Three years ago, William Tishman began searching for a house in Hancock Park that he could adapt to his bon vivant life style.
"I wanted a small, in-town estate--completely private, secure and conducive to gracious living and entertainment," he said.
The house that caught his eye was a two-story Spanish Colonial Revival at 1st Street and Highland Avenue, not unlike others in that neighborhood that were built in the 1930s.
Tishman, who was then living in Beverly Hills, drove around the block for a second look, parked across the street and sketched his remodel concept in minutes, simply guessing at what the actual floor plan might be. The next day he bought the property.
Not everyone can afford $350,000 to remodel a house in addition to a purchase price of $325,000. But what Tishman accomplished for that sum suggests a number of ingenious ways to solve problems of space, safety and privacy. It took him seven months to complete the project.
Actually, $350,000 is a conservative figure for Tishman's remodel project. It does not include fees for the architect, builder or interior designer, since Tishman served as all three.
A member of the noted Tishman construction family, he was the on-site project manager for the landmark Tishman structures on Wilshire Boulevard before branching out on his own as a general contractor, interior designer and consultant.
Those who know William Tishman are not surprised by the inventive approach and meticulous attention that went into the remodeling of his home. A restorer of antique cars by avocation, he spent the last 11 years creating and building an elegant vintage-style automobile from scratch that has won acclaim in international publications as "the world's most fabulous car."
"I love a challenge. When faced with solving any problem, I ask myself a simple question: What's the successful alternative," Tishman said.
"For the house to satisfy my needs, the only successful alternative was to surround it with high walls in the Spanish tradition of courtyard estates. Those were built first to provide security during the remodel period, so no one could tell what was going on inside.
"What is this strange house this man is building, the neighbors wondered. Finally, for those who had shown an interest, I held an open house so they could satisfy their curiosity."
Originally 3,760 square feet, the structure has been enlarged to 5,100 square feet to include a spacious master suite with access to the spa area and main courtyard, and separate his and her dressing rooms and bath that formerly were the maid's quarters.
"Having a master suite on the ground floor is practical because it means you can remain in the home when you're older," he said. The kitchen of the three-bedroom, two-bath house was totally remodeled and includes a pantry and walk-in silver, china and linen storage room.
Tishman built an additional 1,354 square feet of inner courtyards, which he prefers to call "garden rooms," explaining that they are neither patios nor courtyards in the usual sense. "They are four-walled spaces open at the top and defined for interest.
"In design, an open field is meaningless. To define the open ceiling spaces we used a grid of open beams."
Tishman re-created the design features of the original beams in the house, particularly the supporting corbel shapes, and used them on new beams to achieve "an essence of unity."
All beams were stripped to the natural wood and glazed to match. "The criteria of excellence in remodeling is not to know where the remodeling took place," he said.
High Walls Legal
Tishman is frequently asked whether his high exterior walls are legal.
"Most exterior decorative walls can't be more than eight feet," he said. "But if the wall is an extension of the lines of the structure, it can be as tall as the roof of the house," he explained.
"For this house, 12- and 15-foot walls were sufficient to give privacy from a two-story adjacent property, but not too tall to obscure maximum sunlight."
Tishman borrowed extensively from commercial building technology to enhance the quality of his home and opted for stage soundproofing that is more dense, more effective and more costly.
Properties on Highland Avenue, Tishman observed, are on a main traffic route leading from Wilshire Boulevard to Hollywood, so most exterior walls in his house were also faced with 3/4-inch plywood for added sound insulation, then finished with smooth-troweled stucco.
All windows facing the streets are double-glazed and where windows are not required for ventilation, Tishman has installed a separate solid 1/2-inch piece of glass for added sound insulation.
Mirrors have been used extensively to visually increase the dimension of space but Tishman makes a distinction between the types of mirrors used.