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Built on three acres into a sandstone ledge high above Westwood, Brentwood and the Pacific, the house is a masterpiece of concrete chic. With 5 bedrooms and four and a half baths all open to cliffside views, the aesthetic is what you might describe as caveman modern. Cement slabs come together at angles so sharp you could cut yourself. The idea is obviously to feel part of the view because the wood-paneled walkways between rooms and koi ponds have no railings separating you from a very long drop into the Beverly Hills neighborhood below.
Lautner was commissioned by a doctor and an artist with five kids, though it’s hard to imagine any Sheats family members under 18 living comfortably among the custom-built cement furniture that’s as brutal and angular as the exterior edges. Then again, it’s a fun house. To keep an eye on her children in the pool, Helen Sheats had Lautner install glass pool windows in her studio underneath so she could watch them while she worked. When businessman (and L.A. Lakers courtside fixture) James Goldstein bought the place in 1972, he hired Lautner for a major renovation. The work would take more than 20 years and it’s still under construction. Lautner designed not just the exterior but practically every fixture, window, rug, chair and door in the house.
Today, it’s both a relic to another era and inspiration for the staying power of good design. The house has a few firsts: a kitchen fit with induction burners, an aircraft display panel doubling as a TV, and a concrete lounge with a corner window that slides open at the touch of a button. I made the happy mistake of pressing the wrong button in the all-glass (except for the radiant-heat floors) bathroom. Suddenly, the roof began to slide open.
Goldstein himself is known as a mystery man. Nobody is quite sure how he made his fortune. Then again, he’s not exactly shy. With his long white hair and cowboy hats and duds, he is typically seated in Jack Nicholson territory at most Lakers home games. If you had a house like Goldstein, you’d be home a lot, too.
The most impressive feature of the house is actually tucked on a steep slope below the residence. Artist James Turrell installed one of his skyspace pieces there called “Above Horizon.” It features two portals open to the skies in a structure made with materials similar to those of the main residence. It has a built-in lounge with thousands of hidden LED lights for an evening light show.