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Early film set designer re-created a Spanish town in Hollywood Hills

Drawing its inspiration from the villages of Andalusia, Las Orquideas complex in Hollywood Hills was built at the end of the 1920s to evoke a Spanish hill town.

To achieve the effect, original owner Wilfred Buckland, filmmaker Cecil B. DeMille’s onetime art director, designed the compound with ascending walkways, connecting gardens and intimate outdoor spaces.

Buckland was no stranger to construction, progressing from a New York stage designer to a pioneer in architectural set building for films. Among his scores of movie credits is the 1922 version of “Robin Hood,” starring Douglas Fairbanks.

He is also known for developing miniature stage sets and advancing lighting techniques to permit filmmaking indoors. A Los Angeles Times report of his death at 80 in 1946 called him “Hollywood’s first art director” and the “founder of Hollywood cinema art.”

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Artistic flair is evident in these five villa-like structures clad in coral-colored stucco. Original details include interior arches, beamed ceilings and fireplaces. Wood floors, wrought iron railings and stained glass add to the period ambiance.

Vibrant blues draw the eye in the modernized kitchens. Although garbage disposals are standard now, in Buckland’s day the so-called “electric pig” was in its infancy.

The immaculately restored compound contains nine residences and one flex space. There are a total of 18 bedrooms and 15 bathrooms within the 10,573 square feet of living space. Patios and balconies take in city views.

Projected rents range from $3,000 to $7,600 a month, depending on the unit, although some have rented for more in the past. The largest contains three bedrooms and three bathrooms.

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The property, at 1901 Orchid Ave., Los Angeles, is priced at $15.975 million. Barry Gray, Joshua Gaunya and Mike Deasy of Deasy Penner & Partners are the listing agents.

This occasional feature celebrates Southern California’s architectural heritage through residences built before 1960. Submit candidates for Vintage SoCal to lauren.beale2@latimes.com.


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