Beach House

Dreaming of this Carmel Cottage Compound

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

Dreaming of this Carmel Cottage Compound

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.

Patio - Dreaming of this Carmel Cottage Compound

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.

Aerial View - Dreaming of this Carmel Cottage Compound

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.

Kitchen - Dreaming of this Carmel Cottage Compound

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.

Living Room - Dreaming of this Carmel Cottage Compound

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.

Julia -

If you have $5 million to spend, email Steve at

Here’s another fantasy house of mine:
Manderley Revisited in LaSelva Beach

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Fabulous Beach House for Your Next Staycation

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

Fabulous Beach House for Your Next Staycation

The downturn of the economy has a lot of people re-thinking, well just about everything. While the luxury vacation is being put on hold, staycations are gaining in popularity. This week we’re giving you a peek at a beach house rental that was featured on the 2005 Santa Cruz Architect’s Tour.

Bedroom - Fabulous Beach House for Your Next Staycation

This home has 4 bedrooms and 3 full baths. Entering on the ground floor you will find a large family room, kitchen, 2 bedrooms and a full bath. Upstairs has a great room, another kitchen, dining room, 2 bedrooms and 2 full baths. The balcony off the great room and dining area has the most amazing white water views. The amenities are abundant.

  • Outdoor Fire-Pit
  • Outdoor Shower for surfers
  • Large Gas Grill
  • Hot Tub
  • Wireless Internet
  • 2 Fireplaces
  • TV/DVD in every bedroom
  • Large Library of book, board games, puzzles and poker chips
  • Crib Available
  • Handicap Accessible

Fire Pit - Fabulous Beach House for Your Next Staycation

And one of the best amenities is the location — just steps to the West Cliff ocean-edge promenade. Imagine strolling down to the pier or The Boardwalk with the ocean breeze bringing you the all important negative ions!

To rent this fabulous beach house check out rates and availability here.

Warning: Sunscreen Advised

Desiree -

Related stories:
Aptos Beach House
Manderley Revisited in La Selva Beach

Here’s the complete slideshow:

Manderley Revisited in La Selva Beach

Tuesday, November 11th, 2008

Manderley Revisited in La Selva Beach

"Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again."

Manderley is the exquisite estate by the sea made famous in the opening line of "Rebecca," a classic 1938 romantic thriller by British author Daphne Du Maurier. And when I first drove up the country lane toward La Selva Beach last weekend, through the eucalyptus groves and farm fields, and laid eyes on the gleaming white estate perched alone on a hilltop overlooking the sea, that famous line coursed through my brain.

Manderley Revisited in La Selva Beach - Front View

Even the name of the lane _ Sanderling Hill _ has a Manderley ring to it. It might not look like Du Maurier’s Manderley, but to me it feels like it _ a house that was as much a character in the book as Rebecca herself. In the novel, Manderley holds dark secrets. On Sanderling Hill, the setting sun envelopes it in a golden glow, but it still has a sense of mystery around it. It’s a house that has the bearing of a building that has withstood the fog and the wind and the sun and the salt for generations. It is an 1872 Italianate Victorian and has stories of its own, including the fact that it was literally quartered and moved from its original site in Watsonville just a decade ago to its present location down the road from Seascape and closer to Santa Cruz.

In all its 136 years, it has only been owned by three families: the Palmtags who owned a Watsonville brewery and built the house, the Muzzios who held great parties there since the 1920s, and the Bowens who rescued it in 1998. And perhaps soon, a fourth family may own it. The house is for sale, along with the four acres of farmland and a newly-built carriage house.

Manderley Revisited in La Selva Beach - Dining Room

My friend, Maria, first spotted the house returning from a camping trip to the beach. She grabbed a flier and, like me, has been obsessing ever since. It’s listed by Sotheby’s for nearly $2.7 million, a lower price than either of us expected, but still the stuff of fantasy.

"I want to have my family for Thanksgiving dinner in that dining room," she said.

Now I dream of it, too.

The house had been condemned after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. And as much as Marina Muzzio hated to leave the house she grew up in, the plaster was crumbling off the walls and the brick fireplaces had been reduced to rubble. The neighborhood along the banks of the Pajaro River had also deteriorated and investing hundreds of thousands of dollars or more to restore it didn’t seem to make sense. The city of Watsonville acquired it and offered it up for $1 to the family with the best proposal to relocate and restore it.

Julie and Dayle Bowen, who had two young sons and already restored a Victorian in Santa Cruz, were awarded the Palmtag-Muzzio Mansion.

Manderley Revisited in La Selva Beach - Porch

They purchased four acres of farmland in La Selva beach, hired a house mover, and replanted it on the hilltop with its handsome balcony facing the lights of Santa Cruz across Monterey Bay. The kitchen and huge dining room look out to the ocean. The living room parlour looks down the sloping hillside over the organic row crops. The exterior of the house remains at is did in the 19th century, although the interior was relatively unadorned at the time. The Bowens assume the Palmtags might have run out of money to do the finishing touches. So when the Bowens stripped down the crumbling plaster walls to move the house, there was little ornamentation to preserve. When they put the house back together, they added picture rails and crown molding and widened the entrance to the living room. A fifth bedroom upstairs was converted to a bathroom, and the master bedroom was downsized a bit to include a master bath. The floors upstairs are original. Many of the windows still have the old wavy glass.

Manderley Revisited in La Selva Beach - Living Room

Julie Bowen restored the old house as a project. Now, she’s itching to do another one. Maybe she will look back and dream again of Sanderling Hill. Maybe the next family will buy it to live in for the next 100 years. No matter who comes to live here and what stories they will bring, this much is certain: this house has a character of its own.

(Photos by Marty Forsyth)

Julia -

Here’s the complete slideshow:

Virtual Open House Tour Recap

Thursday, August 7th, 2008

Shoes - Virtual Open House Tour Recap

Well, what a fabulous day yesterday turned out to be. Hooked on Houses held a virtual open home tour.  I spent the majority of my time perusing great open homes from all over.  And let me tell you my feet are tired. I walked all over this country, well virtually I did.  I do have a few favorites that I must share.

Laura from Shorehouse Chic showed off a great place to vacation on the Jersey shore in tent cabins.  Ordinary tent cabins these aren’t.  They are so popular there is a ten-year waiting list.  I can see why though. The tents are filled with charm inside and out. Make sure to scroll down to see the photo with the row of tents with the awnings out.  Postcard perfect!

Next a visit with, A Day in the Life of Ramona.  She is giving a tour of her Pacific Northwest home.  It’s a true beauty.  I loved the brickwork. The porches are wonderful. I’m a sucker for a good porch.  She has a lot of great artwork.  I love the piece in the Powder Room. It’s a must see.

And for the true Lookiloo you need to see Attic Mag for an amazing fantasy house located in San Francisco. This home is gorgeous. Every room is filled with fabulous detail.  The fabrics and furnishings, the colors and textures, oh yeah and the views of San Francisco Bay!

Now Julia from Hooked on Houses had a wonderful home on tour.  It reminded her of the home used in the movie Father of the Bride.  It is very sweet and charming.  It is located in Chapel Hill, North Carolina and it’s for sale.  One of my favorite features besides the sun room, is the painted ceiling in one of the hallways.  It draws your eye up and down the hall.  A great effect I’m trying to figure out where I can do that in my own home.

So this is my round up. Check out these places and let me know what you think.  There are a lot more homes to check out as well.  I’m thinking we need to do this again. It was a lot of fun visiting homes from all over.Desiree

Virtual Open House Tour

Monday, August 4th, 2008

Update:  Here’s the our recap of the house tour.

Hooked on House Tour

The internet is an amazing place.  Today I was wandering around looking at blogs of home design and came across Hooked on Houses.  Hooked on Houses is sponsoring a virtual open home tour.  What a great idea! Wonderful homes from all over open to view….a true Lookiloo find!


Aptos Beach House - Ocean View

We at Lookiloos are happy to share a wonderful beach house with 10 acres of beach front property. A very rare find, but California style at its finest.  Check it out here