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Arts and Entertainment

Sunday Book Review: California Romantica

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The architecture of certain California homes reflect the golden optimism of the area's Edenic-period of growth and heightened romanticism. Sky-high ceilings take your breath away, while omnipresent beams of warm sunlight bathe tiled floors and stuccoed walls.

Twenty homes in Southern California are photographed and honored in a coffee table book assembled and created by legendary actress Diane Keaton. California Romantica was released late last year from Rizzoli; the weighty tome features the photographs of Lisa Hardaway and Paul Hester and additional text by DJ Waldie.

The abundant images reflect a keen cinematic sensibility drawn most likely from both the homes original architects and designers who became emblematic of the iconic style celebrated on these glossy pages as well as from Keaton herself; the actress has worked long in the field of historic preservation, both publicly (most notably her recent fervent but unheeded work to save the Ambassador Hotel from the wrecking ball) and privately (she restored her former Beverly Hills home and showcases the end results in the book).

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Keaton isolates a long-ago family trip to the Mission at San Juan Capistrano as the starting point of what she calls in the book's introduction her "obsession" with Spanish Colonial Revival styled architecture.

"All houses are in some fashion time machines" writes Waldie, and each photograph serves as testimonial to the steadfast relationship between history and aesthetics.

The book does not pay homage to merely the form of the residences, but rather takes a deeper look at the wealth of craftsmanship as evidenced in the details. Intricate tile work gracefully takes command of an arched expanse of kitchen or brighten each step on a winding staircase, wrought iron swirls hint at mystery, and knobs and knockers evoke whimsy.

California Romantica does more than just memorialize iconic homes of the area on film, but rather allows the reader to step inside their walls, and glimpse out at a purple-tinged sunset blanketing an arid hillside, or walk through a colorfully-tiled foyer and feel the cool of the ceramic counter the heat of the Los Angeles sun. Although not a book one would want to just pick up and devour like a novel, the balance of text and imagery is such that the casual page-turner can be easily satisfied to pore over only the photos, while the detailed passages accompanying the pictures make for an absorbing read over multiple sittings.

Much like the appeal of the iconic homes, the book also has the appeal of the iconic creator, which is what brought several admirers of Keaton to the Taschen Store in Beverly Hills yesterday for a signing. Both Keaton and Waldie obliged the fans in the queue by penning their names in silver on the black glossy title page--in fact all the pages are set in black, making the book seem like a cascading set of mounted and framed pieces of art.

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Waldie writes: "Our own house and garden may be all that we will ever konw intimately of beauty, form, and design." While this may be true for some, for those of us whose walls lack beauty in their design, we make do with what enhancements we can and dream of times gone by or times yet to come. For many of us, such inspiration can be drawn from the pages of California Romantica.

Some signed copies of California Romantica may be available for purchase at the Taschen Store; call ahead to check the stock if you would like an autographed copy.

Taschen Store
345 N Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills
310-274-4300

Cover of book photo by Lindsay William-Ross/LAist; photo of DJ Waldie, Diane Keaton & Jim Helmann by Emily Kendis/Taschen Store Beverly Hills