Yolanda gets a tour of the fabled old Harvey Mudd Estate

EDIT: (Listen kids, Yolanda did not mean to offend or hurt the feelings of anyone with the opinions presented in this post. It was solely intended for good fun so in the spirit of keeping things that way for everyone, we have removed the small section that a few of y’all found objectionable.)

Yolanda thought we’d do something a wee bit different today. Instead of talking about some random person’s new mega-mansion from the outside looking in, we think it might be a fun idea to hear all about a shockingly expensive house from a buyer’s point of view. Luckily, your generous clicks and the continued growth of this silly little blog has now enabled us to do just that.

Occasionally, you see, we get contacted by the subject of one or another of our stories. The reason these folks reach out to your gurl is — frequently — because they would like some particular portion of our story redacted or perhaps a certain photo removed. Usually people are nice enough, although Yolanda has had annoying experiences with one or two douchewads, too. Y’all know who you are, so we won’t put you on blast. At least not this time.

Yolanda has also been contacted by a small handful of homeowners who share our property passion and enjoy being featured on here. A couple of them we’ve become friends with outside of this blog. No lie.

Anyway, if you’re a longtime follower you may (or may not recall) that in summer 2016, Yolanda discussed a rather famous Beverly Hills house called the “Harvey Mudd Estate”. That property sold in a quiet off-market deal that July (2016) for a wallet-busting $14,574,000, so naturally we wrote about the transaction and gave a brief overview of the home’s history.

The Harvey Mudd estate — as it appeared prior to 2016

Almost immediately after we published the tale, Yolanda was contacted by the new homeowner, who said he loved our blog and the detail we laced into our stories!

Awww. He must’ve been drinking, right? But we will take a compliment any way we get it, sincere or not. We got no appreciation from our third ex-husband Randall, ever. That old bastard thought of women as mere appliances to do his bidding. But he found out the hard way that the only time Yolanda goes to the kitchen to make a sandwich for a man is on our own terms! You hear, Randy?!

But we digress. In addition to his (probably) liquor-influenced blog love, the new homeowner invited us to come over and take a look at the house! What? No he didn’t! Oh yes he did! Yolanda could’ve fainted.

Well, not so fast. New homeowner told us that he and the missus were doing some renovations and making a few cosmetic changes — nothing major — to correct some of the shoddy work previous owners had performed. It would only take a couple months, and we could come visit once he’d moved in.

Two, three, four months passed. Yolanda thought new homeowner must’ve been teasing us. But then, out of the blue, he reached out again. Construction was delayed, said he, but we should be in by the end of the year. Again, months passed. Another delay, new homeowner explained. Tick tock. More months. Rinse and repeat. Yolanda cynically assumed we were being strung along. The nerve of that guy, we thought. But then, just days ago, new homeowner hit us up once more. Heaven’s floodgates had opened! After 1.5 years, the “cosmetic refresh” (which eventually morphed into a full renovation) was complete.

In the spirit of keeping this blog interesting, Yolanda thought y’all might like to see some photos of what is truly an exquisite piece of LA history, flaws and all. Keep in mind that when we visited the house, we had no idea that we would have time for pictures. We assumed our tour would take about 15-20 minutes, tops, and then our uncouth self would be quickly ushered outside the gates and sent packin’.

Completely unexpectedly, Yolanda ended up exploring the estate and chatting with Mr. and Mrs. Smith — that is what we will call the married homeowners — for more than 2.5 hours. When we were finally done, we couldn’t believe that the whole afternoon had escaped us. Mr. and Mrs. Smith are two of the nicest folks we’ve ever met, and Yolanda does not believe in that false compliment bullshit. We hit it off right away — they have the same temperament/sense of humor as Yolanda — and they very generously invited us to explore every nook and cranny of their massive mansion and take all the photos our heart desired. Nothing was off-limits.

What a pity that Yolanda had only brought her baby blue flip phone. No worries, said Mr. Smith. Come back over when we’ve got some new furniture and you can take some pro-style pics with a real camera. (Yep, he’s a very nice guy to invite some random ass blogger to traipse all over his pad not once but twice).

Mr. and Mrs. Smith made only one request of us: that we please do not publish their names. The couple are very successful self-made entrepreneurs, you see, and they have global business interests that could become compromised as a result. Fair enough, said Yolanda.

The Harvey Mudd mansion — more than 10,000 square feet, but still dwarfed by the neighbors

Speaking of names, the house has had a lot of big ones in its history: originally commissioned by wealthy glass manufacturer Charles Boldt and built in 1922 by noted architect Elmer Grey (who also designed the Beverly Hills Hotel), the house got its name from the philanthropist and mining tycoon who owned it from 1925 through the late 1950s. In the late ’60s, the home came to be owned by an oil tycoon named Harry S. Rothschild.

Perhaps the most famous owners, however, were the late Oscar-winning actor Martin Landau and his now-ex-wife, Emmy-winning actress Barbara Bain. The Mission: Impossible dynamic duo owner the home for about 20 years until 1991, when they sold the house for about $2.5 million to film producer Jack Rapke. Since then the property has traded hands three times, including the Smiths’ purchase. About 10 years ago, the house was decorated by noted interior designer Mary McDonald.

The estate, which is located in the Benedict Canyon section of the 90210, was in a flurry of activity upon Yolanda’s arrival. A handyman was wiring electrical circuits inside, and gardeners were trimming hedges outside. The Smiths’ nanny was taking their kids out to the pool for swimming lessons.

Despite the Benedict Canyon address, the house actually sits about a half-mile off that main road, down a wooded private drive that it shares with the next door neighbor — Michael Ovitz and his 28,000-square-foot contemporary mega-mansion. “Michael actually owns the easement rights to the private road we use to get to our house,” Mr. Smith later informed us. And Mr. Smith also told Yolanda something else we did not know — unlike Mr. Ovitz’s manse, the Smiths’ house is actually not part of Beverly Hills — it is in Beverly Hills Post Office, which is technically the city of LA. “We’re right on the border.” Mr. Smith acknowledges.

A view from the home’s kitchen entrance, looking toward the garage and deck

Mr. Smith greeted us by our red Cadillac and brought us to the kitchen entrance, which is located past the garage and up a stone staircase. “We never use the front door. Someday we will, but right now the kitchen is so much more convenient,” he said by way of explanation. He then asked us to remove our shoes before entering (“I know that’s not a typical thing for Americans, but we always do.”) And so Yolanda quickly acquiesced — we are American, but we do the same thing at home, too.

For the record, a little background: Mr. and Mrs. Smith are not local, they are sophisticated international buyers. Mr. Smith is Canadian, and Mrs. Smith originally hails from Hong Kong but has lived in Toronto, Canada for many years. It would’ve been uncouth to ask the Smiths’ ages, but if we had to guess we’d say that Mr. Smith is in his early 40s and Mrs. Smith is in her 30s. The couple have two young sons that are approximately kindergarten age.

After meeting them, Yolanda can confirm Mr. and Mrs. Smith are not your typical Beverly Hills mansion homeowners, in many ways. They are significantly younger than one might expect and have none of the entitlement typically associated with 90210ians. They are also quick-witted, happy, and are blessed with a razor-sharp sense of humor. In summary, we’d say the Smiths are a nice young family who just happen to own several jealousy-inducing homes that 99.99% of young families cannot dream of affording.

And they seem to like Yolanda, so there’s another oddity.

The family lives in LA only 5-6 months of the year, tops. When they are not here, they are living in Toronto, where they own another multi-million dollar historic mansion. That house features a unique contemporary (and award-winning) addition that was commissioned by the Smiths and built by the high-priced Audax Architects. Click here for a few photos of their swanky pad up north.

Anyway, the Smiths’ generosity also extends to folks not named Yolanda. In late 2016, the couple invited Martin Landau (who by then was in poor health) to visit the old house and give his opinion on their renovations. He came with his adult daughter, and then unfortunately died just a few short months later.

Martin Landau visited the estate just before his 2017 death

“It was really special to have Martin Landau visit us here,” Mr. Smith told Yolanda. “He seemed really touched by it, even if he wasn’t thrilled with some of the changes that prior owners had made.”

For his part, Mr. Smith acknowledges that his $15 million dream home is inherently flawed. Since the 1990s, the house has been remodeled several times. “And all of those people fucked the house up,” Mr. Smith cattily informed us. “They either didn’t have the money to do it right and cut corners, or they had no idea what they were doing.”

Witness the kitchen, which had been done up on the cheap by a prior owner. The Smiths ripped out the center island and all the appliances (except the super-expensive SubZero fridge, which they merely re-paneled). They installed a box-car sized marble center island.

The Smiths hired celebrity interior designer Jeff Andrews — his other clients include the Kardashians and actor Michael C. Hall — to give the interiors a sprucin’ up. The grey-and-white vintage marble tiles were selected by him, Mrs. Smith informed us.

Off the kitchen there is a maid’s bedroom suite and a spare room that has been converted into an office for Mrs. Smith. The kitchen also opens to a backyard terrace that is complete with an outdoor dining table and a built-in stone fireplace. Indoors there is also a breakfast nook and a windowed breakfast room with a fancy chandelier (selected by Mr. Andrews) and no chairs. “We’re still working on furnishing this place,” Mr. Smith admits.

Chandelier and marble floors: selected by designer Jeff Andrews. Legos: arranged by the Smith boys

Perhaps Yolanda’s favorite room in the house, however, is the dining room. The groovy chandelier was custom-made for the Smiths by an artisan in Canada, and the stunning dining room table is vintage rosewood, imported directly from Hungary. Yes, kiddies, the Smiths had their massive table shipped over from Hungary. Can y’all even fathom what the cost of that must have been?

Chandelier: custom-made for the Smiths, imported from Canada; 12-person dining room table: rosewood, imported from Hungary

“It really wasn’t as expensive as you might think,” Mr. Smith rather unconvincingly told us. “There are great deals to be found on beautiful pieces. You just need patience, and you have to know where to look.”

A particular source of design frustration for Mr. Smith was the gothic-style entrance foyer, where the original hardwood detailing had been painted over by one of the previous owners.

The Smiths hired a team of workers to delicately — by hand — strip off the paint that covered all the hardwood in the house, a job that took weeks or even months and surely cost a small fortune.

Like all good 100-year-old mansions, the house has several hidden cubbyholes and perhaps even a secret passageway or two. Mr. and Mrs. Smith shocked Yolanda when they opened up a hidden closet in one of the walls and revealed a giant (empty) safe. This is also original to the home, the Smiths told us. “What a pity Harvey Mudd didn’t leave any of his cocaine in here for us,” Mr. Smith joked. Without missing a beat, Mrs. Smith followed up with a “He did, we just snorted it already. Remember?”

Perhaps surprisingly, the Smiths confess they do not know exactly how large their house is. “We never actually had it measured,” Mr. Smith admits. “But I’ve been told it’s between 10,000 and 11,000 square feet, which it feels like. “Yeah, it feels like right about 11,000,” Mrs. Smith agreed. (And that number, kiddies, does not include  the home’s substantial basement level, which we shall discuss momentarily).

“I do know that the house has five bedrooms,” Mrs. Smith said. “But I’m not sure about how many bathrooms, to be honest.”

Speaking of money, the Smiths did not mention to Yolanda how much they had spent on 1.5 years of remodeling, but Yolanda would not be the least bit surprised if it was $1 million or even more. In any case, the home’s look is much improved and were the Smiths to sell today, Yolanda would guess that the property might go for somewhere very close to $20 million.

But would the Smiths consider selling?

“You never know,” Mr. Smith told us. “I love this house. I dreamed about owning it long before I could dream of affording it. But who knows? We might be out of here in five years. There’s always a new project to look forward to.”

It would be hard to leave the luxe master suite, which was redecorated by the Smiths in a Frenchy manner. The master bathroom has dual vanities, a glass-walled shower, and about 15 tons of marble.

There are three more bedrooms upstairs — one a large attic room for guests, one the older son’s bathroom suite. Yolanda’s favorite, however, is the younger son’s bedrooms suite, which has hand-painted murals that are original to the home. “I love this room, too,” Mr. Smith said when we commented on it. “And you know what? Susan [Martin Landau’s daughter] told us that this was her room as a child, too. She told us that it hasn’t changed a bit!”

The younger Smith boy’s bedroom has hand-painted murals that are original to the home

We went back downstairs, where Mr. Smith sat down at his computer and giddily started to browse real estate with us. “I’ve always loved Hancock Park homes,” he said. “Back in 2011, I wanted to buy this property. But I didn’t have $6 million to spend back then. I wish we had bought it anyway. It’s worth like $12 million today. How crazy is that?”

We showed Mr. Smith photos of a different Hancock Park house, a Tudor-style palace that just sold for $12.4 million to producer Brian Robbins. Our boy loved the architecture (“Wow, the outside is spectacular,” said he) but got majorly turned off when viewing the home’s renovated interior. (“Good God, what did they do to that place?! No character left. I’m out. I would never!”)

The Smiths wanted to buy this Hancock Park house in 2011, but didn’t have $6 million to spare

“Before moving here, we lived in the Crest Streets area of Beverly Hills Post Office,” Mrs. Smith informed us. “But that house was just whatever.” Mr. Smith agreed with his wife. “Unfortunately, we’ll probably barely break even on that place.”

(For what it’s worth, a thorough evaluation of property records reveals that the Smiths’ “just whatever” house in the 90210’s Crest Streets is actually a snazzy contemporary with a mansion-sized 6,400-square-feet of living space and is located just a few doors away from the enormous estate of Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen. That home — still owned by the Smiths, for now — is worth several million dollars, according to tax records.)

Towards the end of our visit, Mr. Smith turned to Yolanda and said simply “So what do you think? Would you give us an 8/10 in terms of the remodel?”

Yolanda thought Mr. Smith was joking at first, but we looked at him and he was dead serious. This ultra-successful whippersnapper really wanted to know what a random old coot like Yolanda thought of his design. We told him the truth, that so few buyers in this price range have any taste at all. And how we’re confident that the ol’ gurl is in great hands now. And we truly believe that, y’all.

“We haven’t decided what to do with all this grass.”

Mr. Smith took us outside, where he admitted that he and the missus are still trying to figure out what to do with their grassy yard. “We really shouldn’t have this much greenery in this desert climate.”

Yolanda did not snap any photos of the pool area — the Smith kids were swimming with the nanny, and we didn’t want to disturb their play — but the Smiths have significantly altered it since their acquisition. For starters, the lawn that surrounded it has been removed and replaced with a broad stone terrace. “The lawn looked pretty, but was a landscaping nightmare,” according to Mrs. Smith. The Smiths also installed a giant spa next to the pool (“I wasn’t here when the contractors did this. I had no idea they were going to make it so big. Who do I look like, Hugh Hefner?” Mr. Smith sheepishly said by way of explanation).

The contractors also installed a massive firepit with a built-in stone seating surround. Again, Mr. Smith says he would have done it differently if he had been in town.

“Back in the day, in the 1930s, this estate was 20 acres and stretched all the way down to Benedict Canyon Drive. Now all that remains is this one acre portion with the main house,” Mr. Smith informed us. Because of that shrinkage, entering the home — or even just parking one’s vehicle — is a somewhat awkward situation.

“This garage was added on many years after the home was built. It’s a monstrosity, really.” Mr. Smith said regretfully. “We can’t remove it or change it. But we installed new garage doors, and we removed those hideous stone steps next to it. We did the best we could.”


Antique 1930s telephone in the basement

Midway through our tour, Mr. Smith had to depart Yolanda for a few minutes. The handyman was having trouble with the wiring. Mrs. Smith graciously took us down to the basement — which is actually bigger than many “normal” homes — for a look-see.

Mrs. Smith admits the basement is still a work in progress. There is a big room in the back that is completely bare inside, save for some fabric covering all the walls. “It’s completely sound-proof,” Mrs. Smith said by way of explanation. “This will be our movie theater. Once we actually get the screen and the couch, of course.”

Also surprising: the Smiths have converted their wine cellar into a mudroom. Mrs. Smith tells us this was done “because we don’t know a $10 bottle from a $1,000 one”.

Elsewhere there is a large game room/lounge type area. “We created this because we wanted the kids to have their own private space. Once they hit they become teenage years, they can bring their friends over and hang out with them in private down here” Mrs. Smith said (seemingly contradicting her hubby’s supposition that the couple might sell the house in five years).

As Mrs. Smith and Yolanda were waiting for Mr. Smith to join us, the conversation somehow turned to other neighborhoods. We discovered that the Smiths looked at a number of homes in the Beverly Hills flats and in Bel Air before settling on the Harvey Mudd estate in 2016.

“My favorite street in the flats is Foothill. But [Mr. Smith] is partial to Arden. There are some really cool houses in the east flats. Too bad so many of them have been trashed on the inside,” she said thoughtfully. “The west flats, forget about it. So much bad taste, it’s unbelievable.”

“Before we bought this, we were in escrow for two weeks on a house in Windsor Square,” Mrs. Smith continued. “My husband loves the Hancock Park and Windsor Square homes. And they really are beautiful.” Yeah, but why didn’t y’all buy out there? Yolanda wondered aloud.

“Hancock Park is a wonderful neighborhood,” Mrs. Smith said. “But every other area surrounding it isn’t so great. They’re sort of ghetto, really. And I love to cook, and so I’m always at the market. That Whole Foods on Third Street can get raunchy. We’d see bums doing drugs right in the parking lot.”

“Of course, we’ve had to make concessions for living here, too,” Mrs. Smith admitted. “The boys can’t ride their bikes on the sidewalk here, which they could have done in Hancock Park. And because it’s so hidden, none of our vendors, delivery people can ever find this house. They just drive around in circles looking for it.” (And even Yolanda — whose success is based on knowing where people live — had a difficult time locating this place. And that’s got to be annoying. In the mere 2.5 hours we were at the property, Mr. and Mrs. Smith had at least three different vendors deliver parcels to their home.)

Antique church pews flank the entrance to the basement’s former wine cellar (now mud room)

“I have lived in many places, and I’ve traveled the world. But it’s so different here,” Mrs. Smith said to Yolanda as we padded around in our socks. “In Toronto, we have a highly diverse community. But here, go to the market on any given day and you’ll see Bentleys parked next to beat-up old Toyotas.”

Mrs. Smith focused her eyes on the hallway in the basement of her $15 million third home. The old church pews coupled with the antique light fixtures and dungeon-ish door give the dim corridor a deeply atmospheric feeling. “It’s just so black and white here in LA. Either you have money, or you have nothing.”

11 Replies to “Yolanda gets a tour of the fabled old Harvey Mudd Estate”

  1. Accurate description of the Flats! Lol.

  2. what is the nearby monstrous construction site?

  3. Rabbi Hedda LaCasa says: Reply

    Thank you, Yolanda! I thoroughly enjoyed my vicarious tour of the Harvey Mudd Estate, custom designed per preferences of original owner Charles Boldt, unlike current speculative houses, created for no particular individuals. This magnificent home veers from Tudor revival to perpendicular gothic, the latter incongruent with my domestic taste; yet, architectural details are superlative. I further respect the Mary McDonald and Smith family design selections, initiated to suit singular leanings, although not my inclinations, counter to the interim flip remuddle, executed to offend a minimum of potential buyers.

    However, Yolanda, a baby blue flip phone? Why don’t you alternatively cart about a rotary dial payphone similar to the model in the Smith family basement?

    I retain satisfaction that the Smiths will remain responsible stewards of the Mudd Estate throughout their ownership of this historic property. And do refer them to your kabbalah-informed, feng shui-friendly rabbi!

    1. Most revered Rabbi, thank you for this post! To think that the areas from the Palisades to the Flats are being ruined for the foreseeable future with these new yucky spec houses… We are losing the battle. Spatial resources are going to waste.What wondrous, dreamy, fairy-tale houses were once built. And now: the horror.

      Let me use this opportunity to ask you: do you perhaps know what dimensional guidelines did these architects of yore use when, say, drawing a dining room or thinking about the width of a bedroom or the spaciousness of the foyer and hallways?

      1. Rabbi Hedda LaCasa says: Reply

        The Golden Ratio has been used for millennia.

  4. Thank you Mr & Mrs Smith for inviting Yolanda into your home! What an insightful, respectful window into a world most of us will only ever dream about. As an avid Little Black Book reader, I hope more opportunities like this come up x

  5. Dear Yolanda…I think you have your facts wrong…not sure if Mr&Mrs. Smith intentionally mis-lead you, or if they simply weren’t properly informed…but as someone who saw the house when it was acquired from the Rapke’s I can tell you Mary McDonald did not renovate any portion of that house…she loved the original charm and character of that house and appreciated all those lovely details. Mary simply did what she does better than almost anyone I know…she decorated the house and it was GORGEOUS!! The only thing she altered were the entry floors…how could she not do one of her fabulous signature painted floors? You can see how gorgeous the house was (and how original) if you look up the November 2008 Veranda Magazine….it was the cover story and was classic chic Mary. I’m surprised that new owners of the house would slag her for work that wasn’t done on her watch…and I’m surprised you would add those lies to your post…was it really necessary to take a jab. What about work done during the Landau’s time? Or during the Rapke’s tenure…or for that matter the owners after Mary? They surely did some renovations for this to qualify as a $15M property. I’ve always liked your witty banter, but knowing this designer and this project I’m confused why you let an anonymous homeowner shit on a talented designer… and must point out that, this time… you got the story wrong.

  6. Yolanda,

    This is John Bercsi, the prior owner of the Mudd Estate. Your catty article is entirely incorrect in its premise and downright insulting, childish and off base.

    I’m not sure Mr. and Mrs. Smith realize that coming to a new city and insulting one of its top designers, let alone a pillar of Los Angeles society from 3 generations of a prominent Los Angeles family is the most delicate way to break into a new town.

    First off, the facts:

    Mary Mc Donald did not paint the entry hall nor renovate the house as you stated. That was done by the subsequent owners who painted all the wood paneling, added the new garage, did the kitchen and all the bathrooms. Mary McDonald simply preserved the house in its original, 1923, Elmer Grey glory. Jack and Sandy Rapke, whom I purchased the home from would be glad to verify that I’m sure.

    As for their comment that Mr. Smith whispered to you that ( Designer’s name redacted) “fucking ruined this house”…she has a following and I just don’t know why. She’s awful”, all I can say is he must not be aware of her work and that his comment reflects more on his character than Miss Mc Donald’s work. What kind of a man makes such catty, little girlish and pissy comments? I have a type in mind but I’ll keep it to myself.

    And for you to repeat his catty comments when you have glowingly covered much of Miss McDonald’s work is truly disgusting and base and hypocritical. Shame on you.

    I would be happy to cooperate with Miss McDonsld’s attorneys in any action regarding your libelous and defamatory blog.

    1. This entire city knows John Bercsi has extraordinary taste. Thank goodness he took the time to post here. As a well known , successful realtor here in Beverly Hills , I have had the pleasure of seeing and showing several of the great estates Mr Bercsi has designed. Not to mention he is a friend as well. I saw the Mudd Estate when John and Mary lived there. And it was classic , pure and simply wonderful . In this day and age it would be commendable if people could just get the facts straight . A little respect goes a long way .

  7. Dear Yolanda,
    It’s well known I’m a very close friend of Mary McDonalds. So it’s no surprise that I’ve spent a lot of time at the house you’re talking about. Im sorry to say you’ve got your facts wrong….Mary never restored or renovated a thing in that house. She just decorated it. In fact you can see it in the Nov. 2008 issue of Veranda. The British gentleman who purchased the house after Mary left did the major renovations and the the ones the new owners seem to denounce…but the insinuation is that Mary somehow was responsible. And why would you include that awful quote (with designers name redacted)…it’s clear they don’t care for Mary, but it seems unnecessarily mean spirited to put that out there when she had NOTHING to do with the house they purchased. Don’t you think Mr. & Mrs. Smith should be more concerned with decorating their own home?

  8. Rabbi Hedda LaCasa says: Reply

    Yolanda, you’ve exhibited your integrity through a triple combo platter of apology, repentance, and restitution. Messrs. Bercsi and Turner, and thoughtfully contemplative Eric, please accept Yolanda’s teshuvah. And Yolanda, if anyone messes with you, I’ll place the dreaded Pulsa d’Nura, the Kabbalistic Lashes of Fire curse, upon them!

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