flatteringly known as liverleaf or liverwort, hepatica is an herbaceous perennial in the buttercup family.)
The property was owned in the 1990s by Blue Note Records president Don Was, and later by Emmy-winning writer/animator/producer Gábor Csupó. It was Csupó and his second wife, Bret Crain, who commissioned Santa Monica-based architect Aleks Istanbullu to transform the late 1940s residence that had long stood on the property into a three-story modernist pavilion set amid lush tropical gardens alongside the still-in-place hepatica leaf-shaped swimming pool.
Tax records show Csupó and Crain sold the property in 2010 for not quite $4.2 million to its current owner, veteran entertainment industry executives Adam Goodman and Jessica Goodman, who have recently listed the bewitchingly unconventional hillside idyll with Josh Altman and Matt Altman of The Altman Brothers at Douglas Elliman with a $16.9 million price tag.
Like Ilsley, Adam Goodman isn’t exactly a household name, at least outside of Hollywood. He is, nonetheless, a veteran showbiz influencer who served as president of Paramount Pictures from 2009 to 2015. Since he stepped down from Paramount, he founded his own film production company, Dichotemy, and co-founded Invisible Narratives, a digital content studio focused on connecting and developing synergy between Hollywood power players and influential social media creators.