Barbara La Marr may not be a familiar name for those of us who aren’t hardcore cinephiles. But Google her name, and you’d recognise her as the iconic face of ’20s Hollywood silent movie siren.
At the height of her career, Barbara had a 7,700 sq ft home in Hollywood Hills, California. Occupying a 2,023-sqm land, the three-level villa was fashioned after the French Normandy architectural style and had more bathrooms than bedrooms.
It boasted four bedrooms, four full bathrooms and three half bathrooms. Barbara passed away at just 29 in 1926, and remarkably the home has only changed ownership three times since then.
AT A GLANCE
Who lives here: A couple and their seven children
Home: A renovated 1920s villa in Hollywood Hills, California
Who lives here: 7,700 sq ft
ID: The Novogratz
Its recent owners were Robert and Cortney Novogratz, a husband and wife design duo with over 20 years of experience designing and developing unique spaces across many typologies.
The couple bought the 100-year-old villa to renovate as their new home for their family of nine.
The home’s previous three owners had very different tastes, which were apparent in its existing condition when the Novogratz bought it. “There were many small rooms, many types of hardwood flooring, and a nonsensical floor plan. The house felt like a maze with tiny rooms and multiple doorways that led to more doorways and even more tiny rooms,” shares the couple, who decided to gut and renovate all the interiors.
“The biggest challenge was to keep the charm and period feel of the house while modernising the entire space,” they say. The renovation took a little over a year to complete and cost in ballpark estimates of US$3 million.
“The design brief to ourselves was to create space by opening up the home and creating a place where people could gather. Whether it was our family or friends for entertaining, we knew we wanted to knock down walls and create fewer rooms, but bigger and more spacious ones,” they share.
Dubbed The Castle by the couple, the renovated home is a modern, open-plan home with a great spatial flow that allows for easy communal interactions between its nine inhabitants. “We’re a big family, so opening up spaces makes it easier to gather and tougher to hide away. That volume is simple to create, but it is important to make it flow and create moments, so it doesn’t feel cavernous,” they say.
The ground level features an airy, double-volume living and dining space and a sprawling kitchen centred around a marble-topped island and a sun-drenched breakfast room that opens up the lush backyard via chic, steel-trimmed French doors.
Steel windows and doors play an important role in the design. “they made the house elegant and distinct,” says Robert. Cortney shares a tip: “If you love the look yet can’t afford it, you can use steel on the main doorway and mimic the rest in aluminium.”
Mixing high-end and low-end fitting and finishes is the couple’s primary strategy throughout the house to keep the renovation budget sensible.
They invested in several key elements like the expensive reclaimed hardwood flooring from Schotten and Hansen and the tiles for the master bedroom, and used inexpensive materials like subway tiles elsewhere.
The eclectic master bedroom with a canopied bed bought in India.
The kitchen is outfitted with Boffi. “We always buy a floor model which is at least 50 per cent off. We also have designed many kitchens with much less expensive cabinets, in which case we add more expensive hardware,” they share.
The seven children share fewer bedrooms.
“They got to choose the room designs, colours and so on,” share the parents.
“We have moved frequently, and it’s important to involve them in the design process because it’ll be their home too, and it’s empowering,” says the couple.
The upper level comprises two guest bedrooms and a spacious master suite. An oversized Hollywood sign presides over the hallway.
The stunning stairwell was restored to its original state with an addition of a contemporary pendant light.
The walk-in wardrobe is lined with custom-built furniture, and the bathroom features a huge shower obscured behind smoked-glass panels.
The steel windows complete the elegant look of this vanity area.
There are also a large family room with an adjoining kitchenette, a spacious guest suite with a private entrance, a gym and a recording studio.
Populated with lemon and olive trees, the stunning terraced backyard provides shade and privacy for the outdoor kitchen and dining area near the oval-shaped pool.
The cosy outdoor dining space features terraced seating and a freestanding fireplace.
The terraced lemon and olive garden can host many events, including a recent wedding of the family’s friends.
There is no typical day at The Castle. “Our work is different and varies each day, so sometimes we are on a job site, sometimes we’re travelling, other times we’re filming or doing a photoshoot,” say Robert and Cortney.
The Novogratz’s latest projects include a furniture and homeware collection designed in collaboration with Sex & The City star Sarah Jessica Parker.
But when they are at home with their seven children, there are always beautiful moments to be had all around this castle of their own.