Lloyd Wright, son of famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright, built this homage to Mayan pyramids in 1926 for his friend, photographer John Sowden. Author Erik Davis writes of the home's history in his book, The Visionary State: "The Sowdens were artsy Hollywood folks who liked to party, and Lloyd Wright, who had spent a year or so designing sets for Paramount, indulged their desire for theater."
Since 2001, the home has come under new ownership by designer Xorin Balbes, who renovated the property to transform the inner courtyard with a pool and jacuzzi. He also added antique pieces like a huge Indonesian stone Buddha, a 400 year-old Quan Yin statue, and an antique Chinese dowry chest to enhance the exotic setting. According to the official site, the home comes with:
its own private spa-soak in a freestanding tub, a shower in a glass encased steamroom, and a meditation area by a beautiful koi pond. The home also features a reading room with a huge salt water aquarium, a home theater system with surround sound, a gourmet kitchen, formal dining room, 2 fireplaces, 2 outdoor firepits, 2 exotic modern flaming torches, and a dramatic city view.
His improvements drew some criticism from people, even as they praised his commitment to preserving historic sites. In a 2003 LA Times article, Eric Lloyd Wright (son of the original architect) said it was a "mistake putting in the swimming pool and spa." The LA Times also goes on to quote architectural historian Dana Hutt: "the sculptures suggest an Asian feel that Hutt calls "completely wrong" for Wright's design, which she refers to as a mix of Southwestern and Mesoamerican." Still, most ultimately are grateful to Balbes for restoring the home and making improvements that make the home more livable, like the open kitchen.
Right now, Balbes is in Maui overseeing development of his newest property. He'll be gone for six months and is looking for renters - either residents or film crews. Rates start at $1,995 per night and $12,000 per week. The home has been used to film episodes of America's Next Top Model (Season 6) and was Ava Gardner's home in the movie The Aviator.
Photos courtesy of the official Sowden House site.