Pacific Palisades (TTT Property #T943)

July 20, 2007 – Pacific Palisades, California

Embarking from our car, my friends Margo and Lee Ann and I took our first gander at our weekend digs… a handsome mid-century home that we somehow thought looked familiar….hmmmm….this bears investigation!

Pacific Palisades, California, Property #T943
Pacific Palisades, California, Property #T943

(Upon speaking with the owner, we were informed that the home was the setting for the movie The Last Boy Scout with Bruce Willis, Halle Berry, Eddie Griffin, Damon Wayans, etc.).  So THAT’S where we’ve seen it before!  Mystery solved.

Our host also informed us that the house was custom-designed for Mr. John Van De Kamp…you know, the pork-and-beans guy.  It therefore made sense that the front door led directly into the kitchen, where John must have tested many a bean recipe in the 1955 restaurant-grade kitchen with the drop-down burners!  It was a George Jetson moment when we discovered the burners extended from their upright position to a horizontal cooking position, ready for business.  Now ya see ‘em—now ya don’t!  Tres, tres clever!

Even the three original refrigerator units which were built into the wall like cabinets had been preserved and painted aqua to provide additional cold storage and to add visual interest in this aqua-and-stainless retro galley.

“Cool!” we all said in unison, like we were back in sixth grade.  Cool, indeed, was the operative word of the weekend as we explored the many facets of this unusual space.

Perched on a bluff, this gem of a house is about 50 feet from a white fence that overlooks the palisades that tower over the Pacific…and the very same beach featured on your favorite guilty-pleasure show, “Baywatch.”  Location, location, location!  The view is simply stunning—even in this, the driest season in Los Angeles ever recorded.  I can only imagine what these cliffs must look like in the rainy season or in a ‘regular’ year.  The scene must be utterly hypnotic.

From the get-go, it’s all about the ocean here.  Your kid will undoubtedly yank your sleeve immediately upon arrival, begging to be taken to the beach below.  Maybe you’ll get lucky and he/she/they would be just as happy to play in the grassy yard while you unpack and settle yourselves in for a lovely, uncluttered stay in this well-tended home, surrounded by hand-picked, carefully-crafted furnishings, books and artworks.  Very cool.

Pacific Palisades, California, Property #T943
Pacific Palisades, California, Property #T943

One of the first things we did was to throw on our sneakers and walk across the street to the sandy trail that meanders over the top of the bluff.  Watching the waves roll in and gazing into the distance, we walked southward toward the great curve of land in the distance that constitutes the tony town of Palos Verdes.  To our right, far out into the sea lies the island of Catalina, floating like a motionless humpback whale.  There are little dirt paths for the sure-footed leading down to the sea, if you feel inclined to do a little vertical hiking.  On the left, there are quaint streets with lovely homes boasting meticulous, fragrant gardens and lush foliage.  Gazing directly forward, a few miles off, one finds Santa Monica and Venice Beach shimmering in the midday sun.

I seriously can’t remember when I’ve last seen so many people walking in L.A.!  They’re wearing sundresses and sandals, hiking boots and khaki shorts, blue jeans and sneakers, and at least half of them are trailing one, two or three dogs who look like they’re having the time of their lives.  And that’s just the walkers!

Of course there are runners and bikers as well…but I haven’t noticed a single rollerblader, scooter-rider, motorcyclist or skateboarder here, and none appeared during the course of the weekend, so I assume it’s not a hot spot for those kinds of activities.  (Say amen, somebody!)

There are about a dozen or so sailboats bobbing along the soft waves; birds of many stripes are soaring overhead, and we just think it’s the nicest thing when people of any age find time in their day to take a leisurely walk on a sunny afternoon in their favorite neighborhood.

On the path in front of us is a massive eucalyptus tree jutting out over the sea which couples have found so romantic that they’ve carved their names in hearts all over it, hoping to preserve this walk, and this moment, forever.  Can’t say that we blame them.

We happen to have the path to ourselves just now, but to our left, on the residential side, there are plenty of walkers, both solo and some couples with their beloved dogs.  What is ingenious about this walking path is that for much of the distance, its design manages to obscure the Pacific Coast Highway miles below.  One can look down and see simply the bluffs, the sea and the horizon—and forget about mankind altogether for a few moments.  This arrangement also makes this walk very quiet and tranquil, as there’s no PCH rush hour noise with which to contend.

Turning around and walking back toward the house is even more rewarding.  The sea is triple-sparkling from this vantage point, and the many gentle land-arms reach longingly for the ocean.  One can gaze at cove after cove as far as the eye can see– all the way to Santa Barbara and beyond.

Pacific Palisades, California, Property #T943
Pacific Palisades, California, Property #T943

It’s startling when you first turn around, as from this direction, the palisades unfold; studded with ultra-green plantings and trees, backed by three mountain ranges, bougainvillea in no less than four different hues, and a bone-blue sky.  It stopped us in our tracks.  “I’m back in Peru!,” my friend Margo exclaimed.  “This looks just like the coast of Lima, except there the beaches aren’t as clean, and that island in the distance isn’t called Catalina,” she smiled, having a golden moment.  I make a mental note to come back during the rainy season to see if the palisades can possibly get any greener than they are today.

It’s such a congenial neighborhood, this.  One of the streets is even called “Friends Street.”  Neighbor after neighbor greets each other just like in Mayberry RFD, and stop to have a chat or to play with each others’ pups.  The houses—without fault— are well-tended, yards are immaculate, and dripping with hydrangeas.  It’s a little pocket of palisades paradise.

“It’s just a really nice part of the world,” the owner had remarked to us….and we couldn’t agree more.  People who haven’t been to L.A. and have the image of smog-filled cement-laden strip-malled streets should take a walk around this part of the Palisades before making any judgments.  We saw no fewer than three couples strolling with their arms around each other, and heard a couple of guys walking their dogs exclaim, “Isn’t it just heavenly here?”  Indeed.  The air is as fresh as a slap from Zsa Zsa Gabor.

It’s that kind of comfy atmosphere where neighbors actually sit outside with a lemonade or gin and tonic in their gorgeous front yards instead of always repairing to their back yards so as not to encounter any fellow humans.  These residents sit and chat, say hello as you pass, and are certainly available to help out if you need the odd direction or a tip on where to get the best gelato in town.  (Piccolio’s—right next to Blockbuster on Sunset— and yes, it’s walking distance– hurrah!)

This is a rather key point.  You could conceivably come and stay in this house and not need your car the entire time you’re here, if you’re the walking kind.  This may not be a novel thing in your town, but in L.A., it’s rather unusual and quite special.

Pacific Palisades, California, Property #T943

Back at the house, we toss back a cool drink in George Jetson’s kitchen—a study in aqua and stainless with a really artful mosaic pattern on some of the countertops that plays off the terrazzo floors in the rest of the house.  There’s a breakfast nook with two benches and a stainless-topped table with space enough for six to munch on muffins and such from a nearby bakery while enjoying the view of the back yard.

High ceilings, subtle track lighting, a stainless modern chandelier over the breakfast table, two matching Thermador ovens, a stainless fridge (and those aforementioned cute cabinet-fridges) and a glass-fronted cabinet– surrounded by real stone—houses cappuccino cups, exotic teapots, and artsy ceramics.

The center island is spacious, with a wooden base and a stainless top, and there’s also a wall-to-wall built-in desk with 5 modern chairs which overlooks the ocean, so you can do your work with a view while your child can do homework right there in the kitchen with you while wishing desperately to be outside because it’s so beckoning from this window.

We tear ourselves away from this jet-age galley and enter the great room, which has a really wonderful Zen feel to it.  Two muted green couches face each other with a vintage Nelson coffee table shaped like a surfboard between them.  The working fireplace rests underneath a wall of white limestone and between two floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook the front yard and the Pacific.

Walls of golden African mahogany complement the gray and white terrazzo floors. The standout piece in the room is the 1945 Italian glass-topped dining room table designed by Carlo Mollino.  The original sold for 3.5 million dollars at Christie’s New York in the summer of 2005, so you won’t be dining at that particular one.  This is a limited edition repro that’s now impossible to obtain; slightly larger than the original, and is not only spectacularly sculpted, but its stylish period Finn Juhl chairs are also truly comfortable—as well as original.  (They’re heirlooms that the owner’s grandparents purchased in Copenhagen in 1955.)

Pacific Palisades, California, Property #T943
Pacific Palisades, California, Property #T943

The wooden credenza by the dining table is an original George Nelson piece from 1955, in perfect condition—as is the chandelier above the table.  It’s called the Triple Bubble Chandelier, and its gorgeous glowing lamps are part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.  It’s the perfect touch to complement the Nelson bubble lamp in the corner of the room and the exquisite harp that sits next to the credenza that’s played often by the owner’s 11-year old daughter when in residence.

There are three major works of art on the walls, including a huge original Bernice Abbot print; and wonderful art and architecture books like “The Complete Works Of Neutra” throughout the space to stimulate your mind as well as your eyes.

Walking out of the great room, we enter the front hallway and turn right, heading down a long hallway bedecked with art and photographs. At the end of the hall, we enter the “Blue Room” which is a multi-use room used for projects and workouts.  (There’s a full-sized treadmill and plenty of floor space to do yoga or pilates routines here.) Spacious glass windows and a glass door lead to the back yard.  This can also double as an extra bedroom, as needed.

Back into the hallway and opening the door on the right-hand side, we enter the second bedroom.  It’s perfect for the young one in your party, with an entire wall of art projects completed by its very talented current occupant—who clearly paints as well as she plays harp!

It’s a happy space, with a couple of artistic mobiles hanging from the ceiling, a long festive rug shaped like a surf board, numerous games and toys, a tot-sized sofa, and plenty of stuffed animal friends and childrens’ books.

The bed can also accommodate a tall adult, by the way, if you’re having a “Girls’ Vacation” like my friends and I enjoyed.  There’s a nice-sized full bath off the second bedroom as well—with original shower stalls and mid-century fixtures I found strangely comforting, since they were the exact type of faucets and showerheads that I’d grown up with.  Sort of the equivalent of comfort food.  We think of them as comfort fixtures.

Off the other door in the second bedroom, we enter the master bath—which is really terrific.  The shower stall and the door that conceals the commode are also from the 50’s, as is the built-in medicine cabinetry that runs the length of the room.  The long, luxurious vanity boasts beautiful wooden doors, a marble top, and two sinks.

Plenty of light inhabits the space from the two oversized windows, and there’s a great-looking red cloth and steel bench on which to perch while putting on your socks after a nice, long shower.  Handsome storage cabinets and closets blend seamlessly into the bath and the dressing area.

Pacific Palisades, California, Property #T943
Pacific Palisades, California, Property #T943

Walking through the dressing area, with its generous closets, we enter the master bedroom, which is generously proportioned and impeccably appointed.  I loved the floor-to-ceiling silk oyster curtains with just a hint of blue in them, the neutral off-white carpeting, and the quaint alcove, which used to serve as a porch until it was enclosed decades ago.

Now it’s happily part of the master suite, and sports one of the loveliest period chairs I’ve yet to see, designed by Carlo Mollino in the 1950’s.  I can well imagine Halle Berry relaxing in a soft white robe here at the end of a long day of filming… with her perfectly-turned ankles resting on the round vintage iron-legged table.

There’s stone “wainscoting” if you will, from the floor up to the nine slotted windows (a double set, one above the other) which wrap around all four walls.  With the slots down, the room gives the feeling of being in a safe bubble, away from any cares of the world.  With the slots open, there’s a little peek of the ocean from the alcove as well.

In the master, a truly comfortable king-sized bed faces a large flat-screen t.v. that hangs from the ceiling and a rosewood Nelson credenza featuring eight drawers and two vertical cabinets.  The art is simple, clean, and mid-century.  The stereo speakers are embedded in the walls and barely visible, and there’s an air conditioning system you control via remote to your ideal setting.  We really loved the door handles: square, generous and solid silver (brushed nickel?) throughout the home.  Everything is virtually identical as if you came through the door in 1955…except, of course, for the tricked-out flat-screen!

For me, the most amazing thing about the master is the view to the ocean…but even more engaging is this fantastic, gnarly, ancient California pine tree with a trunk that winds and snakes its way to the sky.  I think it’s the crowning glory of the property.  Those who live here have lit up this fine tree for some amazing light-viewing at night.

Just off the master is a small half-bath, with original 50’s fixtures and a pedestal sink.  Traversing back through the great room and kitchen, we go through a swinging door leading to the back yard as well as the office wing of the house.  We pass another full bath as we head to a terrific corner room which doubles as a library and home office.

There are some really unusual and stunning lighting elements in this corner room, plus a wall of music cd’s, and a media center.  A comely desk faces huge windows overlooking the field of green that is the back yard.  Such an inspiring room in which to work, read or listen to music.

Pacific Palisades, California, Property #T943
Pacific Palisades, California, Property #T943

Now we open one of the glass doors to the back yard.  We find a patio with a Solaire Infrared Grilling System (in stainless, but of course; George Jetson would have it no other way) and the most adorable round Sarineen kids’ table with six period Sarineen iron chairs so that kids have a place to eat or have a make-believe tea party with their friends.  For the adults, there’s a concrete-slabbed picnic table and benches direct from the hills of northern California.  Cool.

The yard is a rare double lot; beautifully flat and grassy, which is great for any yard games you might want to play…there are low rock walls that define the perimeters—but what hits you immediately when you step outside is the fragrant scent of jasmine.  So sweet and welcoming.

Near the fence that acts as a boundary stands the most enormous magnolia tree I’ve ever seen in my life.  You could wear one of the pure-white blossoms as a hat, if you had any Scarlett O’Hara tendencies.  There are also other mature trees, including a redwood (which would never grow if it were more than a block from the cool ocean breezes) which no doubt has been here since Mr. Pork and Beans ruled the ranch.  Did I mention a good-sized olive tree and a 25-foot hedge with fragrant flowering oleander?

There’s also a neatly-stacked woodpile that would make Paul Bunyon envious. It’s so quiet here, with just crickets for company.  Let’s check out the front yard and see how it compares.

Though a bit smaller than the back yard, it certainly is not wanting for enticing features.  Of course, it has a perfect, straight-on, west-facing view of the ocean and is an ideal spot to watch the sun set from the original period sling chairs.  There’s a rounded, grassy, hilled area planted with exceptionally healthy green succulents around which sculptural rocks have been carefully placed.

Near the center of the yard grows an olive tree, and just beyond the expanse of terrazzo porch is that fantastic gnarly California pine you see from the master bedroom.  If I lived here, I would have to name it; this thing has such a commanding, bewitching personality.  Maybe it would just be called “The Commander.”

Olive trees abound, and five more California pines that I hadn’t even realized were here before!  In fact, I’m now standing in what could be described as a small pine grove!  Incredible.  No wonder people spend time in their front yards—what a magical setting.

Overall, T943 is a nifty combination of original architecture, fixtures, mid-century pieces and new additions on the inside, and an appealing green seaside oasis on the outside—all selected and combined with great finesse and with a cool, keen eye for retro glory.

Many thanks to our host for making our stay so very enjoyable, and for the many excellent suggestions for things to do in the neighborhood.

Deborah Rath Howell and friends

Other Stuff To Do:

There are thousands of places in and around Pacific Palisades that will entertain you, feed you, pamper you, and thrill you.  Here’s just a short list of options to consider.


Pearl Dragon is located on Sunset right in the Palisades and serves great ribs and ribeye.  Some say this Japanese haunt’s cantaloupe martinis are like drinking vodka straight from the melon.  Dinner is served seven nights, and lunch is served during the week.  It’s kid-friendly and casual, and you can walk here from the house!

Nobu Sushi

Want sushi and don’t mind a little drive up the coast to Malibu?  Nobu awaits you.  Yes, THAT Chef Nobu.  Once inside this trendy, well-run eatery inside the Cross Creek shopping center, all your needs will be fulfilled, and then some—especially if you have a rather fat wallet.  The interior is earthy; with rock, wood and water used engagingly as accents, and the chefs and servers are very friendly.  The food—to die for.  Start with the jalapeno tuna sashimi special…and then you’re on your own.  It’s all superb.

For something completely different, try the next town up the PCH from the Palisades.  Turn right on Topanga Canyon Boulevard and drive four miles up the winding, dramatic scenic road and you’ll enter the tiny village of Topanga, which reminds many people of parts of the Napa Valley.  In the heart of the town thrives a true gem of a restaurant called The Inn of the Seventh Ray.  The food is 90 per cent organic, and simply delicious.  It has changed many a mind about organic cuisine, including mine.

A couple of weeks ago, a new chef stepped onto the scene and has revolutionized the menu.  Every single thing we ordered was stunningly tasty and beautifully presented by thoughtful servers.  From the arugula and beet salad to the seasonal cold soups to the succulent wild salmon and filet mignon, we were transported as we enjoyed our al fresco meal in this magical setting on Topanga Creek surrounded by California oaks aglow with thousands of tiny white lights.  Three hours flew by like three minutes.

The champagne blackberry sorbet is a MUST!  And the bio-dynamic wines are truly special.  (Don’t worry—we hadn’t ever heard of them, either).  As your server to describe how they’re made (planted by a full moon, chanted over, grapes stomped by three women simultaneously, etc.) as it’s a rather entertaining process to hear about.  The bottom line is—we had the Renaissance merlot, and it was very, very good.

In the mood for spicy, hot Asian cusine?  We have just the place for you.  Typhoon, located at the nearby Santa Monica airport.  The interior is filled with trendy Los Angelinos slurping up tasty pan-Asian appetizers and washing them down with cool and inventive cocktails.  While waiting for your entrees, you can watch the private aircraft land and hope that Leo DiCaprio will disembark wearing his Aviator gear and saunter up to the bar.  This is a no-miss place for those who like to have a fun time while treating their taste buds to some exciting, creative cuisine.

Some people say the best sushi in L.A.—or anywhere—can be found at Sasa Bune in Santa Monica, just one town south of the Palisades.  I haven’t yet been there, but I’m passing along this suggestion from T943’s owner who seems to know his way around the area restaurants pretty darned well.  Opt for the chef’s special, and you’ll leave a happy camper.

Giorgio Baldi is a favorite local spot for excellent Italian food and celebrity-scoping.  Last time I ate there right next to actress Thandi Newton, her gorgeous man and their adorable and perfectly quiet baby.  Everyone left them alone, thankfully, and they had a wonderful time.  I had the escolar, with crisp potatoes and fresh vegetables on the side.  Scrumptious!  Very good service from waiters employing authentic Italian accents.  (Not snooty, pseudo-Italian 101 picked up in acting class like in some restaurants around here.)  Giorgio’s is located on West Channel Drive, just off the PCH a few minutes from the house at the base of the Santa Monica Canyon.  Best to get a reservation early, because it’s an intimate place that fills up nightly for all seatings.

All this is very well, you say, but what about brunch?  The best brunch belongs to Geoffrey’s in Malibu.  You’ll enjoy your champagne cocktail, fresh fruits and a vast array of tasty muffins, egg dishes, savories, juices and more with a breathtaking view of the Pacific and the pristine beaches below.  Extra points for spying David Hasselhoff in his Speedo bikini walking manfully to the lifeguard stand.  Bring that fat wallet again, for Geoffrey’s is not for the faint of heart.  And book well ahead, because reservations are absolutely required.  Bring your camera.

Ok, brunch is covered, but now you’re Jones-ing for gelato!  Lucky for you, there’s a great place right in the Palisades you can pad right over to it on foot if you desire.  Pick your favorite flavor and then add another scoop just for the sheer joy of it at Piccolio’s, right there on Sunset next to Blockbuster.  SO good, that brainfreeze is always a danger here, so try to slow down just a teensy bit, ok?

So much for gustation.  Perhaps now you want a slice of the social scene.  Throw on your stilettos and your best hair extensions, and let’s get going.

There’s a new club in Santa Monica called Huntley’s that’s causing a buzz around town.  Catch locals and tourists mixing it up in their finest couture in this raved-about hot spot.

A few minutes down the road and you’re at the Beverly Hills Hotel, where Bar Nineteen12 recently opened its doors to a ravaged public.  Inside, it’s all about soft lighting and amber-colored velvet couches.  Outside, try to nab the double-enclosed sofa corner and share the hanger steak and onion quesadillas.  Jelly shots (kawaiii!) for the brave, and martini sorbets will undoubtedly follow, but if that doesn’t satisfy your sweet tooth, you can always order something decadent from the Polo Lounge to be delivered to your sofa.  Try not to spill it all on your white Versace capris, darling.

Thursdays are prime for dancing, as DJ Jason Bentley selects the perfect music mix ‘til 2am.  (Bar Nineteen12, 9641 Sunset Boulevard, at Crescent Drive).

If you prefer your clubs classic, there’s the old but always reliable Ivy in Santa Monica, where just about every A,B,C, and D-lister in Hollywood has gotten his or her drink on at some point or other.  Might as well sign the guest book your own self and join the ranks.

Let’s review: You’ve pleased your palate, you’ve slaked your thirst, and you’ve read all of the architecture books in the Palisades house.  It’s clearly time to move.

Lucky for you, there’s a really fine YMCA swimming pool just blocks from the house that will inspire you to make dozens of laps, happily backstroking off those carbs that were so beguiling on the plate last night.  The setting is splendid, and if you have little ones, good luck getting them to leave this gem in the heart of Temescal Canyon.  At a whopping 5 bucks to use the facilities, this could very well be the best deal in L.A.

If swimming’s not your thing, how about a stimulating hike up the Temescal Trail?  Our host advises you to take the left fork and loop to the waterfall for a memorable 75 minute saunter through the canyon.  Hiking boots not required…sneakers will do you just fine.  Don’t forget the digital camera.  You’ll upload these photos and send them to friends who will gasp, “This is Los ANGELES?”  Affirmative.

Not a hiker?  How about a nice, casual stroll down Montana Street in Santa Monica?  This upscale avenue boasts lovely boutiques and cafés and other sensory treats.  A perfect place for your mani-pedi, too, after all that vigorous hiking and swimming.

Less rich-blooded but a lot of fun is the nearby Third Street Promenade, just three blocks from the ocean.  Here you’ll find street entertainers, jugglers, musicians, absolutely NO FRENCH MIMES, and some decent restaurants and shops being frequented by locals and happy tourists.  (Yes, there’s a Starbucks, and a few other coffee shops here as well.)  Add some giant water-spouting dinosaur topiaries and toy stores for the kids, and you’ve got just a good, solid, pedestrian mall that’s ideal for walking safely day or night…and perhaps you’ll make some new friends.  Stranger things have happened.  Trastavere has quite decent Italian food if you get peckish.  It’s on the corner of Third Street and Santa Monica Boulevard, right there on the Promenade.

Like to bike?  There’s a flat path along the beach that runs 23 miles southward from Temescal, all the way down to Redondo Beach! Skateboarders, joggers, and rollerbladers are welcome as well.  It’s a delightful way to spend the morning or afternoon.  Stop in Venice beach for a slice at Abbott’s Pizza(check out the bagel crust!) and a cinammon-y orchiata milk, or just to gawk at the muscle-men and women working out in the sunshine at the outdoor Gold’s Gym.  Get a henna tattoo of Courtney Love on your bicep and frighten your co-workers upon your return to the office.

If you make it all the way to Marina Del Rey, stop by Joanie’s Coffee Roasters on Washington Boulevard, where cyclists and surfers mingle with the Hollywood crowd over the best lattes in town.

The thing is, you really won’t be bored, even for a single minute when you choose T943.  L.A. awaits you.  Be not afraid.  And get ready to come away with a whole new appreciation of the City of Angels.  Even in her driest year on record, there’s plenty of juice in the old gal yet!

Tags: , ,

Leave a Reply