Veteran entertainment executive Ricky Strauss is, to put it bluntly, a design freak. The series of homes he designed for himself during his decades in office in Los Angeles testify both to his tenacity as a collector and to the elastic breadth of his taste. In the past, he has applied his incisive eye to a neo-Tudor house in Hancock Park, a glorious Hollywood Regency in the Hollywood Hills, a Mediterranean Revival (also in Hancock Park) and a classic post-and-beam dwelling perched on the above the Sunset Strip. . Strauss’ latest passion project is a modernist spruce house with an intriguing architectural pedigree, nestled discreetly in a wooded canyon on the west side of town. “I was drawn to the history of the house and its intimate relationship with the landscape. It was made for a musician and I was determined to keep that creative spirit alive,” says Strauss, former head of global marketing at Walt Disney Studios and most recently president of content and marketing for Disney+.
The 1951 Veneklasen House was originally designed by architect Kenneth Lind. Modernist maestro Pierre Koenig then put his own mark on the structure, with the majority of his work confined to the central salon. A few years later, Josef Van der Kar, a fascinating but lesser-known modernist architect on the Los Angeles scene, designed an addition. Before Strauss purchased the property, the previous owner commissioned a full renovation, including the addition of a second level for a new master bedroom, by Los Angeles-based Chu-Gooding Architects. “Our goal was to unite the different design movements of the architects who had touched this place, to make the house the best version of itself by interpreting the original design intent and improving the connection between the new interior and the existing mature landscape,” architect Annie Chu explains.
Chu-Gooding’s scope of work involved a strategic reorganization of the floor plan on the main floor, the repositioning of the kitchen as the hinge space between the living and dining room and the family wings, the addition of en-suite bathrooms to the guest bedrooms and the expansion of the compact dining room. volume of the bedroom with a new sloping roof that opens onto a glazed wall overlooking the swimming pool. The second-story addition, articulated in an architectural language consistent with the original design, is set back slightly and painted in a contrasting dark brown color, allowing the historic structure to remain legible within the overall composition. In the living room, the architects slightly modified the characteristic accordion wall that overlooks the courtyard, replacing the wood that formed the short accordion legs with glass to enhance the feeling of transparency. They also replaced the rubble stone surrounding the fireplace with white brick laid in a staggered pattern that mirrors the original brick treatment of the room’s curved end wall. “Heavy brick and lightweight glass are polar opposites in terms of materials, and we wanted to accentuate this dynamic juxtaposition,” says Chu.
“The renovation was cleverly and beautifully executed,” Strauss said of Chu-Gooding’s care, which won an honorary award from the Los Angeles Chapter of the AIA. “My contributions were largely cosmetic upgrades – wall coverings, window treatments, etc. I decorated the house in a way that was consistent with its modernist heritage, but tried to find pieces that spoke to the era from a more global point of view,” he continues. Throughout the house, stellar furniture by Brazilian masters commissioned by Sergio Rodrigues, Jorge Zalszupin, Carlo Hauner and Martin Eisler mingles amicably with the work of great Europeans ( for example, Osvaldo Borsani and Angelo Mangiarotti), as well as American stalwarts such as Edward Wormley, TH Robsjohn-Gibbings and Jens Risom.