Imagine that a silvery bird of prey with a 125-foot wingspan has come to rest on a Santa Monica Mountains ridge. Home owner Francie Rehwald loves the comparison. “My totem is the red-tailed hawk,” she says, and sure enough, one of the rust-colored raptors loops over the horizon as she talks. In 2008, Rehwald famously brought in by helicopter pieces of a chopped-up Boeing 747 she had purchased for $40,000 from Mark Thomson of Aviation Warehouse in the Mojave Desert. Thomson supplies scrapped aircraft for films and TV, but this was the first time a jetliner was becoming a residence. The design by architect David Hertz—
Rehwald had asked for something “curvaceous” and eco-responsible—placed one wing atop the living area of the main house, while the tail stabilizer became the roof of a second-story master bedroom suite. Another wing covers the guest quarters and its sweeping terrace.
To decorate the houses and landscape the grounds, Rehwald traveled to Bali and returned with three shipping containers of textiles, statues, wood artifacts, stone basins, colored rocks, and other items. She also roamed the site looking for remnants from former owner Tony Duquette, the interior designer who never met a discard he didn’t like. Duquette’s original compound of 21 whimsical structures had burned in a 1993 wildfire. The driveway is still lined with surviving bits of metal and ceramics that he had turned into sculptures.
Rehwald, whose family established one of the state’s first Mercedes-Benz dealerships, rivals Duquette in the art of repurposing. Enclosing the 55-acre estate is a webbed fence with an elegant agave patina; it’s World War II runway material that’s held in place with pipes salvaged from a Bakersfield oilfield. She transforms found pieces of green glass in a cement mixer, placing the tumbled “rocks” in emerald rings around cactus. An entertainment center near the pool has counters and flooring of Syndecrete, Hertz’s patented lightweight concrete composed of recycled industrial materials. She still has plans to incorporate the fuselage into an art studio. When you’re a master of reuse, your work is never done.