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A Woolf Case Study home, Los Angeles


A Woolf-designed interior in Los Angeles


The Pendleton home, Los Angeles. Photo by Slim Aarons

Robert Koch Woolf of Temple, Texas, was a prolific master of mid-century design that took Hollywood’s Golden Age by storm. Here’s a look at his career by our dedicated design follower Lance Avery Morgan.

Texas is known for high style, and Robert Koch Woolf enjoyed a pinnacle of success like very few others of his time. Born in 1923, the American interior decorator was renowned for the Hollywood homes he created with architect and partner John Elgin Woolf.

After serving in the military during WWII, Woolf landed in the Los Angeles area where he worked at a local decorating store. He met John Elgin Woolf in 1948 and together they created homes in a distinctive style featuring Mansard roofs, Doric columns, oval windows and shutter-framed French doors. Inside, the highly designed spaces were glamorous and frequently played on illusion with circular hallways and mirrored pool pavilions. Many have them have appeared in Slim Aarons’ legendary lifestyle photographs of that live on today.

The duo established a new vocabulary for glamorous movie-star living. Among their signature creations were dramatic staircases, all-white interiors, and low-slung furniture, all bathed in light. Their creative synthesis of 19th-century French, Greek Revival and Modernist touches took on its own heady identity that has since been referred to as Hollywood Regency, which foreshadowed aspects of postmodernism that we know in design today.

The Woolfs’ clients included many of the leading entertainment personalities of the day including director George Cukor, Katherine Hepburn, Ira Gershwin, Judy Garland, Bob Hope, Cary Grant, Loretta Young and a laundry list of additional celluloid luminaries who lit the screen with their personalities. Robert Koch Woolf helped them light up their personal lives with clever one-of-a-kind designs until his death in 2004. They were homes that people got dressed up to visit, and we’re hoping this prominent Texan’s style legacy inspires more generations ahead.