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Ry Cooder Snags Unique Wallace Neff Compound in Altadena

Ry Cooder House Altadena
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  • Location: Altadena, Calif.
  • Price: $2.5 million
  • Size: 3,128 square feet, 4 bedrooms, 5 bathrooms plus guesthouse

Legendary guitarist Ryland “Ry” Cooder has lived in the seaside town of Santa Monica for decades, but 2020 is apparently leading the septuagenarian rocker on a journey to brave new residential territories. He’s strummed out $2.5 million for an idiosyncratic compound in Altadena, way out in the relatively untamed wilderness that is the San Gabriel Valley.

Sited well north of the 210 freeway on a wide, tree-lined street, the new Cooder property is mostly invisible to passersby, obscured by a dense canopy of leafy foliage. A well-maintained brick walkway leads from the road to the home’s wooden front door, which swings open into a proper foyer connected to well-scaled public rooms.

Built in 1927, the main house was designed by iconic architect Wallace Neff in his distinctive “California mission” style that combines elements of both Mediterranean and Spanish Revival architecture. The roomy two-story house has more than 3,100 square feet of living space with four bedrooms, all of them with ensuite full bathrooms. And one of the bedroom suites is located downstairs, making it an ideal choice for a live-in housekeeper or overnight guest.

Besides a detached two-car garage, the .62-acre flat lot also offers a one-bedrooms, two-bath guesthouse, originally built in 1959 in the desirable midcentury modern style. That sunny structure offers a fireplace, floor-to-ceiling glass walls, a kitchen and its own dedicated alfresco dining area.

But while the guesthouse remains in mostly original condition, the Neff-designed main house has clearly undergone some interior renovations over the past century. There are carpeted floors, granite countertops and some rather unfortunate 1980s-looking wooden cabinetry in the kitchen. Still, many authentic 1920s details remain — beautiful casement windows, vaulted ceilings with exposed wooden beams, ornate fireplace in the living room and a courtyard with stone fountain that’s shaded by an ancient oak tree.

The midcentury guesthouse directly overlooks the property’s large swimming pool, which is flanked by a narrow concrete terrace and towering palms. Other outdoor amenities include a gazebo mostly overrun by a riotous cacophony of subtropical plantings, stone pathways that meander through the property’s forest-like collection of mature trees, and a surprisingly spacious swath of grassy lawn.

Per the listing, the house has been in the same family since the 1960s and is an “architecturally significant work of art.” And it would appear that quite a few potential buyers saw the value — the final sale price of $2.5 million is over $300,000 more than the initial asking price, indicating Cooder won a hard-fought bidding war to secure the premises.

Cooder, who was ranked #31 on Rolling Stone’s 2015 list of 100 greatest guitarists, continues to own his current Santa Monica residence: a two-house, multimillion-dollar compound that’s walking distance to the Pacific Ocean.

While it’s quite a jog to the nearest beach, Cooder’s new Altadena digs lie conveniently close to charming shopping and dining destinations in Old Town Pasadena, the Rose Bowl, San Marino’s iconic Huntington Library and numerous hiking trails in the nearby Angeles National Forest.

And though the adjacent San Gabriel Valley neighborhoods Pasadena and Altadena haven’t been historically known as Hollywood celebrity havens, that seems to be quickly changing. Meryl Streep, Kristen Wiig, Shia LaBeouf, Jason Segel, Jennie Garth, Anthony Russo, Grimes and Steven Yeun have all bought homes there in recent years, and the area’s increasing desirability — and continuously rising prices — indicates that trend will likely continue.

John Moreno and Daniel Villarreal of Compass held the listing; Byrony Atkinson of Maisonre repped Cooder.