Built in 1935, this stunning Spanish home at 8917 Appian Way sits perched in the quiet, creative enclave of Laurel Canyon, not too far from the trendy Sunset Strip. But don’t let the quiet façade fool you—the spirit of counterculture abounds. This gorgeous owner-designed hillside retreat was home to artistic types and found good company in its neighbors—one of whom was folk icon Carole King, another Appian Way resident.
This 3 bedroom, 3.5 bath 2,500 sq. foot home sold for a $932,000 in 2009. Many of the original details are still intact, though some small renovations and additions have been made throughout the years.Upon entrance into the home, soaring ceilings and built-in fixtures combine with wooden beam accents to create a cottage-style ambiance in the den.
The unique floor plan lends itself to gorgeous surprises, like a cozy staircase crafted with Spanish tile leading us to an arched entryway. Large picture windows bathe the space in natural lighting and built-ins retain the aura of the original design.
A low-slung roof keeps the dining area intimate. Hardwood floors throughout connect the dining and living areas.
The surprises continue with an expansive indoor deck covered with a wooden roof. The deck was likely added sometime in 1968, with the roofing to come later in 1976. The patio is flanked by large windows that drench the space in warmth and offer great views of the surrounding neighborhood. Who says the modernists get all the indoor/outdoor spaces?
A serene and sweeping second floor balcony offers canyon views and the perfect place to unwind after a long day. Stone flooring, adobe-style balcony wall, wooden furniture and a simple pergola combine to create a homey outdoor respite from the stresses of the world. A recessed seating area with Buddha statue harkens back to the Canyon’s bohemian spirituality of the 1960s.
Like many of the indoor areas, the kitchen is warm and sunny. There’s a communal vibe, reminders of the Laurel Canyon scene. Wooden cabinetry sets off the intricate detailing of gorgeous Spanish tile.
Appian Way homes are a mixture of Spanish revivalist and Tudor styles. The eclecticism of home design in Laurel Canyon in general adds to its bohemian allure. One gets the sense that it’s the multitude of styles—not one in particular—that is the neighborhood’s unifying design trait.
While the post-war boom created more minimalist, indoor/outdoor spaces throughout the city, Laurel Canyon homes seemed immune to design trends.
One of three bedrooms. A stunning blue-tiled fireplace retains the allure of the original Spanish revivalist design. Low ceilings here add to the cozy, cottage-style vibe.
A large bathroom with unique sloping angles and natural light make this the perfect oasis for a long, relaxing soak. Red terracotta Spanish flooring tile continues the home’s theme.
Really, it’s all about the canyon views. Inspiration from every angle.
The home towers above Lookout Mountain Avenue for a gorgeous view of Laurel Canyon. A truly secluded, treetop paradise.
Each bedroom offers its own individual and distinctive feel. Colorful angled walls are reminiscent of a time when artists were experimenting with color and self-expression. The ultimate crash pad.
This bathroom vibrates. Music and playfulness dominated in the heyday of the 60s. The unique floor plan optimizes functionality in every part of the space—a small space artfully encloses a toilet between a tiled shower and sink.
No true Laurel Canyon retreat is complete without a Red Cedar sauna. Like the Tongva native American’s that first lived in Laurel Canyon, the need for a sweat lodge’s restorative healing runs deep.
At one point, the home also had a private swimming pool, an addition by William and Florence Clow in 1954. It was glassed in and covered with fiberglass–no doubt taking advantage of the expansive views. However, the pool was later filled and the pool shell removed by a resident, and no longer exists.
In 1927, the French-Canadian silent film actor Lew Cody (nee Louis Coté) was the first person to purchase the property on which 8917 Appian Way sits. The original land deed had some interesting (and unsavory) stipulations. It mandated that “no intoxicating liquor or liquors of any kind or nature shall be sold on said property,” and “that no part of said property shall ever at any time be used or occupied or be permitted to be used or occupied by any person other than one of the white or Caucasian race, except such as are employed as servants upon said property by the owners or tenants of said property.” Thankfully, we are living in better times.
Lew Cody was a prolific talent, appearing in at least 99 films throughout his 20-year career, like Rupert of Hentzau, Don’t Change Your Husband, and By Appointment Only. Known for his debonair, suave appeal and a mustache to match, Cody ditched his medical studies at McGill University to become an actor. He was married to famed silent movie comedienne Mabel Normand, who was her co-star in Mickey.
There were constant rumors of divorce, like in this 1928 clipping from The Lincoln State Journal, but they appeared to remain together until her death in 1930.
Mabel Nourmand’s funeral. Cody is at left with her mother. Hollywood notables, like D.W. Griffith, Douglas Fairbanks, and Charlie Chaplin were pallbearers.
Cody died in 1934 and in early 1935 Appian Way then became the property of a man named Roger W.Fowler. He bought it for $800 and built a home on the property later that year. Also that year, Roger Fowler transferred ownership over to a Norman Fowler. Tile in the bathroom and kitchen were installed right away in late 1935.
The home changed ownership quite a few times throughout the 1940s. In the late 1950s, Elon Packard, Jr. and his wife Jean resided in the home. Packard, a television writer, worked for The George Gobel Show. His father was Elon Packard, a successful television writer who’d worked for such golden era greats as The George Burns One-Man Show, Good Times, The Phyllis Diller Show, Green Acres, Wendy and Me, Leave It To Beaver, and many more. It was the Packards who added the expansive patio deck to the home in 1968.
Just like it is today, Laurel Canyon was originally conceived as a place for the wealthy to escape from the bustle of the city. Though only a few miles from Sunset Boulevard, the drive up winding scenic byways like Sunset Plaza Drive immediately makes one feel worlds away.
Charles Spencer Mann was the man who developed Laurel Canyon, back in the early 1900s. He had a special interest in the canyons and was adept at marketing his efforts. He built the Lookout Inn, seen in the photo above, at the top of Appian Way. The Inn offered panoramic views of the city. Mann built the first trackless trolley to help goad people into vacationing in the canyons.
The trolley connected Sunset Boulevard to Lookout Mountain Avenue, where the inn was located. Unfortunately, the inn perished in a 1920 fire.
Mann continued to market his property by creating subdivisions like Wonderland Park and Bungalow Land.
It worked, and many began flocking to the area to live in these coveted areas.
Soon, celebrities like Errol Flynn, Ramon Navarro, and even Harry Houdini moved into the canyon, and by the 1920s, there was a veritable community. But while the silent film era and the early sound movie industry impacted the growth of the canyon, it was truly the visitors of the 1960s that gave the canyon its real allure and propelled the area into the lexicon of music history.
The past residents of Laurel Canyon read like a Who’s Who of Folk Rock. Jim Morrison, Joni Mitchell (this is where she was living when she wrote “Ladies of the Canyons,” The Byrds, The Mamas and the Papas, Frank Zappa, Graham Nash, and others had mostly brief but memorable stints in Laurel Canyon. The most notable of these was Carole King. Photographer Jim McCrary shot the cover of her bestselling album Tapestry (along with her cat Telemachus) at her first Laurel Canyon home on Wonderland Avenue. Tapestry, released in 1971, was one of the bestselling albums of all time, with over 25 million sold.
She later moved to a stunning French Normandy mansion just a five-minute walk from 8917 Appian Way.The home was located at 8815 Appian Way, and is the location where King completed Music, her follow-up album to the bestselling Tapestry. She was living here when Tapestry was finally released.
But the award for most famous Appian Way resident would probably have to go to the owner of the first lot that was ever developed there—actress Ginger Rogers. Her breathtaking 4800 square foot Spanish home at 8782 Appian Way was built in 1927 and was where she lived with husband, actor Lew Ayres.
Laurence Olivier’s first home, designed by noted architect Roy Selden Price, was also located on Appian Way. Actor and comedian Russell Brand purchased the home in 2013 for 2.2 million.
A new generation of Hollywood artists and elite are moving into the neighborhood and adding their own stories—in 2015 actor and musician Jared Leto shelled out a cool $5 million for a 50,000 square foot former military compound in Laurel Canyon. Formerly known as the Lookout Mountain Laboratory, this elusive property was constructed in the 1940s for filmmakers and those with security clearances to create military films and training videos. What will Leto do with it? Only time will tell.
As author Michael Walker wrote in Laurel Canyon: The Inside Story of Rock-and-Roll’s Legendary Neighborhood, “Laurel Canyon compels because in an age when genuine contemporary experience has become buried under winking zeitgeist sampling, it neither overindulges its past nor calls much attention to its present. It simply is.” (Walker xvii).