Contemporary Beverly Hills house has Old-World flair

A verdant acre in the residential heart of Beverly Hills is the setting for a contemporary home with Old World flair designed by architect-to-the stars Harold "Hal" Levitt.

Levitt's design combines modern elements such as geometric skylights, generous sheets of glass, touches of concrete and an open floor plan in reimagining a European villa.

Levitt, who died in 2003, designed the Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences building in Los Angeles. He's better known, however, for the striking home plans he created for Lew Wasserman, Steven Spielberg, Quincy Jones and Dean Martin, to name a few of his high-profile clients.

This house was built in 1983 for Hollywood gossip columnist Rona Barrett and was later owned by singer-songwriter Luther Vandross. The current owners have made a number of improvements with an eye toward preserving Levitt's Modernist vision.

Set behind gates, the home is hidden from the street. The entrance is on the second floor, with the lower level built into the sloping hillside. Dense walls of vegetation surround a stone-and-concrete motor court and manicured gardens at the front of the house. Stucco walls draped with ivy give way to a pair of 12-foot-tall doors painted hunter green. Beyond those outer doors is a Levitt trademark: a courtyard entry. The space has a limestone path and a small garden on either side.

A second set of green doors opens to the home's entry hall with a patterned limestone floor. In the center of it is a round opening about 10 feet in diameter with a glass-and-steel railing. A large circular skylight centered above the opening brightens the entry hall as well as a round sitting room directly below on the lower level.

A rectangular great room occupies the center of the upper floor and features inlaid wood floors in a weave pattern and a masonry fireplace with an antique carved stone mantel. One section functions as a sunroom, with a slanted rectangular skylight and windows on three sides with views of the backyard. Double glass doors lead to a broad limestone terrace on two sides of the house. The terrace widens at one point to accommodate an outdoor dining area.

Black granite floors and countertops and maple cabinetry adorn the kitchen, which features two islands. The kitchen has two skylights, one of them above the breakfast area. An office built in recent years off the kitchen is the only part of the structure that is not original.

The master bedroom is also on the upper floor of the house. It has a sitting area, a fireplace with a limestone mantel and a pair of glass doors leading to the terrace. The suite includes an attached library with built-in maple cabinetry, dentil moldings and a mirrored wall. There is also a private patio off the master bedroom that has a stone spa with a waterfall. The remodeled master bathroom has floors, walls and counter tops of blue-veined white marble. The divided space has twin marble tubs, a pair of glass-walled showers and a sauna. A walk-in closet with skylight connects the two sides.

In addition to the sitting room, the home's lower level has four bedroom suites and a large den or media room with a custom wood entertainment cabinet with room for three television sets.

A blue Roman pool is at the center of a backyard, which is a study in shades of green. Mature pines, palms and eucalyptus, flowering shrubs and a towering forest of bamboo create walls of privacy on three sides.

To submit a candidate for Home of the Week, send high-resolution color photos on a CD, caption information, the name of the photographer and a description of the house to Lauren Beale, Business, Los Angeles Times, 202 W. 1st St., Los Angeles, CA 90012. Send questions to

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