Real Estate newsletter: A John Lautner masterpiece trades hands

Walls of glass run from floor to ceiling in the John Lautner-designed Wolff House.
(Darwin Nercesian)
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Welcome back to the Real Estate newsletter. In a week riddled with huge headlines on the commercial side, I’m kicking things off with some home deals because the photos are simply too good.

First off, we have the Wolff House, a striking Modernism gem built around a giant eucalyptus tree on an impossibly steep hillside lot. Its creator is John Lautner, the iconic architect behind the Bob Hope house in Palm Springs and the Silvertop estate in Silver Lake.

The ultra-chic home just sold for $11 million to a fitting buyer: Nicolas Ghesquière, the creative director for French fashion house Louis Vuitton. The sellers, Hearst heiress Amanda Hearst and film director Joachim Rønning, made a killing on the property after buying it for $5.9 million in 2020.


Over in Encino, we saw the Sherman Residence surface for sale at $18 million. More art gallery than home, the stylish mansion made of wood-and-glass pavilions was built by Peter Tolkin, the architect behind the Sunglass House in Malibu and Saladang Garden restaurant in Pasadena.

The property has a notable seller as well: “How I Met Your Mother” star Alyson Hannigan, who bought the architectural estate with her husband, actor Alexis Denisof, for $7.95 million in 2016.

Our third impressive estate takes us to the top of the Hollywood Bowl — literally. The three-story contemporary-style home straddles a hillside on some rare real estate, as it’s one of only two homes with direct views of the iconic concert venue.

It’s owned by R.E.M. bassist Mike Mills, who’s probably been to enough shows of his own that he doesn’t need to enjoy a free Hollywood Bowl concert every night from his backyard. He’s shopping it around for $6.5 million.

On the luxury side, two significant developments are set to shake up their respective communities. The first is in Beverly Hills, where a mixed-use complex with office, retail and residential space is coming to Wilshire Boulevard.

A major casualty of the complex, however, is the iconic Saks Fifth Avenue department store, which will move about a block away to make way for the development.


Downtown L.A. is getting a new complex as well: the Grand LA, a shopping, dining and entertainment hub designed by Frank Gehry. Gehry needs no introduction, but because we’re here, I’ll rattle off a few of his iconic accomplishments: Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, the Dancing House and the National Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial.

His latest work downtown took nearly a decade and $1 billion to finish, and a few of its features, including a luxury hotel and 436 apartments, will open in July.

As always, while catching up on the latest, visit and like our Facebook page, where you can find real estate stories and updates throughout the week.

Lautner’s Wolff House sells to major designer

John Lautner's striking Wolff House wraps around a giant eucalyptus tree on a steep hillside lot.
(Darwin Nercesian)

Nicolas Ghesquière, the creative director for French fashion house Louis Vuitton, just bought one of the most stylish estates in L.A. The designer has quietly paid $11 million for John Lautner’s iconic Wolff House in an off-market deal, real estate sources told The Times.

The sellers are Amanda Hearst, great-granddaughter of publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst, and her husband, director Joachim Rønning. They made a hefty profit on the property after buying it two years ago for $5.9 million.


The Midcentury gem was built in 1961 by Lautner, a prolific architect whose bold, dramatic creations regularly star in the silver screen.

The Wolff House is one of Lautner’s best, as the striking Modernist marvel hovers above the city on an ultra-steep lot in Hollywood Hills. A confluence of natural materials and sleek modern features, the house wraps around a mammoth eucalyptus tree that cuts through the center of the space.

Married actors list their architectural retreat

Built by architect Peter Tolkin, the three-acre estate centers on a series of wood-and-glass pavilions.
Built by architect Peter Tolkin, the three-acre estate centers on a series of wood-and-glass pavilions that wrap around a central courtyard.
(Tyler Hogan)

Married actors Alyson Hannigan and Alexis Denisof are shopping around their prized Encino compound for $18 million.

They’ll more than double their money if they get their price. Records show Hannigan, who starred in “How I Met Your Mother” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” and Denisof, who appeared in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and its spinoff, “Angel,” bought the architectural estate for $7.95 million in 2016.

Known as the Sherman Residence, the compound was completed in 2001 by Peter Tolkin, a prolific architect whose other projects include Malibu’s Sunglass House and Pasadena’s Saladang Garden restaurant. The house has a history of its own as well, appearing in films and TV shows such as “Fracture,” “Fun With Dick and Jane” and “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”


The estate is camera-ready for a reason. Set on more than three acres, it features a series of pavilions made of concrete, wood and glass connected by vast, open-concept gallery spaces. Topped by a low-slung roof with overhanging shades, the residence wraps around a central courtyard with a swimming pool and spa.

Musician offers home above the Hollywood Bowl

The scenic spot overlooks the Hollywood Bowl from a swimming pool, observation deck and three viewing decks.
(Ryan Pepple / Calabasas Creative)

R.E.M. bassist Mike Mills’ house comes with unlimited concert tickets — kind of. The scenic estate, which Mills just listed for $6.5 million, offers a rare perk: It’s one of only two homes that directly overlooks the Hollywood Bowl.

It’s a fitting residence for Mills, a multi-instrumentalist, singer and composer who co-founded the Georgia-based rock band in the 1980s.

The musical setting isn’t the property’s only unique element. Other highlights include a 400-gallon aquarium in the living room, built-in pizza oven and stunning tile bathroom built over the course of two years that resembles Vincent Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” painting.

Beverly Hills’ Saks Fifth Avenue is moving

A man walks past a window at Saks Fifth Avenue store in Beverly Hills on June 16, 2022.
A man walks past a window at Saks Fifth Avenue, one of Beverly Hills’ most famous department stores, which is set to move to make way for a mixed-use complex along Wilshire Boulevard.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Since 1938, Saks Fifth Avenue has been the maven of classic luxury shopping in Beverly Hills, a beacon on Wilshire Boulevard for the well-to-do, writes Times staff writer Roger Vincent.

Now the famous department store is set to move to make way for a mixed-use complex that could energize a sedate stretch of Wilshire near Rodeo Drive.

HBC, parent company of Saks and Canadian retail giant Hudson’s Bay, announced plans last week to transform the property around its historic Saks building into an office, retail and residential cluster serving the Beverly Hills neighborhood. The intention is to revive the glamour that once made Wilshire Boulevard the pinnacle of upmarket Beverly Hills shopping.

Frank Gehry’s latest complex hits Downtown L.A.

The Grand LA, a shopping-dining-entertainment complex designed by Frank Gehry.
The Grand LA, designed by Frank Gehry and developed by Rick Vogel, is a shopping, dining and entertainment complex, with one tower of luxury residential properties and another tower for the Conrad Los Angeles, a luxury hotel from the Hilton brand, in downtown Los Angeles.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Frank Gehry’s 45-story Grand LA complex may come as a surprise to those who stayed away from downtown during the pandemic and have yet to return to their offices, writes Roger Vincent.

Work on the Grand started in late 2018. The project will hit a pivotal milestone in July with the opening of the apartment tower and the 28-story Conrad Los Angeles hotel. The Grand’s expansive shopping and dining component will include outdoor decks overlooking one of Gehry’s other creations, the Walt Disney Concert Hall, but won’t be done until next year.


Canadian-born Gehry, 93, is world-renowned for what Architectural Digest called masterful whimsical designs, such as the Olympic Fish Pavilion in Barcelona, Spain, and the Dancing House commercial building in the Czech Republic. The Grand is one of his largest local commissions, and its commercial scale is a source of pride.

“Most developers don’t think of an architect that does that,” he said, pointing to Disney Hall, “as an architect who can do this. They pigeonhole you as the artsy guy.”

What we’re reading

Bill Gates is buying a historic piece of Rome, reportedly spending $170 million on the famous 17th century Palazzo Marini with plans to turn it into a fancy hotel. The New York Post checked in on the billionaire’s interesting spending habits lately, which recently saw him scoop up 2,000 acres of farmland in North Dakota.

In Southern California, $2 million might not even get you a house in certain neighborhoods. In Scotland, it gets you a 757-acre island complete with a 17th century mansion and sperm whale skeleton nicknamed “Bony Dick.” Insider has the details.