A Frank Lloyd Wright Gem in Los Angeles Reopens to the Public
The curator of the Hollyhock House, Jeffrey Herr, lets Dwell in on the details of the recent restoration.
Jeffrey Herr: The restoration was handled by three project managers: Kevin Jew of Project Restore wrote the grant and served as on-site consultant; Hsiao-Ling Ting, City of Los Angeles Bureau of Engineering, Architecture Division was the project architect; and Jeffrey Herr, City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, Curator of Hollyhock House, provided research and historic preservation consulting. The Bureau of Engineering handled the design in collaboration with specialist contractors.
The restoration focused on correcting physical deficiencies: leaking roofs, clogged drains, structural cracks, and aesthetics. Identifying the problems was easy. Fixing them required ingenuity and input from various experts. For instance, architect Hsiao-Ling Ting insisted that the drain system have a backup and that the backup drain have its own failsafe mechanism. Once work was executed [on the] replacement roofs, Kevin Jew spent weekends testing, locating problems, and having them fixed the following Monday. Attention to detail was the key to success. That detail extended to the interiors. To complete the necessary work required us to disturb interior surfaces. That was a blessing in disguise, because it gave us the opportunity to do some forensic investigation and we were quite surprised to find trace evidence of 1921 surfaces—enough so that our materials conservator was able to provide formulas to re-create plaster textures and color for the surfaces. We even found an example of the exterior stucco that had survived intact from 1921 and that allowed us to recoat the house, changing its appearance completely.
Much of our focus was on the fenestration and decorative wood trims. Many of these had been removed in the 1940s and the evidence existed only in black-and-white photographs. With the help of a skilled craftsman, some high-res images, negatives unearthed at the University of Riverside, and a lot more detective work, we now have doors, windows, and moulding details that change the look and feeling of the interiors dramatically.
Erika Heet has been working in publishing for more than 20 years, including years spent as a senior editor at Architectural Digest and Robb Report. She has written for Architectural Digest, Robb Report, Interiors, Bon Appétit, Sierra Magazine, and The Berkeley Fiction Review. She recently wrote the foreword to New Tropical Classics: Hawaiian Homes by Shay Zak. She lives in a Topanga cabin with her artist husband and two children.