Embezzlement, Hollywood stardom and architectural fame are wrapped up in the Samuel-Novarro House. Designed in 1928 by Frank Lloyd Wright Jr. (known as Lloyd Wright), the Los Angeles home was listed for $4.195 million in November 2011. But after sitting on the market for six months without securing a buyer, the listing was removed. Now, less than a year later, the historic property is for sale again with an even bigger price tag of $4.49 million.
While perhaps overshadowed by his father’s groundbreaking architectural design, Wright made his mark on Los Angeles real estate, designing homes for silent-movie stars and contemporary A-listers. This property, located at 2255 Verde Oak Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90068, was named after its first two residents.
Ramon Novarro was the first Latin American actor to achieve stardom as one of Hollywood’s top silent-movie stars. Wright was asked to design the home for Novarro’s personal secretary and companion, Louis Samuel. However, when Novarro discovered Samuel was embezzling funds from him a year later, he said he wouldn’t press charges if Samuel “made it right.” The secretary proceeded to turn over his prized home to Novarro to make up for financial losses. Novarro accepted the offer and rehired Wright to make the house his own, adding a pergola, music room and bedroom suite.
“It’s a very unique property,” said Hilton & Hyland listing agent Aaron Kirman. “There is a lot of nice open space; gardens and terraces throughout.”
The home also boasts a pool, sleek concrete floors and dramatic windows — not to mention its highly sought-after location in one of L.A.’s most exclusive neighborhoods, The Oaks.
In the listing description, Kirman says the home has been “meticulously restored, keeping the architect’s original vision intact.” While it’s unclear exactly what Wright’s architectural vision was, Oscar winner Diane Keaton, who owned the home in the ’90s, thinks it was perhaps more about making a design statement than housing a growing family.
“If you have a family, it’s not as easy to live in a Lloyd Wright house,” she told The New York Times in a past interview. “They are beautiful. But they have very, very small bedrooms.”
Keaton moved on to purchase a Spanish-style home — perhaps she would have been more suited for Wright’s Mayan-inspired home in Los Feliz. Other celebrity owners, Christina Ricci and Adam Goldberg, also didn’t last long in the Samuel-Novarro property, selling it a year after they bought it in 2005.
While the Hollywood Hills housing market is on the rise, the median home value is $1.22 million — significantly less than the asking price on Wright’s design. An estimated monthly payment is $16,146, assuming 20 percent down on a 30-year fixed mortgage.