Staging a room to sell your house? Hang a horse painting

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The horse is the home stager’s new spirit animal

Spend enough time sifting through real estate listings, and you’ll start to notice certain decorative accents popping up with great frequency. Take this diamond-patterned rug (please!), for instance, or the infamous IKEA print of Audrey Hepburn.

Thankfully, Holly Golightly’s insouciant visage is no longer the maddeningly ubiquitous presence it once was. Taking her place as the reigning champ of staging art: the noble horse!

Wondering if there was any significance in the recent proliferation of stallions and fillies, Curbed asked some staging experts about the trend.

“The only explanation I can give is that stagers generally don’t own ‘real’ artwork, and buy it from big box stores like Home Goods and TJ Maxx, and much of that art tries to appeal to the largest possible audience with animals and pleasant landscapes,” says designer Ruth Storc, whose work has been seen on such HGTV shows as House Hunters Renovations. “Also horses go along with the Native/Western design trend that has been going on for a while.”

Long Beach-based designer John Douglas oversaw the staging for the Wallace Neff-designed Bourne Estate in Palm Springs, where you’ll find a massive painting of a muscular white steed.

 Courtesy of David Kubiczky and Sandra Quinn

“Here’s the story with that particular painting. I got it from a neighbor, who gave it to me because it was way too big for his house—the houses in our neighborhood are really small, between 1,000 and 1,200 square feet,” Douglas reports. “I needed something substantial for the Palm Springs house, and that horse painting just happened to be the right size.”

Asked to speculate on what’s behind the current horse-art craze, Douglas says, “I guess horses represent a lifestyle of a bygone era. But it probably has more to do with whatever mass-produced prints are being spit out of China.”

Not to say that Douglas is immune to equine charms. “Whenever I see horsehead bookends, I grab ‘em, “ he admits. “They’re a no-brainer.”

Ryan Nickum, marketing manager for real estate search firm Estately, offers a bigger-picture view. “I think there’s some regional stuff that seems to work its way around.” According to Nickum, stagers of high end listings in Atlanta were early adopters of the horse-decor trend, but it’s now common in high end homes across the country.

However, Nickum notes, there is one decor element favored by LA stagers that remains decidedly local: “Other cities do a bowl of green apples, but LA still features bowls of citrus, as if people are going to sit down at the dining room table and dig into a heaping bowl of lemons.”

Behold just a small sampling of horse-art that have reared their heads of late:

 Via Maggie Ding/ReMax
 Photo by Marc Angeles, courtesy of Ben Belack and Eric Lavey/The Agency
 Via Tracie Heileson/Dilbeck Real Estate
 Via Joshua Altman/Douglas Elliman
 Via Judith Oroshnik/Berkshire Hathaway

US Bank Tower’s SkySlide: Take a video tour of the glass slide

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It hangs off the 70th floor of one of LA’s tallest skyscrapers

An enclosed glass slide—designed to withstand winds up to 110 mph and an 8.0 magnitude earthquake—hangs off the side of the US Bank Tower in Downtown’s Financial District neighborhood.

The SkySlide is open seven days a week, for a fee, but those who aren’t up to flying down a glass chute, no matter how safe it may be, can now enjoy video footage of the experience thanks to a new Curbed video tour.

Tremendous buzz circulated around the opening of the attraction. We tracked the installation of the slide, which was affixed to skyscraper with the help of helicopters, and, in the process, learned that the slide could have been an even scarier attraction, as OUE Limited, which owns the tower, briefly considered installing a zip line instead.

The addition of the slide was part of a $50-million renovation to the tower, which is now the second tallest in LA. The renovations also included the opening of an observation deck and a digital installation that includes a 360-degree view of the city.

Glamorous Mediterranean-style house replete with original ’20s details seeks $4.3M

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Featured in Architectural Digest in 1925

Located up in the Los Feliz hills, this nearly 5,500-square-foot residence dates to 1924. Designed by architect Charles Kyson, it features beautiful beamed ceilings, wrought iron details, a library with a built-in humidor, and imported Della Robbia tiles.

The house’s former organ room has been converted into a wine cellar, but its dining room—disassembled in England and reassembled in Los Feliz, including the stained glass—has remained intact. (The organ in the old organ room was built to accompany the movies being screened in the living room, the listing says.)

The house’s five bedrooms all offer great views, and receive ample light. Behind the house is a pool and garden.

Last sold in 1993 for $815,000, the house is now listed for $4.3 million.

As LA’s homeless population surges, tow companies refuse to tow RVs

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The motorhomes are often pest-ridden and too dirty for the jobs to be profitable, companies say

LA’s homeless population is swelling, and more people are seeking shelter in RVs and motorhomes. The city of Los Angeles impounded about 1,000 motor homes and trailers last year—but only half were claimed, the Los Angeles Daily News reports. Tow operators say that’s because the owners can’t afford the impound fees, which “start at several hundred dollars and usually run more than $1,000.”

According to the Daily News, that’s putting stress on the city, which is getting more and more requests for impounds. The tow companies it contracts with say the motorhomes are often too dirty and decrepit for the jobs to be profitable. If a camper is unclaimed, they will sell it at auction, but don’t make enough to recoup the costs of hauling it.

This spring, the number of tow companies signed on to do the work dwindled from three to one. The two companies that ended their contracts did so because of “the unsanitary conditions of the vehicles and the inability to recoup the cost of towing them,” says the News.

“I don’t think it’s people saying they don’t like the homeless,” detective Benjamin Jones of the Los Angeles Police Department’s towing service tells the News. “It’s the secondary effects. It’s the garbage, needles, feces, urine. They’re often overwhelmed by the odor.”

For the full story, click here.

LA’s most expensive houses for sale

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A spec house asking $250 million tops the list

The Los Angeles real estate market is pricey, we know, but luxury properties are on a whole other level of over-the-top lavishness with eye-popping price tags to match.

We’ve rounded up the 25 most expensive properties on the market right now, and put them on display here. From spec mansions with bonkers amenities, to glamorous Old Hollywood estates, to a “house” with its own 250-person ballroom, we present the most expensive listings in Los Angeles County right now.

Fleetwood Mac’s John McVie lists Raymond Chandler’s old house for $3M

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The airy Brentwood home was built in 1927

Back in the early 1940s, fresh off the success of classic crime novels The Big Sleep and The Long Goodbye, author Raymond Chandler and his wife, Cissy, shacked up in this very pleasant Spanish-style home in Brentwood.

The sunny two-bedroom, two and a half-bath residence is a far cry from the sleazy nightclubs and criminal hideouts frequented by Chandler’s gritty protagonist, Phillip Marlowe, but perhaps the connection to one of Southern California’s most iconic writers helped it sell for more than $100,000 over its $2.4 million asking price when it was snapped up in 2014.

The buyer? None other than Fleetwood Mac bassist John McVie, as the LA Times reported following the sale.

Parlor open to patio
Bedroom leading to patio
Master bedroom

Just a little under three years later, the musician has put the home back on the market and looks to be hoping for a small profit. It’s now listed for just under $3 million.

The home sits on a 7,440-square-foot lot with lush vegetation and well-landscaped outdoor space. A recently constructed guest house features a glassy, modern design with concrete floors and built-in shelving.

Guest house with glass walls

The main house was constructed in 1927 and includes hardwood floors, wide windows, arched entryways, and a tiled living room fireplace. Bot a bedroom and a tile-floored parlor leads directly out to a large patio with space for outdoor dining.

Patio with outdoor furniture
Outdoor patio space

Other features of the property include a remodeled kitchen, solar panels, and a detached two-car garage.

McVie, meanwhile, may be moving on to a French-inspired residence he purchased earlier this year in the nearby, guard-gated community of Brentwood Circle.

The home is listed by Marcie Hartley of Hilton & Hyland.

Fetching 1920s Spanish in Eagle Rock asks $879k

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Period details abound

In 1927, Eagle Rock got its first high school, a brand-new library, and natural gas lines. Also new to the neighborhood that year was this Spanish-style bungalow on Rockland Avenue just south of Hill Drive.

Nine decades later, the two-bedroom, one-bath residence still retains plenty of old-timey charm, thanks to vintage elements such as a Batchelder tile fireplace, arched windows, coved ceilings, French doors, crystal doorknobs, a clawfoot tub, and built-ins.

Mixed in with the period features are a slew of thoroughly modern ones, including central heat and air, solar panels, flashy new tile, a Viking stove, and a Subzero fridge. The property also has a detached garage that’s been converted into a studio office.

Sited on a 7,000-square-foot lot with mature trees and a pergola-shaded dining area, the property is listed with an asking price of $879,000. Open house is scheduled for 2:00 to 5:00 p.m. Sunday.

Atwater Village bungalow with some funky upgrades asks $819K

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Features include a small loft space and a garage-style door in the living room

This little bungalow in Atwater Village dates back to 1925, but has been recently updated with a host of quirky design features. Most striking is the garage-style rolling door that offers easy access to a pleasant side deck with plenty of room for outdoor dining.

The 1,024-square-foot home includes two bedrooms and one and three quarter bathrooms, along with an open kitchen and living area and a fun loft space accessible via a library ladder in the living room.

Living room with vaulted ceiling
Bedroom with murphy bed

Other interior features include hardwood floors, beamed and vaulted ceilings, a small office space with built-in shelving and desk space, and what appears to be a murphy bed in one of the two (rather cozy) bedrooms.

Living room open to deck

The kitchen has been outfitted with stainless steel appliances and some very outgoing cabinetry.

Bedroom with door open to bathroom
Back patio and garage

Situated on a 4,797-square-foot lot, the property also includes a pergola-shaded outdoor sitting area and a detached garage that’s been converted into a flexible office or den space complete with a half bathroom.

Mt. Washington midcentury with stone fireplace seeks $729K

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… and mirrored tiles

This Mt. Washington residence was built in 1963 and retains that period feel. Its original pastel-peach tiled kitchen helps, as does its stone fireplace with a cantilevered hearth. Mirrored tiles appear in more than one room of the house, really driving home the house’s blast-from-the-past theme.

The house’s two full bathrooms are bright but seem to lack the fun, retro pizazz of the rest of the house, and could probably use an update.

The three-bedroom house also has a lovely dining room that affords a good view out into the rear yard, which holds a deck and is bordered by mature trees.

Mt. Washington’s windy, slim streets often leave little room for cars, but this house is set back from the street by way of an ample driveway—a nice perk when friends come to visit.

Last sold in 2007 for $650,000, the house is now listed for $729,000.

Winsome Highland Park home with original hardwood floors seeks $699K

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The backyard has a brick patio and room for a hammock and fire pit

If you’re looking to wiggle your way into the increasingly desirable enclave of Highland Park, this 1,032-square-foot home, located on the border of Eagle Rock, is quite lovely.

The two-bedroom, two-bathroom is embellished with stylish details, including subway tiles in the bathroom (speaking of the bathroom, we see you, skeleton figurine) and a farmhouse-style kitchen sink, but it also retains its original hardwood floors and moldings from 1909. Also of note is the pretty front door, brick fireplace, and handsome built-in cabinet.

The exterior is equally winsome, with its sage green paint and drought-tolerant but lush landscaping. Out back, you’ll find a brick patio large enough to hold a table, hammock, and fire pit.

The property, which measures 4,013 square feet, last sold three years ago for $462,004. It’s now listed for $699,000.

DTLA’s Merritt Building to become offices and retail

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Built in 1915, its upper floors have been vacant for years

Canadian developer Bonnis Properties is planning to turn a lovely but neglected neoclassical building on Broadway into a space for offices and retail, reports the Downtown News. Work is expected to get underway this month.

Each floor of the nine-story Merritt Building measures between 6,500 and 7,000 square, which is relatively small, says the News, but it “could appeal to startup companies looking for ‘creative’ space.” Ground floor space, about 5,200 square feet of it, plus the building’s basement and mezzanine will be leased out to retailers.

The ground floor of the Merritt had previously been occupied by check cashing businesses and storefronts selling hats and sunglasses—the type of vendors that were once the cornerstones of the Downtown retail landscape but which are slowly disappearing.

Bonnis bought the property at Eighth and Broadway in November, paying $24 million—an amount the Los Angeles Times called “sky-high.” The massive price tag was largely attributed to the building’s position on Broadway, which is seen as a major Downtown hotspot.

Among its neighbors are Ace Hotel and the under-renovation Broadway Trade Center, which will also have office space, as well as a hotel, a food hall, residential space, and a fantastic rooftop.

New apartments are rare in Beverly Hills. New plans would bring 90 units to the neighborhood

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If approved, it would bring 90 units to the neighborhood

Beverly Hills could be getting a new 90-unit apartment project at 9200 Wilshire Boulevard, between Palm and Maple drives. The project, if approved, would be a rare addition to the neighborhood, where for-sale condos are more common.

The project had been approved in 2007 as a 54-unit building with 14,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space. But developer New Pacific LLC wants to modify those plans, offering less retail and a lot more apartments. It needs the city’s approval in order to do so.

The six-story mixed-user would hold mostly one- and two-bedroom units, with some three-bedrooms on the top floor only. Along the ground floor there would be about 5,700 square feet of ground floor commercial space.

The building would also hold 275 underground parking spaces, and a shared pool and rooftop decks for residents.

The project was heard by the Beverly Hills planning commission on Thursday, and though a staff report recommended denying the modifications to the project, a divided commission decided instead to create an ad hoc committee to work with the developers to alter building design elements and reduce the number of total units, Beverly Hills Senior Planner Andre Sahakian tells Curbed.

A timeline for the project has not yet been released.

Right now, there’s a parking lot on the site.

Disneyland’s ‘Star Wars’ expansion revealed in new model

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The 14-acre park addition is set to open in 2019

Disneyland’s Star Wars-themed expansion is still a couple years away from making its debut, but fans of Disney and its vast trove of intellectual property got a sneak peek at the theme park’s latest addition Thursday when the company unveiled a scale model of the new lands at its annual D23 expo in Anaheim.

The 50-foot-long model is the most detailed glimpse that Disney has provided of the secretive park expansion thus far.

Previous announcements about the two new Star Wars lands have revealed that both sections of the park will be set on a planet never seen in the movies, but the model shows that the new territory will include some familiar-looking features.

The bulbous, mushroom-shaped buildings and scrap metal aesthetic (very postmodern) is reminiscent of the set pieces seen in the original trilogy, as well as the more recent films released by Disney.

The Disney Parks blog describes the setting for the new lands as “a remote trading port,” and fittingly, Han Solo’s spaceship, the Millennium Falcon, is docked at the back of the model. It’s not clear what the new rides will look like, but one promises to let visitors “take the controls” of the famous space vessel.

Most of all, the model shows that the 14-acre expansion will make good use of its allotted space, with plenty of open-air corridors to explore, a central courtyard with some nicely landscaped islands of vegetation, and intriguing buildings that will no doubt be filled with Disney-branded merchandise.

Come to think of it, with no ride track in sight, it actually looks a bit like a Rick Caruso project in Mos Eisley.

The park expansion is set to open in 2019.

Delightful little Spanish bungalow in Pasadena asks $579K

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Features include hardwood floors and a white brick living room fireplace

At 864 square feet, this lovely two-bedroom, one bathroom bungalow in Pasadena is by no means enormous, but boasts plenty of attractive features, including hardwood floors and a white brick living room fireplace.

The Spanish-style residence was built in 1924 and includes an elegant front porch with arched entryways. The house sits on a nearly 5,000-square-foot lot with a long driveway and a detached garage that has been converted into an office/studio space.

Living room fireplace
Dining area in front of window
Living room with hardwood floors

The front yard has been landscaped with drought-tolerant plants, while the backyard includes a brick patio, bits of garden space, and a pergola-shaded deck.

Small bedroom

Inside, the home has wide windows, a spacious kitchen with outdoor access and a breakfast nook, and an open kitchen and dining area.

Backyard with brick patio
Front patio
Backyard with view of deck

Records show the house last sold in 2012 for $385,000. It’s now asking $579,000.

Report: Median income earners in LA can afford less than 7 percent of homes on the market

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In 2012, about 23 percent of homes on the market were affordable

Los Angeles is frequently ranked as one of the most unaffordable cities in the United States, and with home prices reaching record levels, it’s not hard to see why. But just how difficult is it for an average Angeleno to buy in the LA area?

A new report from real estate website Redfin suggests it’s pretty hard, with just 6.6 percent of homes listed in the greater LA region considered affordable to residents making the median income (just under $61,000, according to numbers gathered from the U.S. Census Bureau).

Only two other metro areas analyzed by Redfin—San Diego and Denver—had a lower percentage of homes affordable to residents earning the median income.

The study defines affordable homes as those that would require monthly mortgage payments that amount to under 30 percent of a buyer’s income, assuming a 20 percent down payment and 3.4 percent interest rate on the loan. By that calculation, any home above $230,000 would be a stretch for median-income residents.

One of the most alarming things about the study is that the amount of homes considered affordable to typical Angelenos appears to have dropped significantly in the past four years.

It finds that in 2012, around 23 percent of homes on the market were affordable. Since then, despite the fact that the number of overall listings on the market has risen, the share of those affordable to median earners is down more than 70 percent.

The reason? Despite significant gains in home values, wages in the LA area have barely budged since 2012, rising less than half a percent, according to the Census numbers analyzed by Redfin.

It’s harder for some residents than it is for others. According to the report, black residents can afford just over 1 percent of homes on the market in the LA area, as their median wages have declined to under $42,000 since 2012. Median Latino and Hispanic buyers can afford 2.2 percent.

Given that recent Census numbers indicate a rise in the percentage of LA area homeowners in the past two years, it seems that buyers are pushing ahead in a very competitive market. But with prices climbing higher, it remains to be seen how long that trend can continue.

‘Lost LA’ takes a look at Descanso Gardens

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A new episode explores how the history of the garden parallels the history of LA

KCET’s Lost LA explores the history of some of the city’s most important features, both existing and vanished. In a special program airing next week, the show, hosted by historian Nathan Masters, delves into the history of one of SoCal’s favorite public gardens, the 160-acre Descanso Gardens.

Like Huntington Gardens in San Marino, Descanso Gardens was once a lush, private estate, home to newspaper mogul E. Manchester Boddy, the owner of the Los Angeles Daily News. Boddy started inviting visitors onto his property when, after a massive die-off of his beloved flora, he needed a way to preserve the garden while also bringing in revenue to maintain it.

The history of the garden is, in many ways, the history of so much more, the program demonstrates.

A photo of a bridge and weeping-willow-type tree inside Descanso Gardens. Courtesy of KCET
Exploring the 160-acre gardens “can be a walk through time,” says Descanso’s executive director.

In going back over the origins of the garden and how it developed, the program explores the numerous ways that the garden reflects the social, political, and cultural evolution of Los Angeles, as evidenced by a story detailing how the forced Japanese internment during World War II led to a major acquisition of the garden’s famed camelias.

“A visit to Descanso is like a visit to greater Los Angeles … [and] a walk through Descanso can be a walk through time,” Descanso Gardens executive director David Brown says in the episode (we got a sneak peek).

The program also explores how Descanso is in some ways a microcosm of one of the major challenges facing the present and future LA: water.

The nearly one-hour special on the garden airs throughout Southern California at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday on KCET.