When Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter Alicia Keys and her husband, record producer Kasseem Dean (a.k.a. Swizz Beatz), purchased their ultra-luxury home, The Razor House, designed by three-time Architectural Digest Top 100 designer and visionary architect Wallace Cunningham, they called it one of his best works. Today, another one of Cunningham’s exclusive, signature properties will soon be available for purchase in San Diego County’s coastal community of Encinitas.
Being listed at $23.5 million, the property is poised to break its own record for the most expensive home sold in the history of Encinitas.
Following the grand traditions of some of the 20th Century’s greatest architects, the modernist home was featured in an episode of HBO’s futuristic “Westworld” series.
Upon entering the home, the first thing visitors see is an infinity pool shaped like a crescent moon, wrapped around a circular terrace – hence the name Crescent House.
The home, which took three years to build, was completed in 2003. It was originally built for Bud Fischer, a prolific developer of San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter, for him and his wife, Esther.
Perched at the bluff top of this coastal community’s most aspirational street, the Crescent House is as sculptural as it is architectural.
“This property is like a museum, it is art,” said Lisa Waltman of Compass, who is co-listing the home with Kelly Howard. “Our most recent sale on this premier ocean view street, Neptune Ave in Encinitas, closed a few weeks ago at 3,174 per square foot, and that was a 1974 original-condition house on a much smaller lot. 532 Neptune stands alone in terms of its uniqueness and quality. At 0.43 acre, the lot is one of the larger ones on Neptune.”
With approximately 74 feet of ocean frontage, the modern concrete, glass and steel masterpiece overlooks the Pacific Ocean on one of Neptune’s largest lots (0.43 acre), creating an ideal combination of ultimate luxury and coastal indoor-outdoor living. Tiered design and curved walls shield a central courtyard with its unique crescent moon-shaped infinity pool.
The main house includes the primary suite and two additional en-suite bedrooms, all with panoramic ocean views. Guest quarters offer an additional en-suite bedroom with a second room that could serve as an additional bedroom complete with pull-down Murphy beds.
The home is brimming with bonus areas that can do double duty as a gym, yoga studio, media room or office. Every bedroom and the living areas offer endless ocean views, while some also capture elevated views to the east where lights twinkle in the night sky. Patios, verandas, terraces and decks maximize outdoor coastal living and the sensation of floating on the ocean.
“This house happens to be upside down with all of the principal rooms located on the top level,” said Cunningham. “The intention was to create a path to the top without realizing you’re actually ascending. There are a series of ramps that can be taken, staircases and an elevator. It offers multiple journeys. Each path is designed to shield you from the street and neighboring properties and to open up dramatic views under and through the building. The lower ramp creates a wall protecting the garden, terrace, and swimming pool. The upper ramp leads you into a walk in space arriving at the living area. From there, you can look all the way through the house to the ocean. The design is not based on a preconceived idea. It’s really a journey and collection of information. It’s a sculpture of movement, space and light that acts on your senses and emotions.”
He added, “Designing is like being a detective, you go to a client’s existing home and you look at what books they’re reading, what art they have, what music they like, and it triggers a reaction. You make magic from the whole process. Buildings should be a portrait of their owner. It should be like a media presentation — watching the day go by, watching the light change, watching the shadows grow and slowly the artificial lighting filling in the evening. The whole tapestry of life is embodied in these buildings.”
Waltman and Howard are super impressed with the wow factor the home delivers. “This property is like a museum,” said Waltman. “It is art. Our most recent sale on this premier ocean-view street, Neptune Ave in Encinitas, closed a few weeks ago at $3,174 per square foot, and that was a 1974 original-condition house on a much smaller lot. 532 Neptune stands alone in terms of its uniqueness and quality. At 0.43 acre, the lot is one of the larger ones on Neptune.”
As for Encinitas, a North County San Diego coastal region, Waltman says it’s the very essence of paradise. “It has a very stunning coastline with varying elevation and bluffs,” she explained. “Some coastlines are quite flat in other states, whereas the California coastline is dynamic. Many buyers are discovering our piece of paradise here.”
Howard added, “The land value alone is tremendous in itself, then you layer on how unique the home is with its artistry and architecture. And then you understand you have something that sets it apart from any house on that block or in the Zip code. With today’s building restrictions between the city and the coastal commission, you would not be able to build this house on that site today. It just cannot be duplicated.”
The sellers, Eileen Quinn and Lance Williams, who currently live on Miami’s exclusive Fisher Island, purchased the property in 2016 as a vacation home. The couple had been vacationing for the previous four to five years in the beach town of Encinitas.
“We started looking for a vacation house in Encinitas because we just loved the area,” said Williams. “We found this place, and it was unbelievable. When the listing agents asked me if I wanted to go see it, I said it was twice my budget, that’s just never going to happen. But when I read the listing, I noticed Wallace Cunningham’s name on it.
“By coincidence, a friend of a friend of mine was the previous owner of the Razor House, so I had experienced a Wallace Cunningham house,” added Williams. “I decided to buy it in the first 60 seconds of touring the home. Eileen never saw the house physically before we bought it. I said to myself, ‘I have been a Frank Lloyd Wright fan my whole life. Fallingwater was my dream. I can’t buy Fallingwater, so I think I can figure this out.’ This is the greatest thing I ever did.”
Quinn concurs, saying the house is not like just living in a home, it’s living in an experience.
“You are living in a piece of art, in a genius’ mind,” she said. “Most homes have one or two great views. In this house, everywhere you turn, every place you sit has not just a view, but how the architecture has been built, the views have been exploited to be as big and beautiful and as private as it can be.
“And not only do you have an ocean view, but a lot of those homes on Neptune, you have a tunnel-vision view because of the house next door. The way Wallace shaped this house, your view expands like an outward triangle. You can have views all day long, 24 hours a day. This house will forever ruin us with any other house we live in. I wish everybody could experience it.”