Thursday, June 15, 2006
There’s a good bit of romanticism attributed to houses on top of hills, given the propensity there for great views and maybe even status of being above it all, even just geographically.
In Del Rey Oaks, plenty of hillocks sport intriguingly remodeled homes or those entering these rites of passage. By driving slowly along, one finds new structures and mature landscaping articulating individual examples of a community being reborn. What never needs redoing is the warm sunny island that is Del Rey Oaks, the basis of a fame rightly claimed and long envied on the Peninsula.
However, the chance that Del Rey Oaks is maybe a little predictable tends to get a thump on the head with the discovery of something completely different. There’s a truly special property that’s not on top of a hill but at the bottom of one and so well secluded that an arrow on the street above is needed to direct visitors. They begin by going down a serpentine driveway with a first curve that promises to lead just about nowhere at all. What a tease.
920 Portola has a great romantic spirit, starting with supreme privacy. Parking by the garden gate in front of this three-bedroom, two-bath family house induces a powerful sense of “arriving home” rather than just, say, pulling into one’s driveway. Perhaps a hundred feet from the side-by-side houses right above sits this mini estate with its own environment of enveloping quiet and warmth.
The unexpected elements of this house are revealed one at a time, though the first does come all of a sudden, going around that top curve that shows a view directly down to the property with a big house painted muted and dark green with a center peaked roof—one can see completely across from up there. A high, steep embankment of flowering shrubs descends from the downhill side of the driveway and is also home to one paramount oak reigning for more than half a century. French drains maintain high quality grass, letting the front lawn spread evenly like a full skirt, though from above only an edge can be seen, the ripple of a petticoat. Roses climb and color blooms on either side of a long S-shaped staircase winding between the lawn and the top of the driveway, done to perfection with river rock. The whole effect is unpretentiously European, devoid of trend, and handsome.
Inside the wooden gate, appreciation deepens with the masterful rock wall bracing the embankment along the yard and the lawn curving out of sight around the far side. It leads to an all-timber, attached, roofed deck 25 by 30 feet with a privacy wall at the back sheltering the largest hot tub made without customizing. Pure, unadulterated sanctuary.
Built in 1962, the house is turnkey. The kitchen is large, tiled, has a double sink under double windows and top of the line Kenmore appliances. A long oak table with six man-sized chairs create zero crowding. Windows throughout are double pane and really show the gardens. The living room provides sliders onto the covered deck and has a fireplace set well for furnishings that could separate the area into a conversation nook. In the center hall, there’s a big L-shaped bath for the master partners with a shower bath off the second bedroom, currently used for an office/den. The tiled hall concludes with a door that opens to an impressively oversized double garage with storage space in the high rafters forever.
Price: $739, 000. 920 Portola Dr., Del Rey Oaks. Contact Ernest Fiske, Monterey Peninsula Associates Real Estate, 373-2424.