8626 Skyline Drive in Laurel Canyon
Perched in a hilly architectural enclave, 8626 Skyline Drive was extensively remodeled in 2008 by John Bertram at Bertram Architects, who replaced “nearly every inch of the house.” The well-positioned property is found along a dramatic ridge line at the top of L.A.’s historical Laurel Canyon neighborhood. A study in form and function, this home in the hills above Mulholland Drive was custom designed for the Owners to age in place. It features 2,357 sq. ft. of of living space with 2 bedrooms plus den, 2 bathrooms, multiple balconies, an elevator, sports car ready garage, solar panels and endless storage. This was a Trust sale. The property sold on August 15th, 2013 for the list price of $1,425,000 after being on the market for only 12 days.
The secluded access at street level does not foretell the serenity past the gates. Or does it?
First, an oasis shelters visitors between the curb and the front door. A redwood tree, making a tall statement for natural form, casts shade from its heights. The number of surrounding mature trees enhance the ‘living in nature’ experience. The tranquility is mood shifting. You have arrived.
Architect Bertram tailored the dwelling to celebrate the owner’s vibrant creative lives. This reconfigured home is a worthy nod to mid-century modern architecture but built with 21st century evolutionary elements. After all, Laurel Canyon lives up to its reputation for inspiring ambiance.
Floor to ceiling glass along the North wall of the property takes you to the sky as if you are floating above the valley. The balanced use of glass for maximizing views feels as if there’s no wall at all.
Clear sight lines throughout support the airiness of the communal rooms, that are open in some areas and intimate in others. This floor plan featuring the dining room right off the kitchen to one side, leading into the enlarged living room, embodies a connected social space.
Timeless and functional. Here, a rugged farm sink with vegetable section, a range top stove. The countertops were done in a blizzard white Caesarstone–a newer, proven modern material that won’t go out of style.
Multiple levels emphasizing the open floor plans of mid-century modern architecture. Openness and transparency are important features of the house. Here, the staircase draws you down to the bedrooms below.
This bedroom was originally conceived for the owner’s LP collection of over 30,000 Jazz record albums. The albums were donated to a University, and the room converted back to a bedroom before going on the market.
Master Bathroom with designer tile, walk-in rain shower and large tub. The Owners had designed this home to ‘age in place’ with special amenities like grab bars, wider doors and hallways for ease of access, and an elevator.
The 2nd Bedroom with built in casework. Private balcony access continues the strong connection to the outdoors.
Retired publishing giant, Jean-Louis Ginibre had lived in Los Angeles from the mid-1970’s through 1980’s. At their return, he and his wife, writer, editor, and publishing powerhouse in her own right, Barbara Cady, envisioned living out their retirement here. They had their multi-level home at 8626 Skyline Drive renovated in 2008, to make it possible for them to age in place. John Betram, of Bertram Architects extensively reconfigured the rooms to fit their lifestyle in later years, without compromising their vibrant creative lives.
According to the LA Times, John Bertram is known “as a scholar and thoughtful interpreter,” of mid-century modern architecture. Taking inspiration from Ginibre and Cady, their lives and livelihoods, Bertram seamlessly re-conditioned the home with modern building materials, natural, yet sleek, in keeping with modern design sensibilities.
Jean Luis Ginbre spent his early days in France spinning his Jazz passion as a DJ on the Paris Inter network. His interest in Jazz music led to a steep climb up the ladder in France’s publishing world. He crossed the pond to Chicago to start Oui Magazine for Playboy Enterprises. as co-editor-in-chief. In 1976, he headed Chic magazine in Los Angeles as editor and publisher for Larry Flynt Publications. In 1980, Ginibre joined The Hollywood Reporter, eventually becoming editorial and design director.
At his retirement he had risen to International creative director at Hachette Filipacchi Magazines. During his tenure at HFM, he supervised the content of Car and Driver, Road & Track, Cycle World, Flying, Boating, Stereo Review, Audio, Elle, Elle Decor, Metropolitan Home, Premiere, and Woman’s Day.
Barbara Cady, a writer, editor, and publisher, began her career in journalism as a book reviewer for The Los Angeles Times. Among her credits are the launches of several publications, including the collector magazine Almanac. Throughout the 1980s she produced and hosted a daily, drive time public affairs program, and co-hosted a weekly panel show on women’s issues for television station KTTV. Cady launched two successful trade magazines, one for the floral industry, and one for the giftware industry, and also served as president of the Western Publications Association. Cady is best known as the author of Icons of the Twentieth Century, a lavish album of black and white portraits and concise bios of the two hundred men and women who shaped the modern era.
Perhaps a testament to their intimate partnership and illustrious lives, Ginibre collaborated with Cady in 2005, on Ladies or Gentlemen, A Pictorial History of Male Cross-Dressing in the Movies. It was a coffee table book conceived, researched, written, and designed by Ginibre, Cady was editor for the book, which was subsequently made into a documentary.
Barbara Cady, died at her home in 2012, after battling cancer. Jean-Louis Ginibre’s passing came just one month afterwards.
Some might say that Laurel Canyon’s architectural enclave began with the likes of the Tongva Ki pictured above — structures stable enough to withstand earthquakes! It is believed that Tongva, indigenous to the greater Los Angeles area, lived at the base of Laurel Canyon giving them access to abundant game and natural resources. At their peak population before the arrival of the Spanish, the Tongva numbered between ten thousand and fifteen thousand living in as many as one hundred settlements on the mainland and some of the southern Channel Islands.
According to the Laurel Canyon Association:
“The Tongva grew no crops and did not need to. Food was abundant, the weather was mild, and as a result, they were able to support a relatively sophisticated culture. However, these people rapidly fell into decline with arrival of the Spanish and their mission system, which was essentially agricultural slave labor.”
To establish roots in the new world, the Spanish Empire granted land as a reward to soldiers and explorers, settlers who held no property, and those who petitioned to the Spanish Government. Of the 800-plus grants, Spain made about 30 between 1784 and 1821. The remainder were granted by Mexico between 1833 and 1846, following their independence from Spain. Rancho workers included Californian Native Americans, many of them former mission residents.
Not long after the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hildago was signed and California became the 31st State in 1850, government parties were deployed to survey the land to designate future ownership of what were now U.S. federal territories. California had been crudely surveyed before Statehood, based on the boundaries of the Spanish and Mexican Land Grants. The earlier reports now formed the basis for the Public Land Survey System’s (the first mathematically designed system and nationally conducted register of property in any modern country) survey of California.
After the Mexican government was ejected, the Laurel Canyon Area caught the attention of Anglo settlers interested in water rights. Around the turn of the century, the area was subdivided and marketed as mountain vacation properties.
Laurel Canyon remained quite rural until well into the 1900’s, with just a few cabins set on large tracts of homestead land. Between 1912 and 1918, a trackless electric trolley ran up the canyon from Sunset Boulevard to the base of Lookout Mountain Road where a road house served visitors. Travel to the newly subdivided lots and cabins further up the canyon was at first made on foot or by mule. Eventually, roads were improved and access was possible by automobile.
Around 1920, a local developer built the Lookout Mountain Inn at the summit of Lookout Mountain and Sunset Plaza roads, which burned just a few years after opening. This photo shows the site before the Inn was built.
The Lookout Mountain Inn burned down just four years after it was built.
“the serious development of the canyon was set in motion by Charles Spencer Mann, an engineer and real estate investor. Mann and his partners bought property along Laurel Canyon Boulevard and up in the hills. Some of the first tracks to be developed in the Lookout Mountain bowl were Bungalow Land and Wonderland Park, both of which were moderately priced with narrow lots and a network of interconnecting lanes and foot paths. This legacy of narrow streets is the reason we have parking and emergency access problems today.”
“Wealthier residents were also attracted to Laurel Canyon. With the creation of the Hollywood film industry in 1910, the canyon attracted a host of “photoplayers”, including Wally Reid, Tom Mix, Clara Bow, Richard Dix, Norman Kerry, Ramon Navarro, Harry Houdini and Bessie Love. Errol Flynn lived in a huge mansion just north of Houdini’s estate. Laurel Canyon was the BelAir of its day, and many of these actor’s English Tudor and Spanish style homes can still be seen in the canyon today.“
“With the end of World War II, another wave of development came. As in previous growth spurts, this phase was driven by a population shift to the Sun Belt and the emergence of new industries, including steel production and aeronautics. The style was definitely modern with many homes built on previously unbuildable lots, including homes built on stilts on steep hillsides – a radical concept for the time. During this period, Arts & Architecture Magazine commissioned the famous ‘Case Study’ houses, and several fine examples survive in the Laurel Canyon area.”
“the rustic style of turn-of-the-century Laurel Canyon was rediscovered by musicians during the 60’s and 70’s. Laurel Canyon was second only to Haight-Ashbury as a Mecca for Hippies. This is “where Joni Mitchell was living when she wrote “Ladies Of The Canyons” and “Clouds”; and, Graham Nash wrote “Our House” when he was living here with her. Frank Zappa’s infamous home during the sixties was located on the NW corner of Lookout Mountain and Laurel Canyon, where now is a vacant lot. He eventually moved because every nut in town knew where he lived.” Other rock stars included Jim Morrison, John Mayall, Carole King, The Mamas and The Papas, Dusty Springfield, Brian Wilson, and many others.”
Excerpts above from Laurel Canyon Association – www.laurelcanyonassoc.com
A 2014 Grammy Museum Exhibit Honored the participants of this iconic musical scene. According to Rolling Stone Magazine, Laurel Canyon is, once again, hub to a new wave of hippie rockers who come together for impromptu jams.
“Whether you credit the mythos of the place, or California’s relatively lax marijuana laws or the coincidental arrivals of a bunch of like-minded musicians, this group has tapped into some rare combination of mastery and open-mindedness.” – Hot Scene: The Return to Laurel Canyon, Jenny Eliscu, Rolling Stone Magazine, August 28, 2012