There were plenty of available architects in the early 1920s, each with their own style and theory about what grandeur and elegance looked like. This was especially true for George Washington Smith, a lover of the simple yet magnificent look of Spanish Colonial Revival style homes. He was a rarity among other Los Angeles architects who chose more ornate styles such as English Tudor, Italian or Mediterranean for their clients. Smith began his architectural career by building a home for his own family. Located in Santa Barbara, the Smith home brought in many clients from the surrounding areas. He hadn’t ventured far past his hometown until 1925, when he designed and built the Kerns home on Carolwood Drive. It would be his first and last house built in Los Angeles.
Carolwood Drive is located in prestigious Holmby Hills and was the perfect location for Henry and Elsa Mary Kern, a retired couple who loved the serenity of the area. They bought a 2.2-acre lot and hired Smith immediately to begin designing their home. Up until this point, Smith had remained steadfast in his Spanish Colonial Revival designs, but Kern had a different idea for his new home. His request was a toned-down version of an Italian Renaissance, not the type of house that was Smith’s specialty. Smith continued to work with Kern, making multiple changes to his design at the owner’s request.
Once a final design had been approved, Smith began working on what would be his greatest accomplishment. Adding the small ornate details that Kern wanted to the simplistic, elegance of Smith’s design created an unusual but equally beautiful home. In 1927, the Kerns moved into their spacious 5-bedroom home situated on a knoll, surrounded by pristine landscape and a crystal-clear view. An impressive two-story entryway, dining room, living room, kitchen and servant’s quarters made up the downstairs with the upstairs containing a master suite with a sitting room, dressing room and bedroom fit for royalty.
The crowning glory of the Kern estate was thanks to A.E. Hanson, a landscape artist known for his skill of working with hills and ravines that were a part of the terrain in Holmby Hills. Hanson contacted Kern to offer his expertise, not waiting for Smith or Kern to contact him. Hanson kept with the clean, simple design in the backyard which led to the deep ravine. There he built a show-stopping feature: a beautiful fountain that fed into a waterfall, cascading down the ravine into a pool at the bottom. The stairs that led down the ravine to the pool were lined with clamshells for a unique display for visitors.
The Kerns estate is still in pristine condition today. The current owners purchased the estate in the 1990s and decided to restore the home to its original state. They also bought the neighboring estate and added another three acres to their two-acre estate, making it one of the largest estates in Holmby Hills.