Thursday, April 27, 2006
Broker Eric Marsh seems to magnetize unusual and beautiful properties, some owned by those already confident of his sensibilities and skills. The Carmel Valley Riverhouse, owned by Joseph Batilega, is his most recent find and possibly the prettiest place around for under a million.
The location is Camp Steffani, named after the Mayor of Salinas in the early 1900s. The area was used as a getaway from the “city” and families would come in horse and buggy for their weekends at the river, usually to one-room cabins. (The house next to Batilega’s datesfrom 1909.)
“I’m not really sure when mine was built,” says Batilega, “and the two bedrooms were probably added later anyway. Now code wouldn’t allow for any expansion that enlarges the original footprint. But ‘up’ is OK.”
Until Rosie’s Bridge was restructured to be self-cleaning, flooding came often along the river. The new bridge is doing a spectacular job of sorting the debris that used to clog into dams with messy results. Batilega credits the bridge with the fact that there has been no destruction downstream, as there was in 1995—another year of heavy rain.
“This year we’ve had several more inches of rain over what was measured in 1995,” he says, “but the river hasn’t risen above its normal level since the bridge.”
A white picket fence encloses the double lot with fine green grass and a symmetrical, pale blue house with white trim and peaked center roof descending most gracefully to either side. One passes through a rose arbor and stands on the covered front porch with a chance to notice four windows on both sides with full-length window boxes handing up saucy spiffs of color.
As Batilega opens the door, it’s instantly clear the cabin is a joy. To the left is an expansive kitchen with breakfast bar and pine center island. Calm light from quaint windows put in long ago pervades, windows so lyrical they should never be replaced. Since no gas lines go to Camp Steffani, electric and propane power are used and Batilega chose all electric. The kitchen has a mood of its own and no one really leaves it during inside parties. It’s a generous space. A dining table could easily go against one bank of windows looking onto the front garden. In point,
this kitchen is much more than a place to cook.
From the front door the view of the river is sighted immediately through the length of the great room and the stunning double glass doors with custom sidelights that become the lens. The great room is indeed great, with a wood-burning fireplace at a right angle to the glass doors. Twenty feet of Spanish tile flooring from there back to the front door suggest a place for a formal dining room right across from the kitchen. Imagine a cabin with room for two dining rooms. (Sold.) There are two showers too. One bath has double sinks, a single shower and full-sized washer and dryer. The second shower is outside, discretely hidden with wood fencing but with full view of the river and room for the guest list.
Stories of the river and the wildlife making their homes on and around it are real. Batilega has photos of steelhead trout spawning in front of his private sandy beach. “Canada geese and a wonderful array of ducks raise their families right here too. They paddle with little ones behind them in and out of these reeds,” he says.
One senses the Riverhouse could be a home for a long time,
with the only problem being how to actually leave it every now
Price: $849,500. 27 Wawona Rd., Carmel Valley. Contact Eric Marsh, 655-4708.