When Ronnie and Vidal Sassoon (he’s the British-born pioneer of the architectural haircut, she’s a student of midcentury design) moved from Beverly Hills to a Richard Neutra-designed modernist pavilion located off Mullholland Drive, “perched atop the largest boulder east of the 405,” as Ronnie says, they were seeking a quieter life. Built in 1959 for the Singleton family, the house had fallen into disrepair and required a complete overhaul, which was orchestrated by LA–based designer Tim Campbell (a member of the Remodelista Architect/Designer Directory) and contractor Scott Werker.
I was lucky enough to take a tour of the house not long ago and speak with Ronnie about the historical preservation process and how she balanced her aesthetic with the formidable history of the house.
RM: How did Neutra approach a design project?
RS: Neutra was greatly influenced by nature, and if you look at his work, most of his aesthetic decisions are guided by the surrounding landscape. He started as a landscape architect in Vienna before he moved to Los Angeles to work with Rudolf Schindler.
RM: What were the design challenges when you purchased the house?
RS: Since it had been a rental property for years, the interior was quite neglected. The flat roof was filled with water that could not drain properly because of all the leaves and debris that had been allowed to collect in the gutters. The original aggregate around the swimming pool had been replaced with buff bricks, and the Japanese reflecting pool had been badly patched, requiring extensive attention.
RM: Why did you choose to use midcentury European furniture in an American midcentury home?
RS: I felt that the American approach to furnishing midcentury architecture was too predictable and ubiquitous, so I turned to pieces by European designers who were focused on embracing a simple life surrounded by nature.
RM: How would you define your aesthetic?
RS: I’m attracted to minimalist designs—simple shapes without a lot of clutter or detail. Biomorphic shapes please me the most as they come directly from nature.
RM: Who were the Singletons?
RS: They were pioneers of a new way of California living, led by one of the fathers of American modernism. They were a young couple starting a family, and Neutra designed the house accordingly.
Photography by Andrew Bush.