Maverick architect John Lautner’s Wolff Residence, a world-famous architectural tour-de-force dramatically cleaved to an almost vertical hillside above L.A.’s Sunset Strip, was sold last week for $5.9 million. Someone in a position to know first whispered and tax records confirm the new owners are recently wed Norwegian film director Joachim Rønning — he helmed the blockbuster films “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” and “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil,” which together hauled in almost $1.3 billion in worldwide box office — and entrepreneurial American heiress and former fashion model Amanda Hearst, a co-founder of the luxury ethical fashion retailer Masion-de-Mode. The globetrotting pair was married last year in an intimate ceremony at Hearst Castle, the flamboyant fantasia of Hearst’s maternal great-grandfather, newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst, that lords over a high mountaintop in San Simeon, California.
Wolff Residence’s exotically angled, multi-story stone, glass and copper main residence, a carefully calibrated homage to Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpiece Fallingwater, was designed for interior designer and concert pianist Marco Wolff and completed in 1961. Since then, the magnificently idiosyncratic house has changed hands many times. Iconoclast actor, provocative artist and architecture buff Vincent Gallo briefly owned the property in 2006 before it was sold for an unrecorded amount to irrigation heir and modernist architecture preservationist Michael La Fetra. La Fetra hung on to the property until 2008 when it sold for $5.55 million to Marco Diez-Cabral, a Dominican heir who is also the younger brother of prominent businessman Manuel Diez-Cabral. Diez-Cabral first and unsuccessfully attempted to sell the property in 2014 and ’15, initially at almost $8 million and later at a still much too high $7.25 million, before re-listing it late last year at $6.5 million.
All but invisible from the street behind a fortress-like stone wall and a carport parking pad slipped under a brilliantly engineered cantilevered roof, the main house cascades with an elegant, asymmetric geometry down the hillside and contains just one bedroom and 1.5 bathrooms in not quite 1,700 square feet. An almost 1,200-square-foot two-story guesthouse, also designed by Lautner, was added in 1970 and includes another three rooms usable as bedrooms and two more bathrooms.
Carefully woven around and in deep harmony with several huge eucalyptus trees, the residence is inarguably intimately scaled but also chockfull of swashbuckling architectural gestures that include a monumental stone fireplace in the double-height living room where 16-foot-tall walls of glass open to a daringly cantilevered terrace that floats among the surrounding treetops with glittery, tree-framed views over the city. Tucked away behind a cozy den or dining area, the efficiently compact kitchen features bespoke stainless steel cabinetry and up-to-date high-end appliances.
A spiral staircase with wooden treads hugs the inside curve of a stone wall and leads down to the main house’s only and irregularly-shaped bedroom where a zigzagged wall of floor-to-ceiling windows lead to a shaded terrace above a plunge-sized swimming pool that hovers magically in the treetops above the city. A copper-roofed, street-level breezeway connects the main house to the more prosaic but no less dynamically conceived two-story guesthouse.
Wolff Residence is listed as Historic-Cultural Monument No. 852 by the Cultural Heritage Commission for the City of Los Angeles.
The property was listed with George Salazar and Tilsia Acosta of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties; the Hearst-Rønnings were repped by Denise Moreno and Gordon MacGeachy of Hilton & Hyland.