November 1, 2014

Back Story: Moby

Musician and blogger Moby discusses restoring his 1920's French Norman-style Los Angeles home.

Musician and DJ Moby restored his 1920s home in Los Angeles. Visit mobylosangelesarchitecture.com for his blog on the city's eclectic architecture.

photo by: Moby

Touring the globe as an electronic musician, DJ, and singer-songwriter, Moby has had plenty of opportunities to observe the world’s great cities. (His albums, including Play, 18, and 2013’s Innocents, have sold more than 20 million copies.) But the six-time Grammy nominee considers his adopted hometown of Los Angeles one of the most interesting places of all.

In 2012 he started the Moby Los Angeles Architecture blog, a personal chronicle of buildings and places that combines his love of writing and photography. Moby recently spoke with Preservation about his passion for architecture, especially in the City of Angels.

How did you get interested in architecture in the first place?

I think to a large extent it started when I was growing up in Connecticut. We were very poor in a very wealthy town. My mom and I lived in a garage apartment and my friends lived in beautiful estates. So at an early age I was aware of different environments my friends were living in and started to think about what were the components that made these houses so different.

What are some of your favorite architectural styles?

I like everything! I love the playfulness of a lot of Midcentury Modern buildings. Especially in L.A. Growing up in Connecticut and living in New York City, I just loved the style but was frustrated at how it never made sense there. Six months out of the year, glass walls become like the walls of a refrigerator. Moving to Southern California, suddenly Midcentury Modern architecture made sense.

Can you tell me about your French Norman–style home in L.A.?

It’s a 1920s house that was terribly treated the last 70 or 80 years. I worked with an architect, Tim Barber, and we did a lot of very modern things that brought it back to [the period]. It feels like a perfect house from the 1920s. Part of it was just the structural elements: The house was falling apart. We had to reinforce it with structural steel, which wouldn’t have been viable in the '20s. My house has turrets and balconies. Sometimes it seems comical to me -- they were placed there arbitrarily. In true Hollywood fashion, the house itself was crumbling, but it had very expensive wallpaper! My guesthouse was designed by John Lautner in 1960. It’s not like Lautner’s Chemosphere or Garcia residence, which are more formal. This is more of a quick-and-dirty Lautner.

Your songs often layer elements from different musical periods. Do you think the same approach works for architecture?

Sometimes it’s nice to have contextual cohesion. When you walk into a Midcentury Modern house and it’s filled with midcentury furniture, it’s cohesive. But then you have the Eames House, which is utterly not cohesive. And that’s where its power and charm come from. One of my favorite approaches is when you have the contrast of a beautiful Victorian or Georgian house with midcentury furniture -- Danish Modern and Eames chairs.

ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: [Interview] Q&A with Musician and Design Blogger Moby

Meghan Drueding is the managing editor of Preservation magazine. She has a weakness for Midcentury Modernism, walkable cities, and coffee table books about architecture and design.

@mdrueding

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