The Stanley House – Relentless Pursuit For Building Perfection
Matt Lyons is not your typical builder or developer, and his company runs no average operation either. The same applies to one of the most stunning projects developed in Los Angeles, or any other place for that matter. The Stanley House is such a project. A collaboration between Lyons Development, and Kravitz Design (yes, the ever-so-cool, rock star Lenny Kravitz, and his partners, Kirsten Mattila, and Brant Pilgrim). and nestled high in the Hollywood Hills, this majestic property sort of sneaks up on you after making a right turn up the hill, as it unfolds in all its glory like a giant piece of art in the most rarefied museum. It is beautiful and spectacular, yet retains a certain warmth that is not always associated with these properties. We spoke with the Modesto, CA, native about the house, his philosophy on building and development, and why details matter.
What strikes us a little bit about you is the unusual dichotomy between being this pretty casual guy who also happens to be this uber precise and detail-oriented professional. Do you feel like there’s always something pulling at you from both sides?
This home is a pretty good representation of what you’ve just asked. It’s really a marvel of engineering and design, with military-like precision in the way it was conceived, planned, and executed, but at the same time, it is a living and breathing home, with a family living their lives and enjoying what this home provides for them. and is of the utmost importance, which is also why, subconsciously, one can become emotional upon touring the home. I don’t really
believe in grabbing the attention for myself or my team, so our demeanor is, in fact, casual, but we are incredibly mindful to live up to the high standards we’ve established for ourselves. We work very hard to achieve the ultimate level of trust with our clients; we are really honest with them, and because of it, we’ve broken down obstacles that are typically present with projects such as this one. It’s taken us a long time to understand how to do that. There is a certain level of vulnerability that needs to be demonstrated; the client shares with us, and we share right back. Because of it, a level of intimacy can be found, which assures mutual success. We call this process Active Engagement. It’s when they realize that your intentions are not to take from them, but to shift away from a transactional relationship and give them something. We take our clients to dinner, not just to discuss the project at hand, but to see what really makes them tick. We want to know what kind of things they like to do, how they think, where they go on vacation, what are their grand dreams for the property, in short, anything that will enable us to build a better property for them. It’s about building a personality profile, which helps us establish the best possible results.
No details have been spared to make the Stanley House a one-of-a-kind architectural marvel. From the material selection, where no stone (no pun intended) was left unturned, to the precision in the engineering that makes the huge low-profile windows open seamlessly, showcasing the most breathtaking view of Los Angeles. Doors have been meticulously planned to open within the smallest possible gap (0.32” of tolerance, which you have to see to believe). The floors are literally seamless in transitioning from one area to the next, and you actually witness the craftsmanship pouring out of every inch of the house; it is a sight to behold. Even the control rooms are something spectacular, providing the owners instant access to the house’s complicated functions in a systematic manner, which would not seem out of place on, say, a luxury ship engine room. At every corner, the house amazes. Touring it feels like being part of an advanced class in master building, so much so that it’s difficult to imagine the amount of work—and money—that were invested to achieve such perfection. But somehow, in the hands of the capable and friendly Lyons, you come to understand quickly how it all works. As with every Matt Lyons Development property, the Stanley House was built specifically to fit the owners, making it an extension of themselves, their personalities, and their lifestyle. Everything was planned for a specific function. As the old saying goes: “measure twice, cut once,” except that in this case, it’s more like measure twenty times, then measure again, before finally cutting.
When asked about the role of a “developer” in this process, Lyons laughs a little and goes on to describe from his perspective what a developer actually does. “There aren’t any playbooks when it comes to being a developer. There are no master classes in college that can get you to deliver a project like the Stanley House. You are creating something from nothing for someone looking to enjoy the rest of their lives. Knowing how to get there, and making the appropriate decisions is what a developer does, says Lyons. He continues: “ There is a lot of trial and error and learning how to do things the hard way, and I know that my background as a guy who learned from his father, uncle, and grandfather has definitely guided me and
put me on the right path.” Modesto, CA, is a small outpost in the Central Valley, about 90 miles north of Fresno, and is known for its rich farmland (it’s also well known for being showcased in George Lucas’ —another Modesto native—seminal, coming-of-age movie American Graffiti). The Lyons family continues to own a large 100 year-old ranch where young Matt had to learn to work with his hands, and fix and create things as they came along. Fences broken? Matt can do it. Doctor cattle? It’s time to saddle up! Matt had to learn to get by quickly and on the spot. His philosophy of working hard and meticulously committing to a project until its completion, and more importantly, perfectly, has completely permeated the way Lyons operates today. A pool light is not working at 3am? Matt will take the phone call and simply fix it. It’s as ingrained in his DNA as anything else. But more than a developer, he is also a creator. After speaking with Matt extensively, it is easy to see the creative side. the way the door bell is located, not next to the door but “on the way” to the door so as to maximize movement efficiency, is truly remarkable. It brings a smile to Lyons’ face to demonstrate it, not to show how clever he is, but rather the amount of thought and creativity that goes into his process. As a matter of fact, there is nothing braggadocious about him; he states things as they are, happy that they work as intended. Even now with the house finally completed, he still tours it and sees things that could be improved—a true master perpetually working on developing his craft.
It goes without saying that no amount of money was spared to meet the owners’ lofty expectations. As Lyons says, “ there comes a point where money is not the motivating factor; it is about doing it exactly right.” Everything from music to lights is controlled through an incredible digital platform at the homeowners’ fingertips, allowing them to access every automated home feature, adjust the ambient temperature of a particular room, and even open the garage (one of the coolest features of the house is that the actual garage door opens as if the wall were to disappear and closes to look just like the rest of the exterior wall.) Access to the house is based on biometric recognition, an intricate, yet necessary feature, especially when it comes to this kind of property. Technically, none of these things is extremely hard to put together; however, it is a very complicated endeavor to make sure that it goes correctly and smoothly.
When asked what being a NOBLEMAN is all about, Lyons takes a long time to answer, as if weighing the possible consequences of his answer. He finally breaks it down to loyalty, integrity, and the ability to change the community around oneself for the better. It is an answer that encapsulates the kind of leader Lyons is: compassionate, dedicated, and not afraid to make the tough decisions if needed. As a last word, when asked how difficult it is to let go of a project, Lyons gives me a quizzical look and finally says: “After spending so much time building and perfecting the place, you do get to become attached to it; it is our baby, as much as it is the owners’.”
As a developer, Lyons’ role as a “conductor” is to make sure that all moving parts and people work together in complete harmony, ensuring the delivery of the most perfect house. In the case of the Stanley House, we can assuredly state: mission accomplished.
For more information about Matt Lyons development, visit: lyonsdevelopment.com
Photography by Boone Speed
Words by Yves Le Sieur