Once you’ve made your way past the gate and onto the sprawling grounds of the Reserve in Holmby Hills, you’d never guess that a rather treacherous stretch of Sunset Boulevard lies just below. Mature trees and the property’s two acres act as a buffer to the sound of commuters roaring past at freeway speeds. (Navigate that eastbound left onto Sunset at your own peril!)
But all is quiet on this Westside front. After all, unlike the exposed mansions of Hancock Park and Los Feliz, the mostly hidden estates in this ultra exclusive enclave of Los Angeles leave more to the imagination than is visible to the eye. Once inside, it’s like inhabiting another world.
This is a property that harks back to the style and luxury of a bygone era. The owner-designer, actor Kristoffer Winters (The Hurt Locker, Fair Game) — who with fellow thesp and business partner Jeremy Renner has renovated and flipped more than 20 houses over the past 12 years — says he was going for a Great Gatsby feel, but for the 21st century. One could imagine real-life mobster Bugsy Siegel, who lived nearby, looping his own screen test in the manor’s 12-seat screening room, not unlike Warren Beatty did in Bugsy.
This six-bedroom, 11-bath, 10,000-square-foot, neo-deco hideaway — virtually rebuilt and expanded from the ground up save for a pair of fireplaces — feels more masculine than feminine, despite the his-and-her bathrooms that complement the master bedroom and what Winters calls “the gentlemen’s room,” replete with a fully stocked bar and an array of original portraits by late Hollywood glamour photographer George Hurrell.
Using a kind of Hearst Castle model, the furnishings and accoutrements hail from auctions, flea markets, salvage markets and estate sales from far and wide. In fact, the property’s name is inspired by the concrete relief eagles that decorate the facade, which came off an old Federal Reserve building in Orange County.
Winters, fair-skinned with copper-red hair, who frequently punctuates his enthusiasm with, “I know, right?” calls himself “an auction boy.” A chandelier above the breakfast table originally hung in a vintage theater in San Francisco; some deco furnishings were bought from the estate of the late Ed Limato; an old-fashioned, leather-clad barber chair accents another room; and an antique clock face from an old Macy’s store sets the tone for the brand-new cabinetry that surrounds it. It’s all meticulously art-directed right down to the monogrammed bathroom towels, only this set isn’t torn down after shooting is finished. Twenty of the 24 homes that Winters and Renner have worked on to date were sold fully furnished.
Holmby Hills properties don’t go on the market often, and are usually known by the names of their most famous owners, even if they’ve been sold outside the family. Neighbors include Betsy Bloomingdale, who lives right next door; Kelsey Grammer; Michael Chow of Mr. Chow fame; and, of course, the neighborhood’s most storied denizen, Hugh Hefner. Says Rayni Romito, the agent who’s handling the Reserve listing with Branden Williams of Williams & Romito, these generational homes usually only change hands as a result of one of the three D’s: “death, divorce or debt.”
“There’s a mystique to Holmby Hills,” Romito says. “If you can see a home in Holmby Hills, it’s because the owner wants you to see it.”
In house-hunting, Winters says he and Renner have mainly concentrated on Hollywood Hills West and areas adjacent to the Sunset Strip. Winters is more the “designer and gatherer” and Renner “is more Bob the Builder, he’s obsessed with flow,” says Winters. Privacy, high ceilings and location are all considerations. Of the backyard spaces, Winters says, “You could run around buck naked and nobody would ever see you.”
Their business mantra is, naturally, buy low-sell high. “We look for cheaper houses in the neighborhood so that when we’re done, they’ll sell for more than anything else in the neighborhood,” Winters says. The formula has worked so well that it’s been their primary source of income since they started 12 years ago.
Despite their consistent success (“we’ve never taken a bath,” Winters says, even during the nadir of the economic downturn), the Reserve is Winters’ most expensive investment to date; Renner, it should be noted, doesn’t have a financial stake in this property, but was present during the remodeling when he wasn’t busy shooting the latest Bourne movie.
The Reserve was purchased for roughly $7 million and was listed in January for just under $26 million. But $10 million was poured into the rebuild, so that uptick is not as rapacious as it seems. This is a far cry from the $500,000 spent on their first house, which they sold for twice that amount.
“What Jeremy and I both say is that what we do truly is an artform,” he adds. “It’s like making a movie, only we’re the director, the writer, the producer, the financier. We get to do everything because it’s a different canvas. It’s like a film, but it’s a tangible thing that wasn’t there before.”
(From the pages of the March 26 issue of Variety.)