Weird Houses of LA: Studio City


When you think of L.A., I’m willing to bet cash money that the Hollywood sign, Santa Monica, and the Sunset Strip would come to mind before a quiet little suburb…that just happens to be home to hordes of celebrities.  

That’s why I’d like to give a shout out for my very own L.A. neighborhood, Studio City.

While there are a handful of weird houses dotted around Studio City’s hills, my personal pick is this organic mosaic creation, found on flat land at 4233 Rhodes Avenue

Studio City is a collection of mini-neighborhoods that sprawl across the easternmost end of the San Fernando Valley. For a map of what the heck I’m talking about, click here.

Studio City’s history prior to the 1920s is largely that of a frontier town. To see what it looked like way back in the day, all dusty and isolated, visit the collection of antique photographs at local eatery Mexicali.  

In 1928, silent film industry legend Mack Sennett moved his Keystone Pictures Studio from the LA neighborhood of Echo Park to a 38-acre lot here. Within a year, he’d produced over 100 films with the greatest stars of that era:  W.C. Fields, Fatty Arbuckle,  Laurel & Hardy, Harold Lloyd, Sennett’s own Keystone Kops, and more.  Sennett’s credited with giving Charlie Chaplin and Gloria Swanson their first jobs in the movies, and giving Studio City its name.

Sadly, the Depression was unkind to Mack and by 1935 he was bankrupt. Keystone was shuffled a few times, eventually became B-movie house Republic, was purchased by CBS in 1962, and then housed Mary Tyler Moore’s MTM Enterprises until 1992. CBS bought back the lot, and today it’s known as the CBS Studio Center

This may explain why Studio City is chock full of stars.  

George Clooney keeps a beautiful bachelor pad with a huge basketball court just a few blocks from us (and many tax brackets away) in tony Fryman Canyon. Our de facto mayor is Ed Begley, Jr., whose entirely eco-friendly house is the subject of Living With Ed, a show on HGTV. Ed Asner, from The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Lou Grant, stayed on after MTM folded. 

You might also see the Fanning sisters, Jenna Fischer and Steve Carell of The Office, Disney’s blue-chip Zac Efron, snarkstress Kathy Griffin, and even, until all hell broke loose in her life last year, Britney Spears.  

But if pressed, we’d have to say that hands down, our favorite local celebrity is William Shatner.  

Sadly for us, though, none of these fine people live in anything close to a truly weird house. 

Thank goodness for 4233 Rhodes Avenue, which is both the creation and home of bodybuilding equipment designer and mosaic artist/sculptor Karl Johnson. In addition to tricking out his own domicile, Johnson has made over at least one other house, in nearby Sherman Oaks.

But because Johnson’s art has spilled out onto his own un-permitted front strip, he’s annoyed at least some of his neighbors;  this notice tells the hostile tale.

Art is, after all, subjective. Just because we find Johnson’s whimsical home a bizarre delight doesn’t mean we’d be just as thrilled to live next door to it.

George Clooney, though? That’s another story entirely.

*To see more photos of Studio City, click here.


  1. Hey Melanie –

    Cool story! I’m curious, whatever happened with this cool mosaic house? Did the cranky neighbors prevail? Personally, I’d take something interesting over the normal patch of grass/dog potty, but then again, I don’t live next to him…

  2. I’ll do my best to find out…it’s still there, so it sure looks like Johnson’s won the battle for now!

  3. I would prefer to live next to his house then some stuffy old look a like – remember the song Little Boxes? NO THANKS!

  4. You make a good point, Sierra! But then, Adam and I live next to a burned-out vacant lot…just about anything would be a marked improvement :).

  5. I know Karl Johnson actualy he is a cool super nice person and as well his wife, they live in an amazing pocket of studio city and if I had the money to buy the house next door I would;) it’s a real gem in the street people stop to rest in the shade there and take pictures kids are playing there and having fun and yes it’s better then a grass only in the street.

  6. Karls house looks great and he has at least 10 more beautiful art pieces displayed on Radford ave next to the Studio and across the bridge. I think they are the pieces that were in his driveway. Does anyone know Karls website?

  7. The mosaic house is still there. It’s wonderful.

  8. June Moore says:

    Karl Johnson passed away mid 2016 and most of the sculptures have been removed and the house is now scheduled for demolition.

  9. Oh, how awful…this was one of the most magical places in Studio City! I moved to Washington, DC in mid-2015, and had no idea — thank you for letting me know.

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