Richard Neutra’s Updated Sten-Frenke House Hits the Market for a Cool $15M

Richard Neutra’s Updated Sten-Frenke House Hits the Market for a Cool $15M

By Kathryn M.
The 85-year-old property gained a Johnston Marklee–designed addition in 2009.

The Sten-Frenke House by Richard Neutra has attracted the talents of numerous restoration experts over the years—from Biber Architects to the renowned firm of Marmol Radziner and designer Mark Haddawy. Most recently, the firm Johnston Marklee jumped on the opportunity to design an adjacent structure, one that harmoniously responds to Neutra's original work.

The original Neutra-designed structure was originally built in 1934 for Ukrainian film actress, Anna Sten, and her producer husband Dr. Eugene Frenke. The residence has since been through two subsequent renovations—first led by Biber Architects and later by the renowned firm Marmol Radziner in partnership with designer Mark Haddawy

The home, originally built in 1934, is among the early designs that helped to kickstart Neutra's career, winning him the House Beautiful award the year of its construction. Numerous owners over the years sought to preserve Neutra's vision, including the current owner: director, writer, and producer Marc Forster, who is behind such films as Monster's Ball, Quantum of Solace, and Stranger than Fiction

Most recently, the home's current owner also enlisted the firm Johnston Marklee to design a stand-alone office suite and guest quarters. The detached structure seeks to complement Neutra's design by emulating its smooth surfaces and distinct rounded section.

Forster, who purchased the property in 2009, turned to Johnston Marklee to design a detached guest house and office suite. Called the 'Ark House,' this two-bedroom abode mimics a distinct curved section on the main house, visually tying the two structures together. Since the Sten-Frenke House was built to occupy only one half of the double lot, Johnston Marklee also used the opportunity to balance the site by placing their new structure at the opposite corner of the lot.

The Ark House, located on the opposite side of the property's double lot, features a rounded facade along the front and rear. Steps lead down from a central patio in front of the Sten-Frenke House to the studio's entrance.

In total, the property now offers five bedrooms and seven bathrooms, along with approximately 4,000 square feet of living space. Forster's updates, which include on-site geo-thermal generators, and the Ark House addition totaled a whopping $4M. Now, the entire estate is up for sale with an asking price of $15,000,000. Keep scrolling for a look around the property and inside both structures.

The guest house entrance is hidden behind a thick section of greenery. The choice of stucco along the exterior also sought to complement the main house.

The space features two bedrooms and one bathroom, along with an office, a hot yoga room, and sauna. Here, an office space leads out to a rooftop deck overlooking the yard.

A large window frames view of the Sten-Frenke House while a skylight illuminates the space.

Sten and Neutra reportedly disagreed over some aspects of the design, including the location of the pool, which Sten preferred closer to the home. During the initial renovations, Biber Architects relocated the pool to its current location to take fuller advantage of the large lot.

After reviewing Neutra's original plans for the house, Biber Architects also extended the front pergola. However, that change was later reverted to make way for the guest house.

Inside the Sten-Frenke House, a lofty entry hall features contrasting wood tones, along with various volumes of space and form.

The entry hall leads into a formal dining area. Ribbon windows guide visitors around and into the living area further ahead.

The formal dining area features original built-in cabinetry and period furnishings. This space and others throughout the home have been restored multiple times over the years.

Built-in seating and more ribbon windows extend around the room, opening this space up to views of the heavily landscaped yard. According to Biber Architects, "some of the original wood paneling was replaced with an upgraded veneer to replace the original ‘tobacco stained plywood’ walls."

Adjacent to the living room, a curved dining area occupies a distinct volume that extends off the back of the house. The rounded section inspired Johnston Marklee to emulate the form in their detached guest house.

The kitchen was updated without detracting from Neutra's original details. A line of windows frame postcard views of a densely wooded area alongside the home.

Around the corner, the kitchen extends into a galley form that ends with a door to the garden. Stainless-steel counters and a recessed cooking area seek to blend in rather than take away form the home's architectural details.

Upstairs, a large master suite is wrapped in windows along two sides. A set of doors open up to the rooftop deck that sits above the home's main entrance.

The deck overlooks views of Will Roger's State Beach and the Pacific Ocean, with the second structure by Johnston Marklee in the foreground. 

Editor's note: This article previously misstated the team members involved in renovating the Sten-Frenke House. Designer Mark Haddawy worked with contractor Mármol Radziner and not Dave Binder.

The Sten-Frenke Estate, located at 126 Mabery Road in Santa Monica, CA, is currently listed for $15,000,000 by Billy Rose of The Agency.

Know of a home for sale or rent that should be featured on Find out how to submit to Dwell.

Get the Real Estate Newsletter

Get carefully curated content filled with inspiring homes from around the world, innovative new products, and the best in modern design.