My Favorite Room: Christopher Koelsch keeps things highbrow in his downtown loft

L.A. Opera President Christopher Koelsch carves out calmer moments at the Arts District town house loft he shares with husband Todd Bentjen and their dog, Franklin. (The Bernese mountain dog and poodle mix was named after FDR and Aretha Franklin in “equal measure,” Koelsch said.)

The couple’s two-bedroom, four-story loft is tucked inside a reimagined 1906 sugar beet warehouse.

“In 2011, they gutted the building to create the 38 units but kept the original facade,” said Koelsch, 46, who since 2012 has lived in the space with Bentjen, 54, a communications consultant.

Koelsch’s stated mission as head of the city’s opera: democratization of the rarefied art form. Simulcasts at the Santa Monica Pier and Exposition Park help further that goal, with one show last year drawing 10,000 attendees.

You probably never expected to live in a former sugar beet warehouse. What’s your favorite room?

The third floor, the main space that has our kitchen, dining and living room. It’s an open plan. There’s exposed brick and hardwood floors — and lots of art books. I’m a bit of a visual art freak, so I have too many of those, stacked up anywhere there’s space. From Titian to Jeff Koons.

Is there a piece of art that you especially love?

“Downtown 21,” a print by a local artist, Gottfried Helnwein. It’s a moody-spooky portrait of downtown L.A., looking down an alley space with mysterious figures. One can ascribe either malevolence or hope to it. Gottfried collaborated on our 2005 production of “Der Rosenkavalier,” so the piece is meaningful to me.

What are some of your favorite travel finds in the space?

We have some wood carvings from Cambodia, kind of like candle holders — 2 feet tall — on a side table. In the dining room: a beautiful temple carving from Vietnam, a block of wood with a figure carved in it. We also have a sculpture we bought in Mozambique — a primitive figure in wood.

How’s the light in the room?

There’s lots of strong natural light. The view is looking toward the Toy Factory lofts and One Santa Fe, the building that looks like a red cruise ship.

Do you entertain often?

Yes, it’s a central gathering spot, a convivial space. We host longtime friends, artists from the company, guest artists and L.A. Opera board members. We normally start with a glass of champagne, and I usually cook, although Todd has been teaching himself to cook. I don’t eat meat, so my default cookbooks are vegetarian.

Does Franklin have any favorite guests?

Our two beloved godsons: Finn, who’s 13. And Dash. He’s 8.

Do they have a favorite room?

Any room that Franklin’s in. They’re in it for the dog –– and the pancakes.

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