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41. Merle Norman House, 1935 41. Merle Norman House, 1935
2523 Third St.
Architect: Ellis G. Martin

Merle Norman House 1935
Mediterranean Revival style villa
designed by Ellis Martin

Merle Norman

Front view

740 Raymond Avenue.
Turn-of-the-century cottage built 1904 by W. H. Slack. moved to Raymond Avenue in 1935

Merle Norman’s first home on this lot was a turn-of-the-century cottage built in1904 by W. H. Slack. It was here the original cosmetic formulas were developed. Instead of demolishing the home, in 1935, she had it moved to 740 Raymond Avenue.

Even before she opened her first studio in Santa Monica in 1931, Merle Norman's philosophy of "Try Before You Buy" was being carried out as she offered free samples of her products to neighbors, hoping they’d discover the benefits and return as paying customers.

And return they did. Many even opened their own studios and the company now has studios throughout the United States and Canada. Carrying on the Merle Norman tradition, franchisees now offer skin care products, from cleansers and toners to sun defense, and a full line of cosmetics.

Mrs. Norman’s cosmetics business began in the garage of the original property in Ocean Park, where she created her own line of cosmetics to help women care for their skin and enhance their natural beauty. Norman offered free samples of her products to neighbors, believing they would soon return as paying customers. This happened during the Great Depression, when free had a lot of value. She built a loyal customer base for her products, and her company continues to be an active family-owned business today.

As her business grew, Norman commissioned the design and execution of a Mediterranean Revival style villa designed by Ellis Martin. It has divine foliage.

A home not at all similar to its Victorian and Craftsman neighbors, this Mediterranean Revival style features a tiled and hipped roof with bracketed eaves caps the stucco structure. The asymmetrical façade’s entry is located in a large port cochere with rounded arches.

Mediterranean Revival style is considered to be somewhat more baroque than the more austere Spanish Revival Style often found in Santa Monica. Known for distinctive arches and bold columns, and exposed rafters and bracketed eaves, Mediterranean Revival Style provides a warm, inviting feeling.

The use of architectural elements and designs indigenous to the countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea as a fundamental trend began to take hold in the late-19th century and reached its apogee at the San Diego exhibition in 1915. There were several forces at work—most notably the Colonial Revival, which touted Classicism, and the American Arts & Crafts movement, which gave the world the Mission Style that was derived from ancient Spanish Missions in the American Southwest.

The two dominant influences of Mediterranean architecture are those of Spain and Italy. To many of us, the design elements of these countries may be indistinguishable, but to the practiced eye, there are subtleties critical to each.

Sean Lackey of Tom Price Architect, Orlando, Fla., notes the subtle variations in Mediterranean architecture: "Italian Renaissance is often referred to as being more feminine than Spanish Mediterranean. Structures tend to be more symmetrical and evoke European influences. There's a use of Classical order columns instead of Tuscan. There's more delicate detail and ornamentation on the exterior trim such as balustrades, windows, and doors. It's also common to see brackets supporting the overhang. Occasionally you'll also see brick facades. Spanish Mediterranean is less ornamental. It's crisper and more masculine. This style, also known as the Mizner style, was very popular in the 1920s when less ornamentation was in vogue. There's a lower pitch to the roofs and a heavier massing than Italian Renaissance. The Italian Renaissance has a more deliberately shaped massing, often into symmetrical expressions. The Spanish Mediterranean's massing is likely to be more haphazard and freeform."