Whenever I visit my parents at their home in Carmel, I often go out of my way to walk past this extraordinary Carmel cottage compound. I’ve been doing it for years, walking, lingering, dreaming. If I could choose the quintessential Carmel cottage lifestyle, this would be it.
Sitting on more than a half acre, the property is lined by Monterey Cypress. Roses tumble over grapestake fences and arbors. Crunchy pebble pathways wind through fountains and fireplaces. Green shutters. Carmel stone walls. A peek of bay. Fairytales.
For years I have peeked through the fences and looked up the drive, fantasizing what may lay within. Last week, on another of a countless walk-bys, I couldn’t believe what I saw: a For Sale sign.
As a “professional” Lookiloo, I’ve talked to a number of people who have told me their stories of home — of how they had always walked by a favorite property, dreamed that if it ever went on the market they would buy it, and indeed, they did. Ah, dreams fulfilled.
But with this Carmel compound — and a pricetag over more than $5 million — I had to keep walking by. But being a “professional” Lookiloo also has its privileges. I called Sotheby’s Realtor Steve LaVaute, and asked for a private tour.
“See you in 10 minutes,” he said.
And so, after years of just imagining what lay inside, I walked through the door of the main house — a 2,100 square-foot structure that was actually the caretaker’s house on a much larger property that was subdivided years ago.
What struck me was how authentic this cottage — that looked to have been built in the 1920s — had remained. The footprint appeared to have been unchanged. The living room was small with French doors to a courtyard. A charming limestone fireplace remained as the focal point. The kitchen was as small as a butler’s pantry and the eating area not much bigger. A narrow, steep staircase led to two small bedrooms upstairs with a separate bath. It’s amazing that the house hasn’t suffered a massive addition. There is no gigantic master suite with a walk-in closet or expanded kitchen with double ovens.
It is, in every way, a classic Carmel cottage. It is surrounded by beautiful gardens — that take $1,500 a month to maintain, LaVaute told me — and seven separate sitting areas tucked in here and there. A separate, smaller cottage on the property is a studio guest suite, also with a stone fireplace.
And, hidden behind the wall of the guest house is what LaVaute calls a “secret dining room.” It’s a complete surprise, separated from the main house as it is. An open door revealed the space to be dark as a wine cellar, with stained concrete floors and a crystal chandelier, dimmed. A long, wooden refectory table is set for ten with candelabras fit for Liberace’s piano. “It’s for catered affairs,” LaVaute said.
In some ways, the whole place made me think of Marie Antoinette, and though she lived in splendor at Versaille, she had a peasant’s cottage built for her on the grounds. I wonder if it felt a little like this.
If you have $5 million to spend, email Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here’s another fantasy house of mine:
Manderley Revisited in LaSelva Beach
Here’s the complete slideshow: