The House of Artists, Musicians, Poets and Rock Stars
The United States has been host to many of the finest architects ever known. Frank Lloyd Wright would naturally be at the top of that list, but a close second would be Austrian-born Richard Neutra. Neutra studied under Wright and Rudolph Schindler, and is considered one of the kings of modernist design. We are fortunate to have two Neutra homes here in La Crescenta: the Taylor House in Whiting Woods and the Serulnic House at the top of Lowell Avenue. Although I wrote about the Serulnic House several years ago, it’s worth writing about again as the house, with many improvements, is up for sale.
George and Dorothy Serulnic were a young couple of high achievement in 1952. George was a violinist with the LA Philharmonic and Dorothy was a poet, minister and, more importantly, a secretary to Richard Neutra. That gave them an “in” with the famous architect when they commissioned him to design a hillside home in the upper reaches of La Crescenta on the edge of Tujunga. The builder carved out a platform on six steep acres overlooking both the San Fernando Valley and Downtown LA. Neutra designed a home with huge windows and many futuristic built-in furnishings, including a coffee table that raises to a dining room table and a sofa with a built-in sound system.
The Serulnics lived here happily for many decades. When George died, Dorothy hand picked the next buyers. The property went to Lari Pittman and Roy Dowell. The two buyers were very successful LA artists and both were professors at Pasadena’s Art Center. As well, the couple were appreciators of great architecture. They completely restored the aging Neutra-designed home, adding a few complementary features.
But in 2007 they challenged the “architect to the stars” Michael Maltzan to build a second home on the site that would take cues from the Neutra masterpiece. Maltzan responded with a futuristic seven-sided house on the outer edge of the hillside cut. The new house looks like a pinwheel from above, the interior spaces divided into triangular shapes around an interior courtyard. As well they added a catering kitchen, a lap pool and an outdoor movie pavilion. They turned the original Neutra house into somewhat of a Neutra “shrine” and had it officially listed as a historic structure.
In 2018, the two artists decided to move and listed the home for $4.25 million. The property was picked up by a rock star, Michael Balzery, better known by his nickname “Flea.” (He was named this as a teenager because of his inability to sit still.) Flea is the bass player for the legendary rock band Red Hot Chili Peppers. Flea added this home to his other two homes in Beverly Hills and Malibu.
We have no idea how often Flea actually lived in this home since he had two other homes, and was in the studio or on the road touring a great deal of the time. I’m reminded of the lyrics of Joe Walsh’s song “Life’s Been Good” about the life of a rock star: “I have a mansion, forget the price. Ain’t never been there, they tell me it’s nice.” But Flea did make at least one addition to the home while he was there. If one wants to get away from the completely modern architecture, there’s now a rustic-yet-modern redwood one-bedroom cabin designed by artist Peter Staley on the property.
And, in a nod to Flea’s pedestrian roots, In-N-Out is just down the street for his dining pleasure.
The house is located up a long sweeping driveway coming off of the intersection of Lowell and Markridge Road, but is best viewed looking up from Day Street. Look for the gigantic dream-catcher that dominates the front edge of the property.
But now Flea is moving on and the house is listed for $9.8 million. The worth of the home has doubled in just four years? That’s one way the rich get richer.