Retro Ranch Built for One
State Senate candidate Bob Hertzberg carves out a nostalgic niche in Van Nuys.
Robert “Bob” Hertzberg is bustling around his home office, festooned with an eclectic assortment of mementos, honors and keepsakes from his personal life and political career. On a table sits an ornate humidor in the form of the state capitol building. Nearby are the 1970s platform disco shoes he wore in high school.
“There’s a picture of me in Tiananmen Square in 1986. There’s Al Gore. There’s the president of Mexico. That’s Nancy Pelosi at my other house,” he says, gesturing to photographs throughout the room.
Chatty and gregarious—and known among friends as “Huggy Hertzberg”—Bob has loads of personality. So does his house, a once humdrum Van Nuys ranch that he renovated, enlarged and packed full of whimsical art and collectibles.
Running to represent the Valley in the California State Senate, Bob coasted through the primary election on June 3 in a campaign marked by community meetings and old-fashioned letters to local residents. “Politics has gotten so impersonal,” says the former Assembly Speaker, who represented the Valley in the California State Assembly from 1996 to 2002. “You’ve got to go back to the old days and not lose those core values.”
Nothing embodies that sentiment like his dwelling, built in 1949 and given a contemporary facelift last year that celebrates its mid-century pedigree. From the street, it looks like any other standard, post-WWII Valley ranch: a modestly scaled structure with clapboard siding and shutters.
LIME TIME “I had this made so you can sit out here, smoke stogies and drink tequila,” Bob says with a chuckle. “But I really designed it to convene people. It’s a good place to hang out.”
But inside there’s nothing standard about it. And Bob is proud of its location. “People always look down their noses at Van Nuys,” he says. “I wanted to sit up tall and say, ‘I live in Van Nuys.’ I wanted to make a statement.”
He has made other statements, too, in his décor choices. After buying the 2,600-square-foot residence last spring, he embarked on a six-month renovation in which he raised the ceiling, letting in light and a sense of volume, and sprinkled red wall paint, furniture and accents among the rooms for a retro splash.
“As a kid, I grew up with a soda fountain in my house, so I duplicated it here,” Bob recalls, showing off one of the home’s most unique nooks: a vintage-style ice cream parlor with a working 1940s soda fountain he installed in what was formerly the laundry room.
NOSTALGIC NOOK: Throughout the home are items that evoke nostalgia, like the laundry room that was transformed into an ice cream parlor. Red is used as an accent color in nearly every room and paired with crisp white walls, trim and molding.
The same retro flavor carries through to the kitchen, where Bob bought and updated a 1949 stove that looks right at home amid white tile countertops and bright red window treatments he had custom-made downtown. “I did everything I could to bring it back to its original look and feel,” he explains.
Vintage popcorn and candy dispensers offer a treat for the eyes and taste buds in the home theatre Bob created in one bedroom. He installed a riser for plush seating and ambient lighting to “give it as much of a look as possible,” he says.
Bob oversaw the renovation and décor himself, including picking out living room furniture locally from Mitchell Litt. Every surface is crowded with photos of dignitaries, his parents and his sons, David and Daniel.
“I had no designers—that’s not my thing,” he says. “The purpose of the house is not only to have a cool place to live, but also to bring people together. People come over all the time.”
To that end, Bob built an entertainer’s dream backyard, preserving a wide, grassy space for catered parties. He turned a detached garage into a spacious guesthouse, where his penchant for humorous art is on display. He fashioned an outdoor seating area near a built-in tequila bar, nicknamed “Valenzuela’s Tequila Bar” in honor of a friend.
The whole bar, in fact, is an homage to pals. Bob hired a muralist to adorn the walls with a vibrant collection of painted tequila bottles, each dedicated to the likes of Governor Jerry Brown, Congressman Tony Cárdenas and other colleagues. A bottle for Arnold Schwarzenegger is branded “Que Fuerte!” “I’ve met a lot of great people over the years,” he muses.