Do the homes of the very famous retain residual glamour, long after their occupants are gone? Buyers interested in Bob Hope’s Palm Springs estate, which went on the market last week, must think so. The sculptural concrete gem is absolutely one of architect John Lautner’s masterpieces, but its asking price—$50 million—is many times more than the price tag of every other Lautner house to recently hit the market.
To be fair, the 1973 Hope house is that kind of sprawling, manicured estate that you must assume was normal in Old Hollywood. The winglike copper roof (designed to mimic a volcano, which it sort of does, from above) covers six bedrooms, 12 bathrooms, a massive entertaining area ornamented with a giant boulder, and a series of other rooms—some of them decorated with murals painted by Garth Benton. There’s a pool, a tennis court, plentiful outdoor dining space (The New York Times reports that Mrs. Hope made a mean antipasto). Oh, and a putting green. Of course. The whole description sounds incredibly 1970s—you can imagine Tony Bennett or Glen Campbell cracking a joke on the lush green.
Lautner was the kind of architect who managed to appeal to the tastes of Hollywood and the tastes of his professional colleagues, a community dominated by the ideas of wartime Bauhaus refugees who settled in L.A. Though many outside of the design world might not recognize his name, his work has a fascinating legacy in film: You’ll see them in everything from The Big Lebowski to Diamonds Are Forever (check out a full clip compilation here). There are even Lautner tours, where fans can check out the most famous of the homes.
So why hasn’t the Bob Hope Estate attained the same cult status of, say, the Sheats-Goldstein Residence or the Elrod House? According to The New York Times, Lautner wasn’t a huge fan of Mrs. Hope’s repeated efforts to alter his design:
Mr. Lautner, the architect, eventually distanced himself from the project after Mrs. Hope hired a designer to make changes to the interior. None of them constituted a major alteration of the Lautner design, which includes a boulder jutting into the living room; she simply made interior modifications to make it "more livable," according to Linda Hope. The changes included extending the dining room toward a balcony and making it possible to get from the bedrooms to the front door without crossing a patio, Ms. Hope said. "I think my mother was a frustrated architect," she added, noting Mrs. Hope’s serial remodeling of their primary home in Toluca Lake, Calif. "My dad used to say every time he went away he needed a road map to get back through his house.
Maybe that’s what Bob was referring to when he talked about being subjected to many indignities for the sake of art ("If I ever catch him, I’m going to kill the guy").
Inquiries about the sale should be directed at Ann Eysenring of Partners Trust (who’ve put their sales brochure online here) in Beverly Hills along with Patrick Jordan and Stewart Smith of Windermere Real Estate in Palm Springs.