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Wallace Neff‘s most important client? It wasn’t a star.

In 1927, the architect known as the father of the “California style” that defined Southern California’s Golden Age designed a home for his parents in the heart of Pasadena. The gemlike villa that helped launch his reputation still glows today.See the stunning property video.


The Edwin D. Neff House is one of the last grand family mansions on Pasadena’s Millionaires’ Row. Before being purchased by its current owner, iconic LA weathercaster Johnny Mountain, it had been in the Neff family for three generations.


The villa at 555 South Orange Grove Avenue has been listed by Carrie Benuska at $3,749,000. The site Neff chose was across the street from the historic Valley Hunt Club, whose early members founded the Tournament of Roses Parade. The two still face each other today.


A member of Southern California aristocracy, heir to one of the founders of Rand McNally, Wallace Neff is widely credited with creating the iconic Mediterranean/Spanish-influenced “California style.” He worked with a dazzling list of celebrities and tycoons, including three Marx Brothers, Cary Grant, Louis B. Mayer, Darryl Zanuck and Charlie Chaplin. His residential works included the Mary Pickford/Douglas Fairbanks Pickfair Estate, the Singer and Gillette mansions, the Gates Residence, Libby Ranch in Ojai, and many more. Grand but not pretentious, his estates embody the epitome of elegant yet easy Southern California style. But for this project, the architect took on a different challenge: creating a midsize house in a sea of massive estates. Despite its “mere” 5,162 square feet, Neff beautifully incorporated the elements of his grandest houses: there is no mistaking it’s a villa.


The six-bedroom, four-bath home embodies the Italian Period Revival style — combining elements of Tuscan country villas with more formal Renaissance touches. The symmetrical exterior is centered by a second floor loggia from which the family enjoyed watching the Rose Parade each year. Exceptional ironwork accents the balconies and windows. A large rear loggia, dominated by Tuscan columns, a wood-beamed ceiling and a terra cotta floor, invites visitors beyond to the pool area, garden and shady pool pavilion beyond.


Beneath a cast stone architrave emblazoned with the Neff family crest, a magnificent mahogany door crafted by master furniture maker George Hunt opens to a soaring oval entry floored in black and white marble. A stunning spiral staircase with lavish ironwork swirls up to a dramatic ceiling encircled by multiple arches. The focal point in the nearby living room is a massive baronial fireplace with an ebonized mahogany mantle, also crafted by Hunt. Broad arched windows and doorways enhance this room and the formal dining room. The adjoining library, paneled in Philippine mahogany, houses an elevator to the second floor. The large kitchen features a vast center island, butler’s pantry and open family area.


Neff’s masterpieces have steadily continued to win aficionados, including Reese Witherspoon, Madonna, Barbra Streisand, Rupert Murdoch and Diane Keaton to name a few. Now this early Neff treasure with a special story is ready for its own next devotee.

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