Model House 1

Over the Top in Trousdale

Model House 1

Beverly Hills, California 90210, United States

Created By: Friends Of Residential Treasures: Los Angeles



Rex Lotery

Original Client:

Frederick “Fred” and Janet de Cordova

Why is it on the Trail?

This is one of five model homes erected by the Trousdale Construction Co. in 1965 in an effort to boost sales on the upper reaches of the development. There were to be ten houses, two each by five architects: A. Quincy Jones, William R. Stephenson, Richard Dorman, Rex Lotery and Edward Fickett. In the end, only five houses were built—two by Jones, two by Lotery and one by Stephenson.

These days, it’s a little hard to see past the gate and hedges, but if you step back to the other side of the street, it might be easier.


The other four model homes are nearby and three of them still look like they did in 1965. Model Home no. 5 (605 Clinton Place, by A.Q. Jones) is around/ on the corner of Carla Ridge. Model House 2 (1720 Carla Ridge, also by Jones) was the home of music producer Giorgio Moroder for thirty years, and it was he who gave it its current white “ice palace” makeover. Next door, at 1700 Carla Ridge, Model House 3 is another Rex Lotery. Model House 4, by William Stephenson, has sadly been remuddled/ruinovated, though its original layout and floor plan remain largely intact.


Silent Eyes (unreleased version from “Shampoo”) by Paul Simon

Year Built


Materials Employed

Wood, stucco, glass, and concrete.


$86,000 structure + $3,000 pool

Architectural Style

Mid-century Modern with Usonian elements

Mid-century Modernism emerged from the International Style and became popular in the United States beginning in the mid-1940s, with Los Angeles being home to many of its most iconic structures. The style was characterized by an emphasis on minimalism, clean lines, flat planes and the use of simple geometries. New construction methods allowed for the creation of open floor plans and uninterrupted interiors, with large windows further expanding the space by blurring the boundary between inside and outside.

The post and beam building method has roots in Japanese architecture of the 16th century. It relies on vertical posts to support horizontal beams, the beams and posts joined by metal fasteners, creating a simple, grid-like frame.

The post and beam method lends itself to the Mid-century Modern design language. Because the frame carries the structure’s weight, interior load- bearing walls are not necessary, which allows for dramatically open interior spaces and walls seemingly made of glass, with sliding glass doors creating a seamless indoor/outdoor flow.

With fewer structural requirements than buildings using other construction methods, post and beam structures could be erected relatively quickly and inexpensively, giving affordable residences a look of cutting-edge design and understated luxury.


When Frank Lloyd Wright arrived in Los Angeles in 1917, he began working in what he called his “textile block” or California Romanza style, inspired by Romanesque and pre-Columbian design. However, many of his earlier works in the Midwest were built in his “Usonian” style, though the Malcolm Willey

house of 1935 is often considered the first officially in this style. The name USONIA was an acronym of “United States Of North America” and the style was Wright’s attempt at creating a new national vernacular of accessible, affordable homes. Usonian houses were compact (often without a garage) and made of inexpensive materials such as brick and wood. The designs were intended to offer a “sense of spaciousness and vista” that would “liberate the people living in the house.” Over the course of his career, Wright built hundreds of these Usonian homes all over the country. The style is often considered to be a philosophical precursor to Midcentury Modern design.


- Rex Lotery is responsible for another model home on Carla Ridge, at 1700, which was part of the Trousdale Quintet. He also designed what later became Elvis and Priscilla Presley’s house, built in 1958 at 1174 Hillcrest Drive.

- The de Cordova House, at 1875 Carla Ridge, was unexpectedly immortalized in a fascinating turn of events. After Janet de Cordova’s husband, Fred, passed away, and her health began to decline, she moved with her housekeeper of 40 years, Gracie Covarrubias, to Gracie’s hometown of San Luis Potosí, Mexico—Gracie had been building a house there for her retirement, and invited Janet to join her. When Janet arrived at the San Luis Potosí house, she was surprised to find “a modernist box with double- height rooms and walls of glass... very similar, really based on the Carla Ridge house.” (Tyrnauer) Although Janet spent most of her time in bed, she loved to monitor people’s movements in the house. Her bedroom had “windows overlooking the double-story living room, so she could see and hear everything going on in the house” (Tyrnauer).


Model Home no. 1 was part of the Trousdale Quintet, a series of five model homes built “to help prospective buyers envision the lifestyles available to the Trousdale Estates resident.” Five architects were originally chosen to design ten houses—Rex Lotery, Richard Dorman, William Stephenson, Edward Fickett and A. Quincy Jones—but a recession in 1964 caused developers to narrow the scope to five houses.

The marketing brochure for the Trousdale Quintet, which was published in partnership with The Assistance League of Southern California, capitalized on the houses’ modern designs and unique blend of privacy and connection to the outdoors, as well as to their expansive views of Beverly Hills, the Los Angeles skyline, and the ocean. The houses were priced at $250,000 each, and were located on the last sites available in the development.

Lotery’s scheme for the three-bedroom, four-bathroom Model House 1 includes split levels and intersecting volumes. A large central space connects the double-height living room, the formal dining room, and a sunken lounge with fireplace to the second-story master bedroom cantilevered above. Redwood columns visible from the exterior emphasize height, a rare luxury in Trousdale Estates, where strict height regulations typically limited houses to a single story.


Rex Lotery was considered one of the few architects in Southern California who combined architecture, urban design and consensus planning in a single practice. Throughout his portfolio, he demonstrated expertise for environmentally conscious and socio-politically aware design, helping to establish his reputation as a forward-thinking luminary.

Lotery was born outside London, England, on August 19, 1930, and moved with his family to New York City in 1939, later settling in Scarsdale, New York. He received a Bachelor of Architecture from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, in 1952.

Lotery worked for William Steenson from 1953 to 1954, and for Barienbrock and Murry from 1954 to 1955, before starting his own architecture firm, Rex Lotery Architect, in Los Angeles, in 1956. He practiced on his own until 1968, when he helped launch Kahn, Kappe & Lotery, which became Kahn, Kappe, Lotery, Bocatto Architects/Planners in 1973.

From 1984 to 1992, Lotery served as president of Urban Innovations Group at UCLA, where he mentored emerging architects. He was also president of the Southern California Chapter of the AIA in 1973, and, later, a member of the AIA’s national board of directors.

Lotery married Susan Brenda Schacker in 1953 and they had three children together. Susan died on June 2, 1978, in Los Angeles. Their son, Richard, died the same year, on November 5, from injuries sustained in an automobile accident in Santa Cruz. Lotery married Francine R. Max on October 2, 1979, and their son, Kevin, was born in 1982.

Rex Lotery designed homes throughout Southern California, including Beverly Hills, Woodland Hills, Montecito and San Diego. He is also known for his Central Business District Master Plan in Inglewood, Charmless Regional Park Master Plan, and the Downtown Urban Improvement Program in Santa Ana, along with many long range master plans for high schools and universities. One of his best known works is the 5,400-square-foot modern- meets-Hollywood-Regency residence at 1174 Hillcrest Drive, which was later re-worked and became the home of Elvis and Priscilla Presley from 1967 to 1973.

Lotery died on January 31, 2007 in Los Angeles. He is on the list of Master Architects of Beverly Hills, which are defined as “architects of recognized greatness in the field of architecture [as well as] known designers, builders, landscape architects, engineers, and developers who have played an active role in the development of the architectural heritage of Beverly Hills.”


Lotery was known for his solution to the “hillside-site problem—one that weds house to lot without desecrating the terrain into a ‘step on a mountain.’” This expertise made him an ideal candidate for building on Trousdale Estates’ sloping sites, and the downhill terrain of the model home at 1875 Carla Ridge, the highest up of the Trousdale Quintet, was no exception.

Several characteristics of Model House 1 go beyond Mid-century Modern’s horizontality, drawing from Frank Lloyd Wright’s Usonian design idiom. These details appear in the home’s airy, naturally lit interior, flat roof. cantilevered volumes, warm and locally-sourced materials such as battened wood siding, clerestory window placements, and the harmony between interior and exterior spaces. However, some may note a paradox: while Wright’s vision for his Usonian designs was to make thoughtful design and cost-effective construction accessible to America’s middle class, the prestigious Trousdale Estates were marketed to the ultra-wealthy, who typically spared no expense.



David, Mark. “Charlie Puth Lists Hollywood Hills Home (Exclusive).” DIRT, 5 Aug. 2019.

“Rex Lotery Obituary.” Los Angeles Times, Feb. 6, 2007.

Tyrnauer, Matt. “Once Upon A Time in Beverly Hills,” Vanity Fair, Feb. 16, 2011.


Frederick “Fred” and Janet de Cordova (1965 - 2002), Matthew Rolston (2010 - 2017),

Charlie Puth (2017 - present) Frederick “Fred” and Janet de Cordova

Fred de Cordova was a stage, film and television director and producer best known for producing The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson. He was born Frederick Timmins de Cordova in New York City on October 27, 1910, to Margaret and George de Cordova, who worked in the theater business. He received a degree in liberal arts from Northwestern University in 1931, and a law degree from Harvard University in 1933.

De Cordova began his career by directing stage shows for the Shubert Theater organization, where he remained for ten years. He then went on to direct multiple films, including Bedtime for Bonzo (1951), starring future President Ronald Reagan playing opposite a chimpanzee. His last film was Frankie and Johnny (1966), starring Elvis Presley. He began directing for television in 1950, and signed on as producer of The Tonight Show in 1970, becoming executive producer four years later. He won five Emmy Awards for his work on the show.

De Cordova and Janet Thomas, a former actor and model, married in 1963. Janet had moved to Los Angeles from Kentucky in the early 1940s and secured herself a contract at Paramount. Though she never made a film, she was put on the map by gossip columnist Hedda Hopper, who called her “Hollywood’s most beautiful blonde.” She was married four times to three different men before meeting Fred de Cordova, with whom she would remain for 38 years.

Remembered by many as a legendary hostess, Mrs. de Cordova made a name for herself as “the Empress of Trousdale,” who “woke to breakfast in bed every morning while ostrich-feather curtains billowed decadently at her mitered window wall.” (Price) After her husband’s death in 2001, she remained in their house on Carla Ridge for a time, but sold it the following year, moving to Le Parc, a condominium complex in nearby Century City, where she lived with her longtime housekeeper, Gracie Covarrubias. She and Covarrubias eventually moved to Covarrubias’s hometown of San Luis Potosí, Mexico, in a house modeled after their Trousdale Estates home. Janet de Cordova passed away on September 1, 2009.


Matthew Rolston

Matthew Rolston is a photographer and creative director. He grew up in Los Angeles’s Hancock Park neighborhood, and studied drawing, painting, photography and filmmaking at the Chouinard Art Institute, Otis College of Art and Design, the San Francisco Art Institute, and ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena.

In 1977, while still a student at ArtCenter, Rolston was “discovered” by Andy Warhol, who commissioned him to take portraits for Interview magazine, kickstarting his career. Along with his friend Herb Ritts, Rolston became part of an influential group of photographers (also including Bruce Weber, Annie Leibovitz and Steven Meisel) who emerged in the 1980s and shot for all the major American fashion and culture magazines. Rolston’s photographs have been published in Vanity Fair, Vogue, W, Harper’s Bazaar and the New York Times, and he has shot over 100 Rolling Stone covers.

Since 2015, Rolston has been an adjunct professor and curricular advisor in ArtCenter College’s undergraduate and graduate film departments, where he still lectures. His photographs have been exhibited worldwide and are part of the permanent collections of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and of the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., among others.


Charlie Puth

Charlie Puth is a 31-year-old singer, songwriter and music producer from Rumson, New Jersey. He was featured on the single “See You Again” by Wiz Khalifa, which peaked at number one on the US Billboard Hot 100 for twelve non-consecutive weeks. Originally commissioned for the soundtrack of the 2015 film Furious 7, as a tribute to the late actor Paul Walker, the track earned Puth a Golden Globe Award nomination and three Grammy Awards nominations. Puth continues to record music and had released three studio albums as of February 2023.


“Fred once told a reporter he liked living in Trousdale because it was so social, and he could beat a hasty retreat if parties across the street at legendary super-agent Irving “Swifty” Lazar’s home turned into staring contests—Lazar was famously confrontational, sparing neither close friends nor family...even royalty.” (Price).

“When we arrived the mammoth sized doors opened automatically, I thought. Actually, a butler had been waiting for us. The house has a foyer that’s about the size of the Metropolitan Museum’s lobby... Janet, the king’s wife, is a Lana Turner type... She and old Fred have separate bedrooms and talk openly about leaving notes under each other’s doors. He said, ‘Janet buzzed me to see if

I was watching the Cavett show.’ They have three permanent servants and had hired a fourth for the festivities. There were tons of flowers, all perfect, and superb hors d’oeuvres. Tartar steak came from Chasen’s, and every time someone dug into the mold it disappeared and came back perfect again. They also served little salmon things with capers and onions—all one size, like they took one ring and threw the rest of the onion away for kicks.” — Bob Dolce, talent coordinator for The Tonight Show. (Tyrnauer)

From the sales brochure: “An exposed aggregate concrete wall serves as the street side of this home and also screens the breakfast patio for privacy. This type of concrete is used in other parts of the house for sound structure as well as attractive appearance. Both upper-floor bedrooms are supported by exposed concrete columns. The master bathroom is cantilevered from a column which also serves as a back-up wall for the conversation room fireplace. One of the unusual features of the home, the conversation room is open on three sides except for the exposed aggregate concrete supports. Another unusual feature is the stairway which is suspended to give the appearance of being free-standing. Garden, pool area and courtyards are constructed in various levels to reflect the feeling of the house and create a warm, intimate atmosphere. Portions of the rear patios are covered by the upper level of the home. The den and dining room open into their own gardens.” (Price)


Fred de Cordova on the Late Show with David Letterman, November 1, 1984.

Fred de Cordova leaves the set of The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson.


July 7, 1964

A permit is filed by architect Rex Lotery to build a single family model home at 1875 Carla Ridge for Trousdale Construction Co.


Fred and Janet de Cordova purchase the home on Carla Ridge, moving from a duplex on Blackburn Avenue where they had been living with Fred’s mother.

December 23, 1985

A permit is filed to repair the concrete driveway.


After Fred de Cordova’s death, his widow puts the home on the market, selling it for approximately $2 million.


The house undergoes a renovation and remodeling by Steven Shortridge, who adds off-white gray-flecked terrazzo in the lower hall and master bathroom, resurfaces and re-landscapes the swimming pool, and adds soft Douglas Fir detailing throughout.


Callas Architects

This point of interest is part of the tour: Over the Top in Trousdale


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