Known for his big idea

Times Staff Writer

This is a house that Fred Smathers built. Who? Smathers was a designer-builder with a celebrity following.

When Kelly Lange received an Emmy in the late '70s, Smathers was her date.

"For 22 years, we built a lot of houses together," she said. They built in Nichols Canyon, an area in the Hollywood Hills, and she lived in a number of the houses they constructed together. Building became, for her, an avocation that she learned from Smathers.

Building and remodeling still give the TV anchorwoman-turned-mystery writer pleasure although she was so sad when Smathers died at 69 on Valentine's Day 1998 that she moved out of Nichols Canyon.

Other celebrities also have owned Smathers-built houses, including Hayley Mills, Richard Dreyfuss, Kevin Costner, Doc Severinsen, William Friedkin, Quentin Tarantino and Richard Marx.

Jeff Stein, who created the television show "Mr. Belvedere" (1985-90), once owned this house.

Realtors remember Smathers as "a pioneer" who reinterpreted the Mediterranean style of '20s and '30s homes in houses he built or remodeled during the '80s and '90s.

"He designed big kitchens and family rooms," said listing agent Barry Sloane. "He was putting great rooms into houses before people knew what great rooms are. That was his trademark."

About this house: Smathers redid the house as a place to live for himself, transforming it from a cottage to a French Country-style compound with wood beamed ceilings in most of the rooms. It's being sold by a studio executive and his wife, who are moving to the East Coast.

Asking price: $3,925,000

Size: There are four bedrooms and 3 1/2 bathrooms in slightly more than 5,800 square feet. The lot size is nearly 30,000 square feet.

Features: The walled and gated home, which was built in 1937 but completely remodeled by Smathers, has a formal dining room, a country kitchen-family room, a living room with a stone fireplace, a media room, an infinity pool, garden pathways, as well as mountain, valley and city views. The home also has a slate roof and a number of French doors.

Where: Hollywood Hills

Listing agent: Barry Sloane, Sotheby's International Realty, Beverly Hills, (310) 786-1844.

To submit a candidate for Home of the Week, please send color interior and exterior photos with caption information on a CD and a brief description of the house, including what makes the property unusual, to Ruth Ryon, Real Estate Section, Los Angeles Times, 202 W. 1st St., Los Angeles, CA 90012; or e-mail

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