James Goldstein And His Magical House

Perhaps it’s no coincidence that the most mysterious man in Los Angeles lives in one of the city’s most famous houses. James Goldstein has a face you don’t forget, whether you spot him courtside at a Lakers game, front row at the Saint Laurent show, or driving through the Hollywood Hills in his vintage convertible Rolls Royce (the only car he’s ever owned since he moved to LA in the 1960s). He has shoulder-length silver hair that frames a face like an old rock star’s and a swagger to match; he dresses in head-to-toe couture and is never without one of his many trademark leather and snakeskin hats (and rarely without a hot young thing on his arm).

Many legends float around Los Angeles about Mr. Goldstein. People speculate about his age, his former lovers, and mostly about how he made his money. But there is one thing that is not in question and that is his house: it is one of the most spectacular in Los Angeles.

Set on four acres of tropically landscaped land in Beverly Crest, the house is a jewel in the crown of American Organic Architecture. Built in 1963 by architect John Lautner, the house is so seamlessly integrated into the natural surroundings it is not always obvious if you’re inside or out, upstairs or down. Natural light flows through floor to ceiling windows and the 750 drinking glass skylights placed there during construction by the original owner, Paul Sheats, who grabbed his kids and climbed onto the roof where they spent a day stuffing drinking glasses into holes in the ceiling. The desired effect was achieved: the living room has an under-a-shade-tree feel to it. The light comes through the ceiling as if it were filtered through leafy branches. With stunning views out over Los Angeles, windows in the side of the pool that look down into the den (originally Helen Sheats’ art studio where she could work and watch the kids swim at the same time), a near-total absence of 90-degree angles, and an incomprehensible volume of poured-in-place concrete, there is nothing about the house that is unimpressive.

Lautner, who originally built the house for the Sheats family, was called back to it in 1972 when Mr. Goldstein bought it in some disrepair. For the next 20 years, the two worked together on what Goldstein calls “perfecting” the house by remodeling and adding onto it. Most of the more magical elements of the house were added in these twenty years of collaboration between the eccentric Goldstein and the space-age-thinking Lautner. From built-in concrete furniture to roof and wall panels that slide open at the touch of a button, the house is at once a nod to the ultramodern era in which it was built and proof of the staying power of good design. It’s no wonder that Goldstein, though immensely wealthy and despite his frequent trips to Europe, doesn’t own another home. You just can’t do better than this house.

Now after four decades of almost daily construction, the house has expanded to include a floating tennis court which sits above “Club James,” a fully-functioning private club which hosted Rihanna’s 27th birthday party earlier this year attended by Naomi Campbell, Mick Jagger, Beyonce and Jay Z. A James Turrell “skyspace” installation is hidden at the bottom of the hill. The concrete room called Above Horizon designed by Turrell, features a sunken leather bed in the center of the room and panels on the ceiling and wall that open to reveal the sky. Carefully calibrated light and music play while guests recline on the bed and watch the sky. Goldstein says there are two shows per day, both 40 minutes long, one at sunrise and one at sunset. The room throws off your senses; sound and light are different in here and a whole event is built around the sun, twice a day.

Goldstein has never been married and with no family to speak of, the house has become more than a home: it’s like his child. The house gets his attention and his resources in return for immeasurable bragging rights and the ability to throw one hell of a party.

By @erinspens (twitter.com/erinspens)