Robert Byrd (no relation to the late U.S. Senator from West Virginia) was the architect who gave Southern California Rock & Roll a home. Byrd designed the legendary Rock and Roll Treehouse owned by Frank Zappa in the late 1960s which hosted the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, and countless other legends throughout the haze of the era. Byrd may not have invented the California Ranch style (that honor goes to prolific architect Clifford May), but his unique take on the style from the 1930s through the 1950s has captured the imagination of Rock & Roll royalty, celebrities, as well as architecture enthusiasts.
Like the free-spirited, creative, and revolutionary inhabitants of many of his homes, Robert Byrd’s style defied easy classification. Thus, the “Byrd Home” was born. With a focus on indoor-outdoor living, the eclectic combination of California Ranch, mid-century modern, farmhouse, and stone façade country home resulted in some of the most desired homes in Bel-Air, the Hollywood Hills, Los Feliz, Brentwood, and Encino.
These “Byrd Homes” feature high, wood-beamed ceilings, brick walls, and often had beautiful circular rooms that maximized the number of windows in the room. Additionally, Byrd was a pioneer of indoor-outdoor living with homes that invoke the feeling of country living in the bustle of Los Angeles. Large windows, creatively landscaped outdoor space, and ample patio and deck space were trademarks of a “Byrd Home.” In a nod to owners and fans of “Byrd Homes,” he frequently left his signature on his structures – a birdhouse built onto the respective structures as part of the design.
Robert Byrd has left an indelible mark on Southern California architecture. The Robert Taylor Ranch in Mandeville Canyon is a 112-acre property that is often cited as the largest residential property in Los Angeles.
Byrd designed it in 1950 for Waite Phillips, a petroleum magnate who made a fortune in oil, banking, and real estate. Later purchased by actor Robert Taylor, the ranch with its 12,000 square foot main house has all the flourishes of a Byrd Home. In 2012, the ranch sold for $12 million at auction.
The aforementioned “Rock and Roll Treehouse” in Laurel Canyon has an equally fascinating provenance. When Charles Spencer Mann began developing Laurel Canyon, he asked Byrd to build the Laurel Tavern in 1916. The property was later purchased by actor Tom Mix, best known for his pioneering role as a cowboy in early Westerns. However, the most famous resident would come in 1968 when Frank Zappa and his family moved into the house and changed Laurel Canyon’s role in history forever.
In his book Laurel Canyon: The Inside Story of Rock-and-Roll’s Legendary Neighborhood, author Michael Walker wrote “So it was that in 1968 Frank Zappa…installed himself, his wife, Gail, and their baby daughter, Moon Unit, at the Mix Cabin. “The rent was seven hundred dollars a month,” Zappa later recalled. “It really looked like an old-time log cabin…”
Zappa was the first to move to Laurel Canyon, but he opened the door for the likes of Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, the Eagles, and countless others to move to the Canyon.
Hilton & Hyland has been involved with the sales of Robert Byrd designed properties throughout Los Angeles. Agent Jonah Wilson handled the sale of 8281 Hollywood Boulevard, which was built by Byrd in 1952.
This house is a perfect example of a “Byrd Home,” with a large curved dining room with windows all around. High vaulted ceilings give the 1,250 square foot home a sense of airy openness and the private gardens make discreet indoor-outdoor living a reality in the heart of Los Angeles.
Other notable owners of Byrd Homes are Breaking Bad director Michelle Maclaren, Gregory Peck, Ron Howard, Artie Shaw, Lana Turner, Ryan Stiles, and Phil Hartman.
Currently, Hilton & Hyland agent Zach Goldsmith has the listing for 8277 Hollywood Boulevard, which was the former home of film noir actress Lizabeth Scott.
This farmhouse style Byrd Home has the hallmark high vaulted ceilings and indoor-outdoor space that has captured the imagination of architectural enthusiasts for decades now.
Byrd’s legacy is one of Rock & Roll legend, architectural creativity, and the mastering of the delicate interplay between indoor and outdoor living space.