May 29, 2013
Apollo was cordial enough to swing by my commission client's home on the way out of town this morning so I could deliver “Minimal Art Composition in Tan.” The home of Agnus Finklehardt, an heiress of a California oil pipeline concern, was a large mid-century modern tri-level set on an acre or so of manicured green lawn. The exterior was painted stark white, with white gloss brick accents set into the stucco. All the windows were large sheets of glass set at floor level reaching to the ceiling line. There were as many windows as the structure would allow. The house, which was shaped in a U, had a long rectangular pool in the center. The pool actually extended into the home and greeted guests upon entering the formal entryway.
Three fireplace chimneys protruded from the offset three flat rooftops, each roof wrapped with a waist high glass wall, allowing for the homeowner and her guests to safely use them as lounging decks. The first two floors were at least ten feet high and the third floor looked to be about eight feet. As a result, you would think the home would have looked enormously tall, but because it was so long, it seemed to actually blend into the landscape. The second and third story—the third story being just half the size of the second and housing, as Agnus showed us later—, a reading room on one side and a viewing lounge on the other, were set back from the front. Each level was connected by an enclosed walkway across the back of the house, with the second level also being connected to itself at the front of the house. So if you were looking at the house from the side you would see stepped levels, the first being very large, containing the expansive living room, dining room, den, theater, game room, pool lounge, servant quarters, and the two pool view garages; the second story housing all the bedrooms, each with a lanai patio looking over the courtyard pool, while the hall used to gain access to the rooms was lined with glass doors leading to the rooftop decks.
When the Finklehardts saw the final drawings of the home, Mr Finklehart commented, “It looks like a big yacht. I don’t want to live on land and look like I’m living in a big yacht.” The stepped design, culminating with the third story, gave the home that impression. The architect, a young genius whose heart was given to other mediums, left the field and moved to Hollywood for a career in film production after his gig. But first he obliged Mr. Finklehardt by lowering the roofline of the third story to seven feet (I was off by a foot) and adding two large ramps, one at each rear corner of the U shaped structure. Each had a slight arch angling down from the third story, over the motor courtyard at the rear of the home, and into the backyard lawn. The ramps allowed for canvas to be stretched between them, turning the motor court into an enormous covered reception area for the many parties the Finklehardts hosted. “Now it looks like a weird sculpture,” Mr. Finklehardt told the architect. He leaned over the final drawings and penned his name in the approval box. "I like weird.”
Coming up to the house on the whitewashed concrete drive one first sees the entire profile of the home in perspective from the front, then banking right merits a stop at the entrance. Going on further, the drive turns left at the rear of the structure and enters the motor courtyard where two garage doors cap the back of the home. The garages are large enough for four cars each, and deep enough to allow for workshops. The walls of the garages that line the interior of the U shaped courtyard that the home creates are large glass panels, allowing for the late Mr. Finklehardt to work on his cars or in his workshops and enjoy the view of the resort like pool. The exterior walls of the garage are also mostly glass, giving the home a very expansive look. Attaching the garages to the home in this manner also gave the Finklehardts the gratification of the long first story footprint they had wished for.
Going back to the entrance where one stops to park, there is a large fountain made of polished twisted stainless steel at the beginning of the covered walkway, done in flamed granite, which leads to the tall frosted glass doors. The entrance to the home is actually from the side. Upon entering the home I was first met with a wall of gleaming green rocks sporting a pleasant waterfall that filled a koi pond. Agnus took me by the arm and led me to the living room, with Apollo and Fortuna in tow. Agnus was good friends with Dan and Penny, which meant, as she happily announced, that we were all “friends of hers too.” Contrasting with the stark white exterior, the living room was painted in a shade of very classy taupe, with a touch of tan and some accents of midnight blue. The low backed tufted couches and loveseats were adorned in yellow, blue, and red leathers. There was a sunken conversation pit in the midst of the circular fireplace on the far right of the room near the corner of the pool, which you will remember extends into the interior of the home. The pit was upholstered in smooth, dark brown leather and accented with green, blue, yellow and red pillows, also finished in leather.
We left the living room by first walking through to the other side and around the indoor portion of the pool, with Agnus leading us into the den, which was finished in varnished mahogany wood panels separated by six inch wide strips of polished copper. The furniture in this room was minimalist, solid in colors, and bright. Agnus again used reds, blues, and yellows in the seating, then highlighted it all with a few black ottomans. There was a nice selection of abstract art canvases in the den, all done in metallic paints bordered in flat black. Agnus looked at each of the canvases and then said, “There are too many of the same type of work here. My late husband liked this artist but I want to break it up a little. She shook her cane at my painting, which I had been carefully carrying the entire time, and complimented me on a quality and timely job. Her butler promptly took down one of the metallic abstracts and hung my work on the wall, and she handed me seven thousand dollars in cash. “The government doesn’t tax me enough because of all my municipal bond income, so I’ve got money coming out of my ears. I might as well spend it on something I can hang on a wall.” She just sighed. “Would you like to see the rest of the house now?” she asked.