What would you do if you had to replace this wall?

zagyzebraAugust 25, 2013

I have this Hollywood fairytale castle:

The home was burned in a serious candle fire when it was rented a few years back. This wall still stands, but due to extreme structural damage on the inside of the house, it will have to come down. We're keeping the gothic windows and turrets, and essentially, the house will be rebuilt in the same way. But the wall can never be the same, because it is concrete that was hand etched, chiseled and tinted to replicate stone by set designers and concrete masons back in the late 1920s. I am quite torn about what to replace it with. Driving around my neighborhood, there are all sorts of houses with turrets, but most of them look like some odd builder castle concepts of "cultured" stone and stucco that just leave me thinking, "Yuck." I'd rather tear this one down and build a brand new sleek modern home than have one of those stucco/stone combo wannabe castles. Several architects I've talked to have said that mixing stucco and stone would result in a hodgepodge-ish look that is outdated. On the other hand, compared to what I currently have, plain stucco would be boring. Another architect said that if I don't attempt to replicate the hand-hewn stone facade, I will lose the "monolithic" castle feeling. It will simply become like every other French Normandy type house.

This week I have meetings with stone artisans as well as set designers who are experts at faux exteriors meeting me at the house. Before I do those meetings, I thought I would toss this photo out to the GardenWeb hive to see if anyone has an inspiring idea. I was thinking of faded rust-colored stucco between the turrets with creeping fig starting to crawl up the wall. This would be anchored by the two turrets (and perhaps the chimney as well), which would be covered in hand-set stones; some of the rocks would also have rust colored mineral deposits the same color as the stucco wall. However, in the end, I'm not sure if this wouldn't be too busy and, like the architects said, too much of a hodgepodge. Plain stucco seems to be the contemporary standard. And yet, that just leaves me flat. Boring. Any inspiring thoughts from you designer types out there?

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I wish I had a suggestion for you, but I'm fascinated by your house! Can you share a little of its history, and what it looked like on the interior before the fire? (I'm so sorry about that; you must have been heartsick.) I'm assuming that this picture is pre-fire? It's really something.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2013 at 1:40PM
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Vjrnts - This picture is pre-fire. And yes, I was heartsick. I'm trying not to be now, but at 80+ years old, I guess it is time to build a new one. I should let you know that the exterior is still standing and perfectly intact. It's just there is so much structural damage inside that this wall will have to come down. I know it will never look like the original, but we're attempting to infuse the new one with age.

The history is this: it was one of the first homes up in the Lookout Mtn Park section of Laurel Canyon. It was built to replicate the Frankenstein castle in the original black and white move. The black and white Snow White and the Seven Dwarves was partially shot in the caves in the back yard. I bought it from the original owner's son, and we intend it pass the property onto our son as well. It's really kind of funky by today's building standards. But it was much loved and has been lived in by a number of stellar talents.

Here's a pic of the living room:

    Bookmark   August 25, 2013 at 1:49PM
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I am the eternal, wistful optimist, asking if you're SURE it has to come down? Is there no way to brace it and rebuild supports? (You can tell I'm not in construction.) I'm sure you have investigated everything. I just hate accepting bad news.

I wish I could help. It's a beautiful, beautiful house.

Can the original stone be reused?

    Bookmark   August 25, 2013 at 4:00PM
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But the wall can never be the same, because it is concrete that was hand etched, chiseled and tinted to replicate stone by set designers and concrete masons back in the late 1920s.

There are companies that specialize in making fake rock (for zoos, museums, etc.) that could probably duplicate it or come really close. They would make latex molds of the old rock wall and then emboss the surface of the new wall with the molds and tint it with stucco colors in spray bottles and with sponges.

Your set designer friends probably could find them ... I know one company that works out of Tucson, and did the AZ Science Center, various hotel landscapes and some work at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. But I forgot their name.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2013 at 4:35PM
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Cemrock in Tucson might be able to do it.

Larson Company in Tucson (merged with "man Made wonders" of Ohio) might be able to do it. http://www.larson-usa.com

Or just one heck of a good latex appliance maker from a studio who wants to put a house on the resume.


Would it be possible to build a steel frame inside the wall to bear the weight of the wall and the house structure and roof, and bolt the wall to it, just as a facade? They did it to the White House because it was falling apart. Look up pictures of the "Truman Restoration"

This post was edited by lazygardens on Sun, Aug 25, 13 at 16:49

    Bookmark   August 25, 2013 at 4:45PM
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I've got an outdoor faux specialist coming up to the house this week. What I'm wondering is, if you were me, would you attempt to replicate the old faux stone, or do a combo of "aged stucco" and real stone, maybe with some creeping fig?

    Bookmark   August 25, 2013 at 7:30PM
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I think it is hard to say how much of a hodgepodge it would look without seeing the rest of the house. The new wall needs to blend into the rest of the house or it will look like a hodgepodge.

And do you have a picture of what you are proposing?

    Bookmark   August 25, 2013 at 9:38PM
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Dek - The picture is in my mind. Unfortunately, I don't know how to use Photoshop, or I would mock something up in Photoshop. I'm thinking of actually coloring and cutting and pasting textures on a sketch of the house this week, just to get it out of my head and onto paper.

The rest of the house looks pretty similar -- turrets and faux stone. All the walls will come down, because, no matter what I do, it WILL be a hodgepodge if I just re-do one wall and not all of them.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2013 at 9:48PM
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I KNEW this house looked familiar!

Here is a link that might be useful: Kat von D's fire.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2013 at 3:15PM
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Hartwood - Not to be snarky, but how exactly would links to Kat von D's fire be helpful in helping me determine what to do with this wall? I know all about Ms. Drachenberg. She was my tenant during the time of the non-electrical fire. have owned this home for more than 20 years. And, for the record, I never authorized her to use my house on her tv show.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2013 at 10:19AM
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zagyzebra, it sounds like you kind of want to replace the wall with stucco and stone instead of rebuilding it the same way. I think you should do what you want; it's your house! You should get an architect in to make a rendering so that you can see if you really want it. I think you'll need an architect anyway, for the plans.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2013 at 12:02PM
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