“Do people find houses? Or is it sometimes the other way around?” wondered writer Guy Trebay in an Architectural Digest article he penned about hotelier Jeff Klein’s 1951 cottage above the Sunset Strip. The answer, if met truthfully, was a little bit of both. Klein and his film producer husband John Goldwyn purchased the John Elgin Woolf-designed property in 2006 after staying in the house as guests. Woolf’s Hollywood Regency style — along with design elements such as walled courtyards, theatrical entries and mansard roofs — were the architect’s hallmarks, beloved by a roster of star clients that included Errol Flynn, Judy Garland and Cary Grant, among others. The “cozy yet grand” midcentury gem stood out to the sophisticated couple amidst L.A.’s modernist “McMansions.”
Once part of the estate compound of filmmaker George Cukor, their vintage masterpiece got a glamorous Hollywood rebirth when they hired AD100 designer Madeline Stuart to re-envision the three-bedroom, three-and-a-half-bath house as a cozy yet grand retreat tucked away in the hills. Stuart, who is known for her timeless and understated interiors, got immediately to work establishing an aesthetic that was “chic and sophisticated, yet warm and comfortable.”
“There’s a place to sit and read in every room — that was important to John and Jeff,” recalls Stuart. “I also wanted to make sure to create an environment that reflected the distinctive taste of my clients while respecting the architectural legacy of the house.”
She succeeded. Stuart’s restraint resulted in the creation of mercifully livable and never over-decorated interiors that pay homage to Woolf’s original design. Gorgeous natural light defines most of the living spaces, with lavish floor-toceiling windows facing onto a welcoming central terrace and formal English garden, designed by Thomas Church and, later, Mario Nievera.
“We kept the backgrounds fairly neutral (with the exception of the Chinois Den, of course, done by the previous owner, the late Greg Jordan), allowing the architecture of the house to come into clear focus,” she notes. The Los Angeles-based designer also opted to highlight some of the home’s most distinctive features, such as the stunning door hardware. She painted the doors an obsidian color that accentuated the warm brass olive-knuckle hinges and knobs. In the living room, the brick fireplace and its flanking windows rise to the full height of the 14-foot ceiling and look onto dignified cypress trees. In the den, floor-toceiling sidelights flank decorative wall panels. Stuart updated the kitchen with a Sub-Zero refrigerator, a Blanco sink with Kallista fittings and a Viking range. The master, too, opens onto the garden, and an al fresco shower is just steps beyond the master bath. The guest room features a restful skylight alcove. The pièce de résistance is the oval screening room — once a garage — inspired by the design work of William Haines in Cukor’s main residence, complete with copper crown molding, suede walls and oak-and-maple parquet flooring.
“John and Jeff had already initiated the construction when I was brought on board, so the basic design intent was already set,” says Stuart. “It was up to me to incorporate the elements that would complete their vision. I adore this room. It’s both serene and sexy at the same time.”
Even now, the residence celebrates a sense of understatement and elegance without pretense — rare qualities in Los Angeles. It’s just the kind of magic that comes with a home steeped in Hollywood history. As the saying goes, “sometimes you’re looking for it, and sometimes it finds you.” Either way, you’ll end up in exactly the right place.
9198 Cordell Drive is offered at $5,850,000 by Joyce Rey & Stacy Gottula of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage Beverly Hills.