Misha, 2020 

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BEHIND THE SCENES WITH MR. LA



Feature by Misha Tahir
Collaboration with Jonas Huckstorf




From Charlie’s Angels to Rihanna’s 27th Birthday Party, the Sheats—Goldstien Residence is the backdrop for Los Angeles’s greatest hits, and the creator? An enigma as fabled as The City of Angeles

It’s a quiet Friday evening in West Hollywood and I’m not quite sure if the Uber has taken us to the right address.

“Do you mind driving a little further up?”

Not something I’m used to saying, but when you’re in the winding Hollywood Hills to visit the architectural marvel that is the life work of “Mr. LA” Himself, James Goldstein, I guess there’s nowhere to go but up.

Perched high within that maze, nestled quietly within a corner cul-de-sac, the entrance to the landmark “Sheats—Goldstien” residence rests between an alley of unassuming homes, almost overlooked unless explicitly directed which way to go. Following the numbered sign, what was the alley turns quickly into a canopy of foreign foliage. All of a sudden, you’re in a different realm

“Yeah, definitely this one”

Mr. Goldstein has just finished a round of tennis when we arrive at the gate, he fiddles with the combination in a classically flamboyant bright orange jumper, racket in hand, slightly unsteady. At 78 years young, Goldstein has the palpable aura of a Hollywood superstar,  his piercing blue eyes and austere silhouette seem straight out of a casting directors fantasy —charisma that’s as curious as it is compelling.

I stop myself from an over-enthusiastic greeting, something tells me with James, everything is strictly business. 

“I’ve got an hour and a half, I’ll go get changed”

Goldstein is a man you’ve most certainly seen and as certainly understood that he was famous. His sartorial choices don’t let you look over the fact that he’s of a different breed, an opulent cowboy his wide-brimmed hats and stiff leather jackets, tell the world he is some sort of a celebrity.

Left alone in the kitchen of the James Turrell designed masterpiece, the grandeur of the home speaks in a subtlety similar to it’s entrance. Ceilings stretch high, and modernist design elements ooze with an unattainable level of expense. However, an Organic Architecture, the materials feel familiar, as if the hills themselves came alive to create a house dedicated to aesthetic harmony.

Earth tones and glass walls adorn the decor while skylights simultaneously let in light so abundant one almost forgets they’re standing within an enclosed space. As the space stretches from the foyer, to the sky scraping balcony, over the lap pool a view of Los Angeles reveals itself in a splendor as theatric as the city itself. Miles seem to stretch over the green to the skyline, but within a ten minute drive past Beverly Hills, under Mr. Goldstiens roof you’re in a private oasis.

With the gentle sound of the Koi Pond trickling through the living room, I asked James Goldstein about the progression and devotion it took to create his architectural masterpiece.









INT. TRANSCRIPTION:
MT: I'm floored by your home, do you remember the day that you moved in?

JG: It was August of 1972

MT: And you had been working on the design for a while?

JG: I started major construction work in 1979, and i've never stopped. Not just on the house, but on the whole property…there’s also a building next door which you haven't seen yet

MT: What's in there?

JG: There's a tennis court on top, underneath it there's my own night club called Club James, as well as my offices, a library, and VIP Room. Below that there's a third level which is still under construction, it’s going to be a huge entertainment terrace — sort of the outdoor component of Club James. It will have a lap pool along with an outdoor kitchen, bar, dining area and so forth. Besides the building next door there's been a James Turrell Skyspace constructed about 15 years ago, below the house on the hillside. There's been extensive landscaping, a new gate, all sorts of things…

MT: These components take time to make… i’m sure the house has been in process over the years you've been living here. What was here when you first moved in?

JG: The house had a fantastic design, but the implementation was terrible. It was built on a very tight budget and cheap materials were used, plaster, formica, and wall to wall green shag carpeting which the second owner had installed. It also suffered from the fact that it was built in 1962, building technology had advanced some since then. For example, I replaced all the glass in the house with frameless glass, where previously the glass panels were enclosed by steel mullions. Frameless glass provided the continuity between the inside and outside, which is an important element of the house.

MT: Absolutely, the house is seamless with nature. Every design decision inspired by the elements around us.

JG: Yes, and along with the frameless glass i've installed skylights that open electrically.  On a nice day it not only seems that the inside of the house is outside, but it is outside.

MT: How intimately do you work with the team that helps you in the creative process, the builders, interior designers, architects…

JG: Well, In 1979 I brought back John Lautner, the original Architect of the house. We worked together until he died in 1994. John would always wait to hear what I wanted to do, he never made suggestions on his own, rather, when I came up with an idea for a project and he would quickly give several options on how it could best be implemented, always allow[ing] me to make the choice. After he died, I worked with Duncan Nicholson who had previously been an assistant to John Lautner, then unfortunatley Duncan Nicholson died several years ago… since then I've taken charge of the design work.

MT: The 1970s was such an exciting time to be in Los Angeles. Creatively, there was so much happening with artists from the East Coast having moved here. Were you inspired by that excitement?

JG: Well you weren't around! [Laughs]

MT: True, but i’ve heard quite a bit about it! What was the first time you hosted something here, do you remember that?

JG: I can't really recall, maybe different events. Since i’ve created Club James next door to the house there are events quite frequently… probably the top event was Rihanna's birthday party that was held here.

MT: Are there any places in your house then, that feel a bit more personal? Where do you go to decompress?

JG: I've never thought of things in terms of what's “personal”. I mean obviously, my bedroom has more personal objects in it than any other room. Since I was involved in the creation of every part of the house, including the new buildings on the property I feel it's all personal.

MT: Is there a specific area that you feel comes to most use?

JG: I get asked that quite a bit, but really I use all the areas of the house, with the exception of the guest bedrooms, all the time. It just depends on the time of the day...what the weather is like...

MT: You’re often traveling,  when you are home the time must be quite precious.

JG: I'm here for roughly half of the year, I always enjoy it but traveling means a lot to me too. I like to experience new things.

MT: Yes, and NBA Games! I know you're an avid fan.

JG: Well this time of the year, the NBA Playoffs are my prime priority. I just returned from the game in Houston and i’ll be going Sunday to the game in Oakland. We’re [currently] in the Semi Finals, but during the First Round there were games every night in different cities and I was on a plane for 23 consecutive days.

MT: Does it get overwhelming?

JG: It becomes a routine, once I reach my destination and I go to the game it's quite exciting. 

MT: It’s become a part of your lifestyle over so many years of attending ball games

JG: Yes, i'm quite well known in all the different basketball cities [smiles]

MT: A warm welcome

JG: It adds to my enjoyment.

MT: When you are home and you get some free time, how do you spend it? You enjoy playing tennis...do you maybe like to cook?

JG: With construction going on, one of my priorities is to meet with the team and figure out the next details of what's being built. It's not as though we decide everything in advance and that's the end of it, the process evolves and we make modifications as things go along. That's an ongoing time factor for me when I am home. Other than that I spend time reading the newspapers, hopefully out in the sun…I try to play tennis everyday. In the late afternoon I start watching basketball games on television and then end up going to a game that night. There are two teams in Los Angeles [Lakers, Clippers]which means during the regular season I go to games maybe five nights a week. then after the games I go out to dinner and that's a typical day.


MT: What are your neighbors like? Many would assume that in large communities such as this one, there isn't any sense of people coming together.

JG: That's an accurate representation [laughs] I don't really have any association with my neighbors except when they call the police during a party and try to get it shut down.

MT: Does that happen!?

JG: Quite often [smiles]

MT: You would think they'd be used to it by now!

JG: And they don't call me, so i'm never sure which neighbor is making the call.

MT: Do you invite them to the parties? Seems like a nice way to level things out.


JG: I've tried that but that doesn't seem to make a difference [laughs]


MT: Have you always loved hosting parties? Even before you were in this home?

JG: I usually end up having a good time but I wouldn't say it’s my specialty. The way it is now and with the club [Club James] that i've created I allow other people to throw the parties provided they meet the test of doing it the “right” way. It's quite nice for me because I don't have to do any of the work, there's a lot of work involved in organizing a party, and then when the party takes place all the guests seem to think it was my doing.  


MT: They think it was you.


JG: I get all the credit.



JAMES GOLDSTIEN, FEATURE 2018
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︎ Interdisciplinary Designer currently based in Portland, OR. Contact for positions in Graphic Design, Art Direction, and Writing ©mishatahir.com 2019