Wednesday, June 02, 2021

Architecture Wednesday: The Bette Davis House

In Hollywood, many houses are named after the celebrity who once lived there; but not the last celebrity who lived in the house, but perhaps the most infamous, or famous. And that’s the case with this home in Laguna Beach: it’s the Bette Davis House, even though David stopped living in this oceanfront French Normandy estate in 1950.

Seventy-one years after that and it’s still the Bette Davis House, though that might be due to the large wrought iron ‘D’ that was attached to the chimney that faces the beach when Davis purchased the home, or the stained-glass window in the media room that also bears the ‘D’.

But now the Bette Davis House is for sale, for a hair under $20 million and if I win the lottery and buy it, the ‘D’ will stand for ‘Damn! I Bought Bette Davis’ House.’

The house was built in 1929 as a summer home for Charles H. Prisk, a wealthy newspaper publisher and owner of the influential Pasadena Star-News and Long Beach Press-Telegram. It was designed by Laguna Beach artist and architect Aubrey St. Clair and, thankfully, past owners of the three-story, six-bedroom, 5 full and three half bathroom, 5,400 square foot home have preserved many of the original features from when Davis lived here.

The beach house, and yes, even Davis called it her beach house, sits on a bluff overlooking Woods Cove, with private-access steps leading to the beach. The main house, anchored by a baronial great room, leads guests to the Lookout Room and the adjoining family and dining rooms, all with stunning sea views.

A large, updated kitchen—there’s a second kitchen in the detached two-bedroom guest house—has been updated with the appliances, space and finishes of today. The adjacent breakfast room and butler’s pantry’s vaulted ceiling are just a hint of the house’s European style.  

On the third level are two en suite bedrooms, and the master bedroom suite, with a princess balcony that looks down into the living room, and a terrace overlooking the sea. Down on the lower level is the media room is a bar area with a stained-glass ceiling; on this same level is a wine cellar—bonus!—fitness room, and two other en suite bedrooms.

There are several balconies and terraces and patios, and an outdoor kitchen to enjoy dinner and a view. In the detached guest house is a one-bedroom apartment with full kitchen, and another, separate, bedroom and bath.

The home has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places, which limits modifications to the exterior, but it does mean tax breaks for owners to help offset restoration and maintenance costs.

It ain’t cheap to own a $20 million six-bedroom, eight-bathroom cliffside beach house.

Click to emBIGGERiate ...

18 comments:

Deedles said...

Hey, if I won the lottery (impossible since I don't know how they work and I prefer to waste my money on gummies) I can keep the 'D'! I do like the rooms where you can see the ocean. I can imagine sitting, reading a book and sipping tea while a storm rages outside. I can also imagine slipping into the ocean during a mudslide.
What's with the little people bathtubs that are trying to pass for sinks? Ugleee!
Is there a freezer? If so, does it have *ahem* Bette Davis Ice? I'll leave now.

Bob said...

@Deedles
Bette Davis Ice?!?!?!
:::thud:::::

the dogs' mother said...

Very nice and, as always,
loves the views. I'd get
lost in the rest of the house
so look for me on the patios.
xoxo :-)

Mistress Maddie said...

What a DUMP!

I couldn't resist.

jsstrand said...

Bette davis ice!! and what a dump!!! Clever!! For me, although the ocean views are wonderful, I couldn't see a single heating or A/C vent - at my getting old ain't for sissies age,(see what I did there??lol) i have a comfort zone plus or minus 2 degrees around 74° - and that fireplace ain't doing it lol

Dave R said...

Thanks for showing this. I do suspect, however, that back when Davis' was in residence there would have been a lot less white and more deep, bold colors on the walls.

Moving with Mitchell said...

I could fantasize about it. Much lighter and cheerier than when she lived in it I think. As for Delightful, Delectable, Delirous Deedles: She's got Bette Davis eyes!

Bob said...

@TDM
The patios are the best parts, though I could open it as a B&B!

@Maddie
I hadn't thought of that!
Love it.

@jsstrand
I did read that the house has been renovated. as late as 2012, so I would assume heating and air are there. Perhaps they are hidden???

@Dave
If I lived there, there would be color!!!

@Mitchell
Deedles could be my permanent guest, and we'd find a nice red room for her!

Deedles said...

Oh, Bobulah, you dear sweet man (thud notwithstanding), I don't need a totally red room! Just a few accents here and there. Towels, comforters, that sort of thing. I don't do white well. You'd never hear a peep from me. I will, however, stay out of that yellow and green puke inducing room. I have standards, dammit!

Sheila R Morris said...


I'm right there with you on the Bette Davis House, Bob. If I win the lottery, I will buy it for you, me Carlos, Pretty and whoever we like politically. Good grief. I love it!! And can just picture her Royal Highness Bette herself having a puff, sipping a martini and generally having her own sweet way with whoever.
Oh, yeah. I love this house. Thanks for posting.

Sixpence Notthewiser said...

Having a ‘beach house’ seems to me like the epitome of ‘well to do’.
Add the guest house and I just faint.
It’s a beautiful house. The views alone would probably prompt someone to buy it. It’s been updated, for sure but there are some quaint touches here and there that are probably original.
Twenty million though…..

XoXo

uptonking said...

NOW you have my attention, dear. Thank you for the history. I adore homes like this and just thirst for the knowledge. Yes... THIS is truly living. I love that deck looking out onto the ocean. My word. Just imagine walking in the same steps as Davis. Gorgeous. Thank you for sharing this, Bob. I love Bette. Just the other night, as I am finally finishing up reading The House of Mirth, I thought, pity they never came up with a screenplay for Bette Davis to do a movie version of the book. Of course, they would have gotten it wrong, but what a missed opportunity. Kizzes.

Bob said...

@Sheila
You're on! Now, win that lottery!!!!

@Six
That's California real estate for you!!!

@upton
I, too, am #TeamDavis, and would love to live in her space!

Skepticat said...

Bette Davis and Gary Merrill also had a home in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, on a private road called Witch Way. They kept peacocks in the yard, and Merrill used to wear gold lame slippers to the grocery store. We never saw Davis in the IGA, though.

Travel said...

YES, yes, yes, in a heartbeat, yes

Treaders said...

Wow that's a beautiful house, but I'm guessing Bette didn't spend much time in that kitchen, all the same!

Steve Reed said...

Bookshelves weirdly devoid of books. (Not that that's any reflection on Bette.) I wonder what Joan Crawford had to say about this place?

Bob said...

@Skepticat
I loved that Davis lived on Witch Way!

@Travel
Make an offer and it can be yours, but then expect a lot of us to ant to come stay for awhile.

@Treaders
I dunno, I read once where she was kind of a homebody. Still, I imagine she had a staff around to help!

@Steve
I think the house was staged for sale, so it's done in kind of a bland, non-offensive style.
Crawford would be checking closets for wire hangers!