Poised upon a prime 32-acre site bordering national parkland, the PT-represented Yellow Hill Retreat, designed by architects Hagy Belzberg and George Wittman, is as rare and captivating a property as they come—but don’t be fooled into thinking that the drama ends there. Owner Bata Mataja, founder of Big American Dream Company and former vintage car racer, yearned to bring his lifelong infatuation of automobiles a little closer to home. Such is the reason why, in addition to a 15-car motor court, Bata and Hagy devised a custom gallery to exist inside the 7,500 square foot Malibu residence.
From his first acquisition, a 1957 Karmann Ghia coupe, to a more recent 1949 Buick Roadmaster Convertible, which he converted from a 4-seater to a 2-seater, Bata has owned 60-70 cars throughout his life, restoring them as often as he could between client projects and running his business.
In this exclusive interview, Bata shares the inspiration behind his in-home gallery, how his environment heightens his hobbies, and why he’s definitely not a “Garage Lover.”
PT: Why incorporate a car gallery into your actual home?
BM: I wanted to simplify the process of tending to my vehicles as well as avoid having to leave the house, hence the inspiration to design a mini car museum of sorts that can accommodate three cars at any time. By way of a series of curved glass walls, I can see and marvel at my collection from multiple areas of the home, including the kitchen, outdoor patio, and living room.
PT: How is a visitor first introduced to the car gallery?
BM: The home’s front glass pivot door opens up to reveal a second glass pivot door that lets you gaze right into the gallery, so from the foyer you are immediately invited into this automotive dream space.
PT: As a collector of art, what else have you filled this space with besides cars and motorcycles?
BM: You would be quick to discover memorabilia and artifacts such as marble sculptures of cars, vintage toys and models, tapestries, a collection of checkered flags from my racing days, and even an inflatable Michelin man that used to accompany my son and I on the racetrack.
PT: If automobiles are an art form, shouldn’t they be admired from afar?
BM: Ironically, when I buy a classic, I’ll open up a bottle of wine, pour myself a glass, and literally look at the car for hours on end. I really enjoy that. But contrary to the persona of a “Garage Lover”, I believe that a car was created for the feeling of driving it and have spent countless hours navigating the roads that surround my estate.
PT: What makes Malibu’s terrain ideal for a car enthusiast?
BM: Beyond the soothing oceanic backdrop that puts one’s mind at ease, the area is brimming with backroads where you can really feel the car. I compare the act of driving to a ballet: feeling and responding to the subtle movements of the road, the engine, etc. This home and the surrounding landscape contributes to this choreography.
I’ll add that the light changes up here all the time, and that lighting affects the look and even shape of my cars…you start to see movement akin to time-lapse photography.
PT: An architectural triumph no doubt, why else is this mountain-top estate a true rarity in Los Angeles?
BM: It’s difficult in L.A. to find a place where you can escape to and yet still be close to civilization and the amenities you desire. My wife and I are absorbed in beautiful scenery and privacy here but can be in L.A. proper in 30 minutes via multiple routes. Gates and a 1,300 foot-long driveway create distance between us and “the world” yet watching sailboats skating across the water, for instance, keeps us feeling connected. Additionally, the guesthouse offers the most spectacular views as it enjoys the highest elevation on the property—nobody can ever build up above us because of the protected natural parkland.
PT: What about the land attracted you to Yellow Hill Road in the first place?
BM: My wife and I gravitated towards this property because of its prime position overlooking Leo Carillo State Beach. Perched on top of a mountain and facing south, we are able to see the water breaking as well as enjoy 360 degree views—even the Channel Islands on a clear day.
PT: How does this home lend itself to creativity and imagination?
BM: From a design standpoint, the home has inherent flexibility. This is a home that somebody can continue to modify and not have it impact the house or land. For instance, our guest room currently serves as my Man Cave, the car gallery can be easily converted into a home theater or media room, and there’s potential to add a deck or additional structure to the property—whatever fits the needs of the next resident.
PT: Would it be fair to assume that you favor the car gallery over the rest of your hilltop home?
BM: It would be easy (and expected) for me to say that the car gallery is where I spend most of my time, but in truth, this home affords a profusion of enjoyable and inspiring spaces. The reading room, located off the kitchen, is a place I love to sit during the early morning before I go up into my office and watch the sunrise coming off the mountains. Also upstairs is a balcony where I’ve been known to smoke a pipe and watch for wildlife. Gardening is a favorite activity of mine—nearly all of the plants are from seedlings planted when we first acquired the land in 1992—and I also love retreating to the saltwater pool to sketch.
Yellow Hill Retreat is offered at $12,500,000 and listed with Founding Partner Malibu Katie Bentzen, Partner Mimi McCormick and Managing & Founding Partner Malibu Sarah Kosasky. For more information, click here.