COTE DE TEXAS

Ben and Jen, Part Two

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Most big time movie stars buy houses like we normal people buy candy.  Every few years,  sometimes even every few months, the richest of the Hollywood rich, pull up stakes and move to yet another huge, mostly bland looking, house.   These mansions have started to all look alike.  They are mostly two or three stories, white painted houses in Beverly Hills or somewhere nearby, filled with the most up to date contemporary furniture.   The square footage is always on the more ridiculous size, with houses so large they could double as a boutique hotel.  And it is all so boring looking. 

One of the largest of the Hollywood houses  was built by TV tycoon Aaron Spelling.  It’s now for sale and the recently engaged couple, Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez, toured the $165 million dollar house.

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The Spelling foyer.   Is it a house or a hotel?   Is it choose to live.  I can’t believe Ben and JLo would buy the Spelling mansion, much less even tour it.  But you never know.  I actually think Ben has good taste in architecture, judging by some of his past homes,  and Jennifer has good taste in interiors judging by the designers she has used.    I hope their new house will be a beauty because I am hoping their marriage will work out this time.   Jennifer deserves a man who will be faithful and will truly love her,  for once.

       

       

Ben & JLo:  Before and after - eighteen years later. 

      

 

The rumors of houses that Ben  & JLo have recently bought together is getting ridiculous – every day there is a new story about yet another house they purchased.  I don’t think they have actually bought anything – yet.

     

But, all these rumors made me think of houses they each owned before. 

Where to start?

 

JLo has had a few interesting houses in her arsenal, but honestly they don’t compare to a handful of Ben’s houses which I think are worth studying.

     

Like this particular one:

     

Remember the movie made by Something’s Gotta Give’s Nancy Meyers’ daughter Hallie Meyers-Shyer?  Called “Home Again,” it stars Reese Witherspoon and Candace Bergen.

     

Fans of Nancy Meyers loved the movie just as much as if Nancy made it herself, instead of Hallie, her daughter.  Just like any Nancy Meyers movie, it stars a wonderful “House” that is located in Brentwood and was once owned by super model Cindy Crawford and Rande Gerber.  The Home Again house is a true Hollywood house.  After Cindy and Rande outgrew the house, they sold it to the recently divorced Jennifer Garner.   Jennifer’s first husband was quickly replaced by her second, none other than Ben Affleck.  The two newlyweds settled into the Home Again house and started their family there. 

     

     

A scene from Home Again.

     
I wrote about the “Home Again” movie house 3 times.  Yeah.  Three Times.  LOL.
    

 

OK, I love Nancy Meyers, so forgive me.

    

I actually rewatched “Home Again” while I was writing this story and enjoyed it probably even more this time around.

   

Here are the links to the stories I wrote about it HERE, HERE, and HERE.

     

The Home Again Brentwood house was an original to the area.  Built in 1929, it was just under 4,000 sq. ft.  Times Change!   Today, a Hollywood pool cabana is bigger than that.

    

 

   

   

The same Home Again living room as it looked when Cindy Crawford and Rande Gerber lived there.   Michael S. Smith had done the interiors for Cindy and Rande, but Ben Affleck & Jen Garner chose Peter Dunham to do the house for them.  And something that would never happen today, the house was shown in all its glory in Vogue Living magazine.  Peter Dunham credits Jennifer Garner for starting off his career. 

     

     

Here is a very young looking Jennifer Garner on the cover of Vogue Living at the Home Again house.

           

     

Here is the outside of the original Home Again house, small for Brentwood houses today.

    

 

  

  A view of the back courtyard.  

Jennifer Garner in the garden – all smiles from the newlywed.

A Peter Dunham designed vignette in the front yard between the house and guest house.

Another view of the main house taken from the guest house which is across the lawn.

The back patio as designed by Peter Dunham.

The pool, designed by Peter Dunham.

And, another view – you can see the living room through the window. 

        

The Peter Dunham designed living room.  I love what he did!  I would move in here today.

A view of the sofa by the window.

The breakfast room by Dunham.

And another wonderfully designed Peter Dunham room in the house.

And, finally, the master bedroom.

This first house that grown up Ben Affleck lived in was such a darling home.  It was an authentic house, without much renovation.  And it showed that the couple had a definite flair for interesting architecture and interior design.   It wasn’t a typical Hollywood star house, it was warm, cozy, and charming.

Ben Affleck & Jennifer Garner on the Red Carpet.

The Affleck-Garner family did not live in the Home Again house for very long.

A few years later, they picked up sticks and moved to the Pacific Palisades, into a Cliff May house once owned by actor Gregory Peck and his first wife.

The fact that the Afflecks chose the one story ranch by Cliff May illustrates how important architecture was to the couple.

  Here, Peck listens to records in his Cliff May house.   After Peck and his wife were divorced he continued to live in this house for a few years.  In all he lived there from 1947 until 1952. 

There is this rumor about the house:  the English actor Ronald Colman was said to have lived here before the Pecks.  

Later, the uber producer with spiked hair, Brian Grazer moved in.   Grazer had bought the house from a USC professor in 1993.  

Next, Ben and Jennifer bought the house from Grazer.  

 

Brian Grazer had hired the then, new designer to the stars, Michael S. Smith, later President Obama’s designer, to renovate the Cliff May house.  Smith completely updated and redesigned the house for the Grazers.

After the Grazers sold the house to the Afflecks, they also redesigned the house – unfortunately, no one knows who their designer was.  Did Peter Dunham design this house or not?   There are no photos from the time the Afflecks lived there.

   When the Afflecks divorced – they sold the Cliff May house to Maroon 5’s Adam Levine and his wife Behati.   Adam Levine prides himself on his decorative taste and hired the Clements, the mother and son team, famous for working for Ellen DeGeneres, to decorate and completely renovate the house, yet again.  By this time, the house barely looked like a Cliff May design.

I have been obsessed with the Affleck's Cliff May house ever since I saw it when Ben & Jen lived there.  There was an interesting part of the house, built underground, which completely fascinated me.  But it wasn’t until Adam Levine recently put the house up for sale, that we could really see inside this subterranean area. 

While researching the house, I discovered that while there were no photos from when the Afflecks lived there, the house had been extensively photographed by Michael S. Smith for his book “Elements of Style.”" 

Additionally Architectural Digest had published photographs of the house when Gregory Peck lived there.  Then, Adam Levine put the house on the market several months ago, just a year after the renovation was completed.   So, now - there are many photographs to put it all together and understand the changes the Cliff May house has gone through from the 1940s – 2022s.

Brian Grazer bought the 3 acre estate in 1992 and sold it to the Afflecks in 2009 for $17.5 million, who in turn sold it to Adam Levine for $32 million, who recently sold it for $51 million.

 

An aerial view of the house when the Afflecks lived there.  You can see the original one story house that has been added on to over the years.  Additionally – there is now a broad lawn with a guest house built under it.  The windows to the underground house are visible at the end of the lawn.

Brian Grazer built this subterranean guest house.   To accomplish this feat – over 25 highway type caissons were used to create the guest house that ran from under the original house all around to the the newly created lawn.

 

Later the Afflecks built a new swimming pool and a new master bedroom that was right off the pool.  Notice the red roof – the Levines would remove this roof.  And notice how the one story house is in a sort of elongated horseshoe shape with a courtyard in the middle.

A better view of the subterranean guest house.  Under the lawn there are two guest rooms, three bathrooms, a billiard room, and an arts & crafts room.    Brian Grazer had created nature paths for his young children when he built the underground guest house.  You can see all the paths in front of the subterranean guest house. 

 

The underground addition built with the caissons  continued under the original section of the house.  Here, under the main house and reached by a stairway in the kitchen, Grazer built a large screening room and an office.

 

Adam Levine:   The newly restored house by the Levines shows the new gray roof that  was added.   This is much better looking than the previous red roof.

Adam Levine:   This photo shows the subterranean guest house and the lighted stairs that lead down to this section of the back yard.

Do you understand why I got so obsessed looking at this part of the house when the Afflecks owned it – thinking: what IS this????

Additionally, Brain Grazer rebuilt what was once the original guest house and which became a giant man cave for him.  The two story building contained his office, an art studio, a gym and two bathrooms.  Outside was a half basketball court.

Another view of the two storied man cave with the large balcony.

The half basketball court outside the man cave.

 

 

The long drive to the secluded house through wooden gates.

This drive made the house particularly appealing to both the Afflecks and the Levines since the paparazzi can’t enter the drive nor see into the house from the street.

Levine Real Estate Photos:   The front drive/courtyard of the house with original mature olive trees.  The front drive is in a horseshoe shape around a gravel drive.

Off the front courtyard, the door leads directly into the living room.

 

A day view of the front door and front courtyard.  At the left is the kitchen and breakfast area.

       

 

Gregory Peck:  From Architectural Digest.  Here is the original house.  Before,  you can see the house had a shingle roof.   Today, the main living area remains in the same area where all the windows are.  Over the years the house was added on to until it barely resembled the Cliff May ranch house it once was.

Cliff May designed his houses to be flat on the ground.  He called this “ground contact” meaning there was no step up or down to enter or leave the house.   This concept was based on 19th century Spanish haciendas and original California missions.   

 

 

 

Gregory Peck:   The living room was filled with mid century modern furniture in the Scandinavian style.  Peck’s wife was Finnish and she felt at home with this style of furniture.   The ceilings shown here were low, but later, they would be raised by the Grazers.

 

 

Grazer:   From Michael S. Smith’s book “Element of Style.”   This is the original living room combination dining room.  The roof has been raised to the rafters.   Smith added many antique stone mantels to the house.  Through the door is what was once the library, but later – the Levines turned this into the dining room.  To the right is the bar.

 

 

 

From the Grazer realty photos – this shows the area seen before and also, to the left, the dining area with its own fireplace.   In the middle of the room is a column that held up the roof – but the Levines engineered this so that column was removed, making this area one large living room.  On the back right side, past the blue painting, is the entrance to the master bedroom.

Grazer:   From Smith’s book, this showed the dining area and the fireplace mantel which Smith had added.   Adam Levine removed this mantel in favor of a contemporary one.  Through the door is the kitchen and sitting room.

 

    

Grazer:  From real estate photos – another view of the dining room.

Unfortunately there are no interior photos from the Afflecks time in the house.

 

Adam Levine:  The same living room looking completely different today.  There is a large creamy carpet that covers the hardwoods.   The original rafters are now painted white (of course.) The center column is gone and new steel doors replaced the old windows. 

 

 

Another view shows where the dining room once was at the left, there are now two chairs.   Through the left doors, the sitting area was turned into a large breakfast room.   At the right, the two double doors lead to the master room suite that overlooks the back yard and pool.

Instead of the beautiful wood rafters, they are now white with small black lights everywhere.  So disappointing. 

 

 

Looking towards the other direction is the new dining room with the bar at the right.

 

 

 

The former dining area.  Instead of the beautiful curated antique stone mantel – we now are left with this totally non descript version.

 

 

The view outside the large living room, with a patio.  This area overlooks the large lawn with views towards the ocean.

Grazer Real Estate photo:  shows the sitting room/breakfast room and the kitchen behind the fireplace.  Later, the Levines removed the fireplace opening up the kitchen to the breakfast room.

 

 

Grazer:   The sitting area/breakfast room off the living/dining room.   This ceiling had also been raised to the rafters by the Grazers.   Later, Adam Levine would lower this back to its original flat ceiling.   What a shame.   How gorgeous is this space as Michael Smith designed it?  The Levines version can not compete with this by any stretch of the imagination.

 

 

 

Grazers:  From Smith’s “Elements of Style” – a closer view of the sitting area off the kitchen. 

What can I say – I LOVE everything Michael Smith does.  Decades later, his décor for this Cliff May house looks better than what the Clements did for the Levines.  Sorry, but it’s true.

 

 

The above sofa overlooks this fireplace.  This is the fireplace the Levines removed to completely open up the kitchen to the breakfast room.  At the left, you can see the beginnings of the kitchen cabinetry.

 

 

 

Grazers:  From Smith’s book.   To the left of the sitting area is this breakfast table with these two fabulous French pendants.

 

 

 

Grazers:  On the other side of the fireplace is the kitchen.   Not seen is the door to the left of the refrigerator where some of the underground rooms were accessed – the screening room and office.

       

This real estate photo shows the Grazer kitchen from another angle – the range is on the other side of the fireplace in the sitting room.

Adam Levine:   The same space now with the lowered ceiling, which I really hate.  No more beautiful wood rafters.   The sitting/breakfast room is now just a breakfast area.    Notice the fireplace/range have been completely removed.

 

    

 

This view overlooks the front of the house – the entrance court.

Comment:  Yes, Cliff May designed his one story ranch to have flat ceilings – without the rafters showing.  That was his architectural vision.  Perhaps Adam Levine wanted to return to Cliff May’s original design when he removed the rafters from view.  But, then why leave the rafters, albeit painted white, in the living room?!????  Hypocrisy!   Just kidding, but it does make you wonder!!

 

 

On the opposite side of the kitchen/breakfast area, the doors open to this large patio which sits over the subterranean office and screening room.  The master suite also opens up to this patio through its own closed off courtyard.

Afflecks:  This earlier view shows the same kitchen and master bedroom courtyard with the underground rooms added by the Grazers – the screening room and office.

The Levine’s screening room down in the subterranean level built by Grazer beneath the original house.

 

Levines:  The office below the kitchen area, next to the screening room.

      

Gregory Peck – the dining room.  It’s hard to know exactly where this room was in the original house since it has been changed so much. Please, please notice the scalloped corner cabinet!!  Too cute!!!

 

 

 

Grazers:   Michael Smith’s “Elements of Style” shows the library which was once a screened porch.  Later, Adam Levine would change this into the formal dining room.  Notice the built ins – some of these were retained by Adam.

Some years later, Michael Smith took this photo of the library,  unstyled.

 

 

Levines:  The same exact room, the library, now the dining room with its original Smith fireplace that was kept by the Clements. Wow.  The Clements kept something from Michael Smith.   Thanks for small miracles. 

 

      

Another angle of the dining room.  This is the same view as the one taken by Michael with the lilac chairs seen before.

 

 

Gregory Peck and his first wife.  This bar is the most incredible room with its curved leather bar and those glass columns.

Levine:  Today, in the same space is the bar which Behati says is her favorite room in the house. 

 

 

 

 

Levine:  Another view.  Notice the changed art work.   In some later photos this canvas has been replaced.  In other photos, it was whited out.   I wonder if this is a political statement by the Levines or they are worried about cancel culture? 

 

 

 

Off the dining room and bar is this sitting area and firepit.

 

 

 

Another view.

Levines:   The powder room.  Amazing sink.

Peck:   The master bedroom.

Grazer:   From Michael Smith’s  instagram.  A view of the master suite’s sitting room.

 

Grazer:  From Smith’s book.  “Elements of Style.”  Another view of the same vignette.

 

The Levines:   The same master suite was completely gutted by the Afflecks and then renovated by the Levines.   On one side the doors open to the swimming pool area of the back lawn.

On the other side, the windows open to a closed off courtyard – a part of the large patio off the kitchen/breakfast room.

Levines:   the master bath.

Levines:   the wet room – shower and bath, completely closed off from the other areas of the bathroom.

Another view of the wet room. 

      

  

Grazer:  From the book “Elements of Style” – the guest room.

         

Grazers – the same guest room from real estate photographs.

 

   

Grazer:   The guest room bath by Michael S. Smith.

Levines:   The same guest room today with the bed placed on the opposite wall.  This room has its own small courtyard, past the larger one off the kitchen.

        

Levines:  The entrance court, shows the man cave/office building on the right side.  This building was rebuilt by Grazer for his personal use.

 

 

Afflecks:   From the air – you can see how the man cave building is separate from the original building.  At the upper right you just barely see the dining room and bar room.  Those round stones were used by the Grazers and the Afflecks but the Levines removed them.

   

Grazer:  Michael Smith’s designed office in the man cave building.

 

 

Grazer:  the opposite side of his office, shown above, designed by Michael S. Smith.

    

Levines:  The second story of the man cave, today a yoga and pilates studio.  The balcony overlooks the basketball court with views to downtown.

      

 

The work out room in the man cave building.  Bottom level.

 

     

 

Grazer:   The Billiard Room in the subterranean guest house built under the back yard.  Taken from “Elements of Style” by Michael Smith.  Wall hanging of Smith’s iconic Tree of Life fabric.

Grazer:   A party given by the Grazers.

     

 

Levines:  The backyard today.  Fully landscaped.

The pool off the newly renovated master suite.

 

 

        And at night.

 

View of the master suite hidden behind the trees, next to the swimming pool.

……….

After looking at those two wonderful houses that Ben Affleck has owned – the older, small, cozy Home Again house and the iconic original Cliff May ranch house, there is one other home that leads me to think Ben has good taste in architecture.

Ben fell totally in love with the Georgia coast while filming the movie Forces of Nature in 1998.   In 2003, during his first engagement with JLo, he bought a Greek Revival house located on 87 acres on Hampton Island, a marshy area on the Georgian coast.

      The house is 35 miles away from Savannah.   It looks like an original Greek Revival but it was just built in 1998.

 

 Besides the house, also located on the property is a large sporting lodge, a caretakers house and a summer house.  A boat from 1928 acts as an extra guest room.  

 

 

A site plan of the house.  You can see the white rectangular house by the waterway.  A large tree lined allee leads to a circular drive and the front door.

 

 

The front side of the house, it is almost undistinguishable from the back. 

 

 

The back side that leads to the marsh.  The visual difference is the top left and right set of windows are different from the front side.

An aerial view.

 

 

The back porch.  Through the window, is the kitchen/family room.

 

Through the window, you can see the kitchen.  This photo was taken from a movie that was filmed at the house.

 

 

 

The back side.

Looking from the back porch to the waterway.

 

 

 

The front door opens to the back door.  Or wait – is this the back door????

 

 

Real Estate Photos from BEFORE Ben Affleck bought the house.  The double sized living room.  Notice the gas styled chandelier.

 

 

Ben:  Here is what the living room looked when Ben recently sold this house.   What is significant is that obviously Ben let Jennifer decorate this house.   Can you tell who the designer was? 

Of course, it was Rachel Ashwell who made all the changes to the house for Ben and JLo.  She stained the floors a darker shade and put in a new chandelier.  It is filled with her slipcovered furniture and new curtains.   Affleck obviously kept the Ashwell décor all through the time he owned the house until it was sold, years after he and JLo had broken up.

Now think about that.  Ashwell was hired by JLo, obviously.  Ashwell also designed JLo’s restaurant Madres and is/was a favorite of Ashwells.   Once Ben married Jennifer Garner (who preferred Peter Dunham) – Ben never got rid of the Ashwell décor, despite being newly married to Jennifer Garner!   I wonder how Garner felt about living with JLo’s favorite designer?   He didn’t sell the house for years and years and when he finally did – these pictures show that Ashwell’s furniture was still there!   He sold the house just a few years too soon!!!

 

The other side of the room.

In 2016, The Intervention, a new movie very loosely based on The Big Chill, was filmed in Ben’s house.   I pulled some screenshots from the movie to see different views of the house.    As you can see, very few changes were made for the film, but the ottoman was brown leather.

BEFORE Affleck:  The dining room with two crystal chandeliers.

 

 

 

Affleck:   For the movie, the Ashwell furniture was kept.  Rachel used the original chandeliers but removed all the maps from the walls and she also added new French furniture.   She also removed the valances from the windows.

 

 

 

This photo is from before Ben bought the house.  Beautiful murals line the walls of this area of the dining room.

  In a surprise, this end of the dining room is curved in a horseshoe shape.   The mural is placed only in the curved portion of the room.   The subject matter is based on the marsh outside these windows.

 

 

 

For some reason, Ashwell removed the paper when she added the new French styled furniture.   I wonder why she got rid of the gorgeous mural?

 

A close up of the mural.

 

Before.   A view into the dining room.  Here you can see the mural stops where the curved walls end.  On the other side of the window, the mural is missing.  Strange.  I would have put the mural on all the walls, curved or not.

 

 

The front porch shows the dining room through the window.

 

 

 

Before:  The kitchen and sitting room – overlooks the marsh.

 

 

Before:  Looking towards the sitting area from the kitchen.  Through the door is the dining room.

 

 

 

Before:  The kitchen.

 

After:   Rachel Ashwell painted the kitchen cabinets all white which really brightened up the space.

She also brought in more of her slipcovered furniture.

 

From the movie. 

It’s a cute movie, I’ll give it a C.  Not great, not bad.  BUT, the house!!!!!!  It makes it so worth watching!!!!!    When I first saw the movie, I talked about it on Instagram, how wonderful the movie house was.  I didn’t recognize it as Ben’s house but several readers did!!!

From the movie, Ashwell’s sitting room.

 

 

 

Before:  The library. 

 

 

And anther view from Before.  There are no photos showing Rachel’s library, so maybe they kept it as it was?

  BEFORE:  The master bedroom.  Again no changes for Ben that we know of. 

 

Notice the light fixtures.

 

 

The bottom level of the house.

 

 

Another view. 

 

 

The Sporting Lodge, or the Oyster House, is an interesting place.    The lodge can be kept private, or used as a corporate travel destination for fishing, hunting and shooting. 

  There are three regular sized bedrooms in addition to six bunk rooms upstairs with bunks salvaged from merchant ships.

Inside the lodge.  Not sure if Ashwell designed this or not.  But, I don’t think she did. 

    

 

The bunk rooms are on the second level, overlooking the first floor.

 

 

 

The upper level is ringed with six bunk rooms.

 

Each bunk rooms has a sink.  What else does a fly fisherman need?   This must be a great place to rent out for a company retreat.

 

 

 

The small house with a screened in porch on the dock with the guest boat.

      

 

The 38’ mahogany boat used as a guest room - The Pilar – is permanently moored here.

 

 

      One of the docks on the marsh.   

This dock was used in his movie, The Town.   What’s interesting (I love that movie - The Town - by the way, I absolutely love it) – is that this final scene of Ben at the dock was chosen at the last minute.  There were actually three endings and I love the one they chose, optimistic and somewhat even upbeat after all the horrible death and destruction throughout the movie.   Makes me want to go watch it again.  Hold on, I’ll be back in two hours…LOL.

 

  OK, I’m back.  Great movie.   

And finally, the boardwalk built over the marsh.

In an interview Rachel Ashwell said this about the end of her project with Ben and JLo in Georgia:

   

“It was worse for Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck…”

…just as Rachel was putting the finishing touches on their Georgian house - they decided to separate.

But Ashwell is very proud of the work she did for Jennifer Lopez, especially for her restaurant Madres.

People still talk about Madres décor – it was the one thing they remember most about that venture.

If you want to listen to Rachel talk about Madres, go HERE starting at 4:38.  Rachel claims Madres is one project she remains most proud of.

Madres:   Such a pretty table setting for a restaurant, designed by Rachel Ashwell.  Rachel did it all – from buying antique plates and glasses to finding the vintage tablecloths.   

Another Madres vignette.  Rachel discusses the layered tablecloths in her Instagram chat.

  

And it appears that Madres Restaurant might the last project that tied JLo to Rachel Ashwell.   If she ever hired Rachel again, it was kept from public eyes.

So,  care to guess what designer JLo turned to after Rachel Ashwell?

  

 

 

You got it!   Joanna Gaines.   Of course!   Who else could fill the shoes of Rachel Ashwell in interior design popularity?

While THEY were engaged, JLo and Alex Rodriguez bought this Malibu fixer upper.  On Ellen DeGeneres’ show, Jennifer told the audience that one night she mentioned to ARod how amazing it would be if Joanna Gaines would decorate it,  but that would never happen because  “she doesn't do anything outside of Waco. Like, nothing."

But then the hopelessly in love ARod (before he started cheating on JLo) called Joanna who agreed to surprise JLo with a Zoom call and a trip to Malibu to look at the beach house.    Listen to Jennifer tell Ellen the cute story:   HERE

                                                          The couples even visited each other in Waco.  But, the Malibu house was sold before Joanna finished it if she ever even started it. 

Instead, Jennifer bought a house at Water Mill in the Hamptons.

 

  JLo & ARod were often seen on Instagram outside at the Hamptons house playing games and exercising.  

Exercising on the yard.  The house was redone in nautical blues and whites.  No hint who decorated it. 

Despite all the rumors, Ben and JLo have yet to buy a house in Los Angeles.  I can’t wait to see what they do buy and who they hire to decorate it!  Hopefully the new house will have a history and will be architecturally significant and they hire Mark Sikes.  That’s all!   Not asking for much!!