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Home of the Week

June 22, 2003|Ruth Ryon | Times Staff Writer

Xorin Balbes must love Old Hollywood, judging from his redo of the Cedars, a 1926 Los Feliz villa.

The Cedars had been used for decades as a university professor's private book repository. Occasionally, a room or two would be rented out. The house fell into disuse and decay.

Then came Balbes, an L.A.-based designer and developer. After completing the restoration of Lloyd Wright's 1926 Sowden House in the same neighborhood, Balbes took on the Cedars about a year ago.

Never mind that no one can prove that Norma Talmadge, the silent-screen star, lived there or that the villa was a copy of a duke's in Spain or Italy. Like the legend of Talmadge, the Cedars exudes the glamour of Hollywood's golden age, now that Balbes has put his stamp on it. No more musty smell or dingy rooms; no downstairs ceiling seemingly ready to collapse in a few places.

Balbes not only refurbished the house, but he turned it into a showplace worthy of illustrious visitors, some of whom came calling when Balbes recently opened the villa to a fund-raiser for Martin Scorsese's Film Foundation and a pre-Oscar party to raise funds for the United Nations Foundation and Amnesty International.

About this house: Even as it deteriorated, the walled and gated villa was an impressive sight. With its 28-foot-tall foyer, Rococo dome fresco ceiling, gold-leaf-decorated ballroom, adjacent solarium and walk-in fireplaces guarded by statues resembling the MGM lion, the house recalls a former era. Now it's as Old Hollywood might have dreamed of seeing it, with modern conveniences, chandeliers and outside pools and fountains.

The buyer may apply for a tax deduction by listing the house on the National Register of Historic Places, having the home appraised and donating a conservation/facade easement to a qualifying preservation organization such as the Los Angeles Conservancy.

Asking price: $6,999,000

Size: There are six bedrooms and 6.5 bathrooms in about 10,000 square feet. The house is on a half-acre knoll.

Features: The villa has a detached guesthouse, a wine cellar, sweeping city views, a rooftop terrace designed for entertaining and a motor court behind a wrought-iron gate. There are stained-glass windows, hand-painted ceilings, arched doorways and distressed floors. There are six fireplaces, a media room and a maid's quarters.

Where: Los Feliz

Listing agent: Joseph Babajian, Prudential John Aaroe in Beverly Hills, (310) 248-6400, and Francis R. Gibbons, Prudential John Aaroe in Los Feliz, (323) 671-1202.

To submit a candidate for Home of the Week, please send color interior and exterior photos (copies only; we cannot return the pictures) and a brief description of the house, including what makes the property unusual, to Ruth Ryon, Real Estate Section, Los Angeles Times, 202 W. 1st St., Los Angeles, CA 90012; or e-mail homeoftheweek@latimes.com.

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