…from a well-connected source—let’s call her Helen A. Hightower—that innovative superstar fashion photographer Steven Meisel is surreptitiously shopping his done, done and all did up but good mid-century modern abode in Beverly Hills (CA) with a $15,000,000 price tag.
Supremely sited in on just over 1.5 acres in the upper reaches of the ever so dernier cri Trousdale Estates area of Bev Hills, the zig-zagging, single story city view sprawler was snapped up by Mister Meisel for $2,750,000 in the fall of 2001, before the neighborhood’s most recent phoenix-like resurgence as a brutally expensive hot bed of West Coast real estate über-desirability.
Once the haute epicenter of 1950s and 60s upscale modern architectural extravagance in Los Angeles, the hoity toity ‘hood was once home to a slew of business world magnates, political potentates and Tinseltown luminaries such as Groucho Marx, Frank Sinatra, Richard Nixon, (aviation bigwig) Bob Six, Nancy Sinatra and Tinseltown deal maker extraordinaire Irving “Swifty” Lazar, to name just five. Prices never really fell to a level that a middle class person would ever call cheap but by the turn of this century the hillside neighborhood at the eastern border of Beverly Hills had fallen out of real estate favor with well heeled Angelenos who came to prefer much larger, more sterile and obsessively uniform mock-Med and faux Tuscan mansions farther to the west in Bev Hills, Bel Air, Pacific Palisades and etc.
Some might say Mister Meisel single handedly put Trousdale Estates back on the map. Not because His Photographic Highness bought a house in the nabe but because he prominently featured an art-filled 1960s Trousdale Estates time capsule* for the gloriously haughty and instantly iconic advertising images for Versace’s fall/winter 2000 campaign called Four Days in L.A. starring Amber Valletta and Georgina Grenville. Remember those photos, puppies? That was some out and out Fashion World history, for sure.
Anyhoo, the L.A. County Tax Man’s records show Mister Meisels house, glassy and perched on a ridge line with panoramic views over the city, has three bedrooms and five bathrooms in 4,524 square feet but those figures are not likely an accurate reflection of the supah-suave residence’s current size and configuration.**
Mister Meisel’s house was featured in the October 2012 issue of Architectural Digest with lush photographs by Roger Davies and text by the always snappy Mayer Rus. The article reveals that the house was originally designed and built in 1963 by little lauded architect George MacLean for an unnamed race car driver and his model wife. Mister MacLean, in case any of y’all might care, also designed a low-slung home above Benedict Canyon on Beverly Estate Drive (in Bev Hills Post Office) that was owned for a brief spell in the mid-1950s by a young Elizabeth Taylor and her second husband, English actor Michael Wilding.
At the time Mister Meisel bought his spectacularly sited house in Trousdale Estates it was blessedly untouched but much in need of a re-fresh. He engaged the pricey and revered services of the Ron Radziner of the firm Marmol & Radziner who completely rebuilt and sensitively added 2,300 square feet to the existing city view mid-century modern residence then selected celebrated and much published decorator Brad Dunning to chic up the day-core but “maintain the integrity” and “ambiance” of the residence’s original 1960s swagginess.
Although the day-core speaks the language of the sixties—the mica wall in the living room, for example—this is very much a 21st century residence with all the expected luxuries, conveniences and accoutrement. The children will take particular note of Mister Meisel’s unusually spacious and positively unorthodox “hybrid home office/master bath” finished with walnut, heavily veined green onyx and—here’s the peculiar part—includes a sitting area/office where Mister Meisel can make calls and check emails between showering, flossing and toenail clipping.
In case any of the children aren’t feeling so bullish about Trousdale Estates and are concerned Mister Meisel’s (alleged) asking price of (around) $15 million might be a tetch too high Your Mama suggests y’all keep in mind that in August 2012 mid-priced ladies’ shoe and handbag magnate turned prolific property investor Bruce Makowsky dropped $12,650,000 on an almost 7,000 square foot house on a shy acre*** that he’s already ripped down to make way for something larger, slicker and presumably much more expensive.
In December (2012) former movie producer turned high end property developer Nile Niami—arguably L.A.’s sleeker and slightly less decadently minded version of London’s (in)famously recherché Candy brothers—coughed up $9,800,000 for Oscar-winning screenwriter Robert Towne’s long time residence that he plans to raze or—at least—extensively remodel and, no doubt, flip back on the market with an astronomical price.
The fabled—and, let’s be honest, decoratively dated—former home of Elvis and Priscilla Presley was also sold last December for $9,800,000 to hotelier and restaurateur Peter Morton. Your Mama heard though the real estate gossip grapevine that Mister Morton, much to the chagrin and outcry of mid-century architecture buffs and Elvis fan(atics) around the globe, wanted to raze or at least substantially alter and renovate the existing home. A later report by the ever-intrepid kids at Curbed suggests that may not, in fact, be possible due to a newly approved Beverly Hills ordinance that protects the work of “Master Architects” like Rex Lotery who designed the 5,400 square foot single story dwelling in 1958.
In New York City Mister Meisel owns a couple of adjoining condominiums that comprise about 4,000 square feet and the entire floor of a very grand, limestone clad 1911 Neo-classical palazzo with white glove services on lower Park Avenue. A similarly sized and fully refurbished full-floor spread on a lower floor of the same building is currently listed with an asking price of $20,500,000—and nearly ten grand a month in taxes and common charges, which should give the children some idea of what Mister Meisel’s combo condo might be worth.
Your Mama’s caveat: Mister Meisel’s house in not currently listed on the open market and until such time—or one of the more respectable celebrity real estate gossip outlets report it, probably with attribution—his is all just some celebrity real estate rumor and gossip. Got it?
*The house used for the Versace campaign was owned at the time by Charles Skouras Jr.and wife Diane who sold it in 2002 to hotelier Brad Korzen and decorating dervish Kelly Wearstler. They, in turn, sold it in spring 2006 to former CIA analyst turned Emmy winning film and television producer Bob Cort (Jumanji, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Runaway Bride) and his top-tier literary talent agent turned media executive wife Rosalie Swedlin who sold it last year for $17,400,000 to frequent house hoppers Ellen Degeneres and wife Portia de Rossi after they sold their multi-residence Beverly Hills compound for $37 million to to squeaky clean (and newly single) Tinseltown tycoon Ryan Seacrest.
**An article in Architectural Digest (Oct. 2012) stated Mister Meisel “added 2,300 square feet to the existing 4,000-square-foot dwelling.”
***A “shy acre” is real estate speak for a parcel of just less than a 43,560 square foot full acre.
photograph: Roger Davies for Architectural Digest