New Balance / Home Savings, Santa Monica
In late 2019 the tile mural was removed by the owner, despite advocacy efforts by the Santa Monica Conservancy. See below, their statement regarding this loss:
'[It] is the result of the City’s settlement of a lawsuit brought against it by the property owner, reversing the landmark designation in 2013 as well as the Santa Monica Conservancy’s appeal to City Council, which once again confirmed the designation in 2017. This result allows the owner to remove the artwork and ultimately demolish the building. The owner’s stated intent is to relocate the artwork and obtain a charitable tax deduction for donating it to a yet undisclosed nonprofit organization.
Owing to its location on Wilshire Boulevard, this former branch of Home Savings and Loan Association is one of the most prominent among the forty locations that architectural designer Millard Sheets created for the financial institution between the 1950s and 1970s.
It was the only example of Millard Sheets’ work in Santa Monica.
The Santa Monica branch follows the basic design template Sheets utilized for his Home Savings commissions, first established through his immensely well-received design for the 1956 Home Office location in Beverly Hills: exterior walls clad in travertine form the backdrop for a building with a rich program of integrated art, which includes a mosaic mural, stained glass and sculpture.
Sheets’ design for the Santa Monica location introduced some new variations to his Home Savings branch designs, including a building plan that features two wings projecting at 45-degree angles from the front elevation, framing the entry plaza. The building is itself positioned at a 45-degree angle to the corner of the lot.
The mosaic mural above the main entrance was one of the largest ever produced by Sheets’ studio for Home Savings. Instead of designing smaller, vignetted mosaics within a field of dark polished granite, as was typical of his Home Savings mosaics, Sheets created an entire 40 foot by 16 ½ foot panel spanning the façade directly above the ground floor glazing.
Home Savings operated out of this branch location from 1970 through 2000, when it was closed and sold. The building was purchased by a Cellular Fantasy franchise and adapted as commercial retail space for the cell phone retailer. The footwear and fitness apparel store New Balance has operated out of the building since 2010.
A seaside theme was chosen for the art program at the Santa Monica branch of Home Savings and is carried out in the numerous components of integrated art.
The mosaic above the main entrance, titled “Pleasures Along the Beach,” was a composite of beach scene and seascape. It was executed under the direction of Nancy Colbath and features Byzantine and Venetian glass. Millard Sheets’ signature appears near the lower right portion of the mosaic.
A stained glass window nearly as large as the exterior mosaic occupies the building’s south elevation and features additional scenes of beach activity, including swimming and beach games. Crafted from vibrant shades of mouth-blown glass, the 40 foot by 16 foot stained glass window was designed and executed by Susan Hertel, and fabricated and installed by John Wallis with the assistance of Denis O’Connor.
A prominently sited bronze sculpture titled “Family Group at the Beach” is located in the center of the building’s entry plaza and features a family at play in the surf. It was designed by artist Richard Ellis in California using the lost wax method but was cast in Rome. The sculpture is set within a raised circular basin that originally functioned as a pool with fountain sprays. The basin has since been converted into a planting bed.
A second bronze sculpture, titled “Child with Dolphins,” is located above the east entrance leading to the parking area. It was designed by artist John Edward Svenson and features two dolphins, one with a child riding on its back. Svenson’s own daughter served as the model.