Mansionification that makes sense

by Lorin Michel Friday, November 20, 2015 6:34 PM

Our friends Diane and Gene lived in an area of the San Fernando Valley that had lovely older homes, Spanish haciendas and bungalows that had been built in the 1920s when the Valley was still mostly Orange Groves and Los Angeles’ population was less than 600,000. Several times a year, we would all congregate at their house, for birthday parties or just to sit on the back porch, listening to the gurgle of the pool and the tweet of the birds. Diane is an animal rescue activist and in addition to their now three dogs and two cats, there were always rescues. The last few years they tended to be mothers and puppies pulled from shelters before euthanasia.

For years, they had Christmas parties, an open house affair that was always on a Sunday afternoon. We’d go in the later part of the day, fighting our way across the Valley on the 101, exiting on Laurel Canyon Boulevard, just before the Hollywood split, and heading north. We’d travel past all of the strip malls, apartment houses, side by side with dozens of cars. We’d turn on Califa and about half a mile in or so, on the left, there was the house, always with a wreath, minimal decorations outside. Inside, though, there was a lovely tree in the Spanish-tiled entrance way. Two steps up and we were in the main part of the house where music would be playing, dogs would be mingling and people would be laughing and talking. In the kitchen, along with a table filled with delightful finger foods, Diane had a crock pot of mulled wine. I don’t like mulled wine and yet I couldn’t get enough of it at Christmas. The parties were almost always within about a week of the 25th. We remember those parties fondly. I’m sure Diane and Gene do as well. 

Several years ago, their lovely older neighborhood started to experience a disease that has plagued many parts of the Valley. People would come in and buy these lovely older homes, homes with character, red tile and a Spanish heritage. Within weeks, they would have the building completely razed and in its place would rise a big, horribly out of place box of a house. A house that was always too big for the tiny lots California is known for. A house that wanted to be a mansion. It is known as mansionification and it’s a terrible thing to witness.

In October, Diane and Gene, having sold their lovely Spanish home, moved. They hoped the new owner wouldn’t succumb to the malady of new rather than old, big just to be big. So far he hasn’t. The new owner is a musician like Gene. In fact, one of the things he liked best about the house was the separate music studio. When it was Gene’s it was filled with guitars and pianos and recording equipment. 

I speak with Diane regularly. They’re now living, temporarily, in the mountains and will eventually move to Oregon. She is as happy and content as I’ve ever heard her. She doesn’t miss the cacophony that is LA, or the mansionification of their neighborhood. They’re happy to leave it behind.

I bring all of this up because I came across something today that I think actually validates the idea of mansionification: luxury dog houses. Lavish houses built in the style of the Bauhaus, though known for dogs as the Bowhaus because of course it is. Manufactured in the Bauhaus approach to design, it identifies the dog’s needs, usually simple, and then creates a dwelling to accommodate them. There’s a Victorian dog house for three complete with hardwood floors, vaulted ceilings and a white picket fence. 

There’s a farmhouse and a log cabin, complete with a dog-sized hot tub, a ranch house and a Frank Lloyd Bite house that was actually designed by the renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright in 1956 as Wright was designing the famed Guggenheim in New York.

My personal favorite is the mobile Air Stream, no doubt because of my ongoing fascination with Air Stream. There’s also a Spanish style hacienda, though it’s known as a Haciendawg complete with terra cotta flooring, a red-tiled roof and a $30,000 price tag.

It’s all part of a new movement called Barkitecture. It’s sweeping the nation, forever making us forget about the dog houses of old. Those are so passé. These new doggie mansions are what today’s pampered, spoiled, gentrified dog really needs. I suspect, though, that like people before them, they will tire of the big to be big idea and begin to long for a simpler life. One where they can simply curl up in their bed, in front of the fire or in the bedroom of their puppy parents, and wile away the day. Snoring it out loud.

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live out loud

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