Perhaps L.A.’s most famous apartment dweller is the golden age actress-screenwriter-sex symbol Mae West. The blond bombshell—known for her bawdy humor and one-liners like “When I’m good, I’m very good. But when I’m bad, I’m better”—moved into No. 611 of the Ravenswood Apartments on Rossmore Avenue in 1930 and stayed five decades. She died in the living room on November 22, 1980, at the age of 87.
Interior designer Kimberly Biehl Schmidt knows all this. She’s obsessed enough with Old Hollywood to own a set of Mary Pickford’s chairs, some books of Cary Grant’s, and a Hedy Lamarr painting, among other artifacts. So imagine her excitement when she learned that West’s unit was available. Schmidt took a look at the original light fixtures, the arched doorways, and the lavender bathroom tiles and rented it immediately. She moved in February 1.
There are those who see apartment living not only as an affordable alternative to home ownership, but preferable to it. No property taxes to pay. No gutters to clean. There’s a sense of community in the common spaces. And if you’re lucky, like Schmidt, there’s a sense of shared history. She has read about how West loved to host séances in No. 611 and how she did her most inspired writing in bed. Schmidt hopes some of West’s creative energy still resides in the apartment. “I haven’t even moved in,” she says, “and I can’t ever imagine moving out.”