(Bloomberg) — In 1979, the extended stay housing company Oakwood was already a booming business, and co-founder Howard Ruby was traveling constantly. “It was the Airbnb of its day,” says Ruby, who’s since stepped away from the company. “These were furnished apartments that were rented by the month.”
In his travels–Oakwood eventually operated in more than 16 countries, he says–Ruby developed a fondness for old world European grandeur. “I was living in Bel Air, in a rather modern house,” he explains, but after seeing the best of Italy and France, he wanted something different.
He found it in the form of a Tuscan villa-style mansion in a tiny cul-de-sac flanked by the Bel Air Country Club’s golf course. “The location appealed to me,” Ruby says. “The idea that it was an island, basically. It’s like a European castle with a moat around it. The privacy was extraordinary.”
He spent three years renovating the house, making what he says were 17 separate trips to Europe as well as journeys to Japan and Hong Kong to buy furnishings and interior decoration.
After he married actress Yvette Mimieux in 1986, the two spent 30 years improving the property. When the house next door came on the market about 15 years ago, they bought that and converted it into guest quarters and an art studio in a design inspired by the architecture of Bali.
But when Ruby lost his eyesight seven years ago, the house and its many objets became less appealing. During the Covid-19 pandemic, he took up sculling (in a double, with his rowing partner behind him and helping to steer) and moved onto a yacht in Marina del Rey. Mimieux moved into the smaller, more manageable house full-time and devoted herself to painting. As a consequence, they put the larger house on the market for $45 million last year.
Mimieux died in January at the age of 80, so Ruby has relisted the entire, 1.5-acre property for $49.5 million with Linda May of Linda May Properties, Kurt Rappaport of Westside Estates Agency, and Jade Mills of Coldwell Banker. The furniture and decoration isn’t included in the price, but could be included in the sale. “That’s going to be negotiated,” Ruby says. “We’ll figure something out.”
The main home spans more than 10,600 square feet and includes five bedrooms, plus a staff bedroom, seven full bathrooms, and two half-bathrooms.
Every room in the house, Ruby says, is decorated in a different style, an idea he got from visiting a bed-and-breakfast in Italy. “The family added to it for three or four hundred years,” he says. “It wasn’t built in one go. Every room in the house was added during a different century.” That led, he continues, “to making each room its own set piece.” One room is entirely from Venice, for instance, while another is inspired by Milan.
Ruby was helped by the celebrity decorator Kalef Alaton, who advised him on what to buy and where to find inspiration. Combining business with pleasure, he says, “I had meetings in Paris and London and offices there, and many times I’d go on business and then go to all the antique stores and auctions at night.”
Ruby also brought Europe to Los Angeles in the form of Italian artisans who painted various rooms in the house. “The living room is a work of art,” he says. “Absolutely gorgeous–and the bedroom is frescoed.” Even the house’s lighting scheme, he says, was created by a French lighting designer.
The main floor of the house begins with a large foyer and leads to a formal living room. There’s also a formal dining room, a breakfast room and kitchen, and a room Ruby calls l’Orangerie–a vast entertainment space with a vaulted glass ceiling.
A meandering garden path leads to the second home, which was Mimieux’s haven. That house has three bedrooms and five bathrooms in just under 5,000 square feet. There’s also a one-bedroom, one-bath cabana nearby. “Decoration was my wife’s fantasy,” he explains. “We called it Balinese architecture with a touch of Trinidad, but it was all her design.”
Inspiration came from a month-long trip to Bali. “We had wonderful times there,” Ruby says, “and we were in Java and other parts of Indonesia, so we traveled the world a great deal.”
Designed for Entertainment
The manicured grounds include two pools, a variety of terraces and outdoor entertaining areas, a sunken lawn, fountains, grottos, and trees.
Ruby says that he and Mimieux often hosted parties for several hundred people. Presidents, including Ronald Reagan, made appearances in the house, and Ruby and Mimieux held their wedding there. “We loved having people,” he says. “And there’s a big commercial kitchen that we decorated some, but it’s everything a major chef would want.”
Eventually though, the couple began to slow down, and “the house was just too big,” Ruby says. “We weren’t entertaining on that scale anymore, and we began to talk about selling it.”
Now that he’s living on a boat, he continues, “I don’t need the antiques, so someone might just want to buy the house the way it is.”
Others, he acknowledges, “might want to modernize it and just use the bones and great location–and add a wing.”
At this point, Ruby is unsentimental about saying goodbye to the property into which he poured so much time and energy: “I had all those years to enjoy it.”
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