Thursday, July 29, 2004
Richard and Shelley Risko are the kind of people who appear to be gifted in ways that assure anything they do can surpass anything they’ve done before. Their accomplishments include starting several successful Carmel stores, later sold, which remain landmarks of Carmel shopping.
“We’re doers. It’s how we survive living here,” Shelley says.
The couple’s most recent creation is not a shop, it’s Sea Star: a jaw-dropping, bar-raising home in the Carmel Highlands. One can be mesmerized even before going inside. The front door floats within thick glass walls on three sides. Inside the huge entrance gallery, a slate staircase (which is the width of a single lane road) leads to the main level, where a force of nature magnetizes visitors to look out the ceiling-high windows with views of the ocean in three directions.
“We wanted it real easy to be here,” Shelley says with a smile.
Sea Star was built on the footprint of a 1930s house.
“The story goes that Ansel Adams offered to study the best location and angle of direction,” Shelley says. No kidding. Views of the ocean, Spindrift Cove and Yankee Point Headlands are everywhere in the house (even in every bathroom).
“At dusk, when our Cypress trees deepen their greens to black, that spit of land remains illuminated as if from within,” Shelley says. “Even though we can’t prove that Adams did the siting for the house, we can sure believe it. Look left and it’s Soberanes, look right and those are the Santa Cruz mountains.”
To conceive a 6,500 square foot house that is as wide open as it is cozy and calm, the Riskos had to invent solutions.
“For instance, we did these copper, barrel-vaulted windows to get a rich warm light,” Shelley says.
Picture a series of upside-down rowboats recessed, way up there, so the boats’ curves perfectly fit the half circle topped floor to ceiling windows. Picture the inside of the rowboats lined with copper, box-pleated and glowing naturally. Like every other aspect of this house, it works. Exquisitely.
“I’m the artist and Richard is the engineer by training, but when we rebuild houses, he’s often the artistic influence and I make sure everything is mathematically-precise, made to last and to live in,” Shelley laughs.
“Look at this,” she says, indicating the huge gourmet, entertain-in kitchen. “Great kitchens want people-space and real cooking, and work areas have to flow!” All appliances are top of the line, too numerous to list, but include the Thermador range that has six burners and every known grill.
“We wanted built-in tranquility,” Shelley says. “Nothing obtrusive, superb acoustics, no narrow passages, warm, authentic materials, nothing cluttered, open views, and great privacy from the outside and within.” And so it is. Brilliantly subtle uses of wood, slate, steel, copper, granite, and marble balance to create an effect of both feeling cradled and set free.
Along with floating cabinetry and a rounded wall, other architectural touches have human history. Most memorable are three doors from three different centuries and countries that blend, yet stand as pure artifacts.
A tall, thin double door opens between the living room and library; a heavy, arched door is the wine room entry; and a short country-rough one is the garden gate.
The poetry and practicality of Sea Star is worthy of pages. Alas. In summary: the home is on two levels, has four bedrooms, four-and-a-half baths, a three-car garage, three wood-burning fireplaces, a 6,000-square-foot cobbled driveway, a gated entry with a security camera, a curved copper roof, a sauna, media/game room, and a waterfall on one masterfully secluded acre above the Pacific.
Price: $7,395,000. 189 San Remo, Carmel Highlands.
Contact Brad Towle of The Mitchell Group Real Estate at 224-3370.