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Luxury

Ahoy! Rare Boathouse Designed by Harry Gesner for Sale in Los Angeles

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    Rare Boathouse Designed by Harry Gesner

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Mix together a trend-setting architect, Norwegian shipbuilders, and supposedly unbuildable lots in the Hollywood Hills, and what do you get? You get Harry Gesner's mid-century boathouses, one of which is now on the market for $699,000.

The two-bedroom, one-bath, 1,136-square-foot home features a master bedroom with an inward sloping exterior glass wall that resembles the side of a boat's hull. Other rooms feature wood-beamed ceilings and shiplap walls that also evoke the sea.

"When you're inside, it actually does feel like a boat," says listing agent Colette Dornblum, who notes that the home has a railing around its entryway that resembles a ship's bow, and that the entire structure slants down slightly, like a ship cutting through the waves.

The home, which is one of seven boathouses on the canyon site, is built on stilts, so there are also treetop views of the hills beyond and even of the iconic Hollywood sign, Dornblum says.

The boathouses were built in 1959 after a local developer approached Gesner, who had a reputation for nontraditional building design, to see if he could come up with a way to construct homes on the 25-foot-wide lots.

Gesner, who once turned down the opportunity to study under Frank Lloyd Wright because he wanted to learn how to become an architect on his own terms, was up for the challenge. His Wave House in Malibu is said to have inspired the architect of the Sydney Opera House, and his adventures in architecture and in life have since garnered him widespread media attention in such outlets as the New York Times and Vanity Fair.

Gesner found a group of former Norwegian shipbuilders who wanted to get established in the L.A. area as builders, and put them to work on his shiplike designs. In addition to their shipwright skills, the artisans had expertise in building what are known as stave churches -- wooden structures that use timber framing -- so Gesner's wooden houses were well within their skill set.

They hand-hewed many of the native redwood beams in this home while suspended in harnesses high above the ground, Dornblum explains.

Of the seven boathouses built, "We believe this one has been brought back the most like the original," Dornblum says. It's also been updated with modern conveniences, such as central air-conditioning, a new heating system, a security system, and privacy window shades. A European dishwasher has been added in the galley kitchen as well.

The home has attracted a great deal of traffic, Dornblum says. Given that it only has two bedrooms, it's most suited for a couple or single person who would enjoy its open floor plan, the patio, and raised interior platform area in the open living room, which could be used as a home office or dining area.

And of course, anyone who loves boats would feel very much at home as captain of this unique ship.