Play station! Incubus guitarist Michael Einziger recorded music in this home studio—a key selling point for his $3.75 million Malibu home.
Yes, the hills are alive with the sound of music. The Hollywood Hills, that is, along with Silver Lake, Venice, Malibu, Calabasas’s gated The Oaks, Hancock Park, Downtown, and of course, Compton. LA’s central role in the music business means that across town, famed musicians are heavily vested in residential real estate, from the Valley—pop princesses Miley Cyrus (Toluca Lake) and Britney Spears (Hidden Hills)—to the Palisades (Rihanna), Malibu (Sting, Flea of Red Hot Chili Peppers), Silver Lake (Fitz and the Tantrums, Daniel Lanois) to Chinatown, where Devo’s Mark Mothersbaugh recently paid a record price for a Chung King Road apartment/gallery building.
On occasion, residential listings will include an in-home studio. But before a musician can lay down tracks, there must be an essential emotional reaction. “It’s all about the vibe,” explains Deasy/Penner & Partners senior partner Steve Clark, a former professional drummer who often counts musicians as clients. “They have to walk into the space and feel something,” he says. A home has to work as a residence and as a creative space where music can be imagined.
Cantara created an automated music system that can compete with the crashing waves at this Laguna Beach manse.
“Musicians are always looking for additional square footage, whether it’s under the house, a garage, or an extra bedroom where they can hone their craft,” Clark says. Architect Peter Grueneisen of Nonzero/ Architecture has more than 25 years’ experience designing high-end home studios, a natural segue from building professional media facilities. “A home recording studio has become a luxury item,” says Grueneisen. There’s nothing off-the-shelf in these types of projects; everything is custom made, and the range of possibilities is practically unlimited. Grueneisen’s end result is a smooth blend of finely tuned acoustics, clean lines, and rich materials enveloped in a contemporary aesthetic.
“It’s always a collaboration between owners, site, and architect, and what we need to do with acoustics and technology,” says Grueneisen. Although there’s no average construction price for an in-home studio, the architect’s cost proposals for clients have ranged from $100,000 to $200,000 for a two-car-garage-sized, 400-square-foot studio (without audio equipment) to upward of $1 million for more complex endeavors. At Oscar-winning film composer A.R. Rahman’s digs, Grueneisen transformed the dining room into a studio, adding a production room and recording booth separated by a large angled glass window and behind two sets of doors—one wood, the other a sliding metal door.
Oscar-winner A.R. Rahman’s home recording studio.
According to the architect, there are two main aspects to home studio design: One is soundproofing to isolate the space from neighbors and the other areas in the house; as musicians are known for working at night, soundproofing is a major factor, and it’s a significant expense. The other aspect is acoustics. Inside the room, “how you experience what comes out of the speaker has to do with the finishes, acoustic treatment, room proportions, and angles of the walls and glass,” Grueneisen explains.
Soundproofing serves a dual purpose, particularly for higher-profile talent who want to fly under the radar for various reasons. “In more upscale neighborhoods, neighbors aren’t necessarily enthused if a rock star with a studio is moving in,” Clark says, nor do the musicians want the word out to fans. However, when it comes to selling a property, there’s often a cachet from past association.
Brad Wiseman, director of westside luxury estate sales with the San Fernando Valley’s Pinnacle Estate Properties, says, “It turns people on that a famous musician lived in a property making music.” He finds that connection to celebrity and creativity is a plus when selling, even when the new buyer is not in the business. Among his current listings is Incubus guitarist Michael Einziger’s oceanview $3.75 million Malibu pleasure palace, with a two-bedroom-sized studio.
An outdoor speaker by Cantara.
Advances in technology, such as Sonos, WiFi speakers, and high-end home automation, mean that non-professionals can also have a home filled with music, even if they didn’t create it themselves. Jason Voorhees, president of Cantara, brings music in, around, and outside large-scale homes. “People want music everywhere, they want it to be easy to turn on, and they want to use it every day,” Voorhees finds. His firm makes music accessible via home automation systems controlled by iPhone and iPad apps that, with a press of a button, can set the entire mood of a property (low lighting, iTunes playlist, dancing fountains in sync) and control more mundane functions like security and lighting.
For one client, Cantara created a DJ-enabled party room where, in an instant, techno beats pound, lights go club-style, and a fog machine is activated. In Laguna Beach, the firm has set a speaker system underground (the subwoofers are buried and out of sight), so the tunes can compete with the crashing waves. Provided they have the budget, the beat can go on seamlessly for today’s professional musicians… or mere music-loving mortals.
photography courtesy of brad wiseman, director of westside luxury estate sales for pinnacle estate properties, inc. juergen nogai (Rahman studio); Ryan Flecklin, Dana Innovations (laguna beach home, speaker)