Carmel Highlands Mediterranean villa is grand, inside and out.
Thursday, January 31, 2008
John O’Shea, the well-known early California painter, and his wife Molly began building this house in 1920. It was finished four years later and although the couple was simultaneously involved in building their “dream home” nearby, it remained incomplete and the O’Sheas lived here until 1938.
One hardly suspects they suffered the difference. This house is a grand, meticulously created (and restored) Mediterranean villa, a belvedere above the Pacific from a long, steeply sloping hill (with myriad flights of stairs that may discourage some) near Pt. Lobos. Looking down onto the home’s five different tiled roofs and cupola, the whole property seems an elegant European hotel with a thick, descending cypress forest like a flat meadow of pruned treetops. Below, a city-sized green park has a volleyball and basketball court.
Curiosity asks if the inside matches the outside. Any doubts are immediately expunged as the great arched door swings into a foyer with multiple directions to explore. The living room to the right gives the illusions that half of the 4,730 square feet of the house are there. Not so. There are a total of three levels, four bedrooms, two master suites (living rooms), family room, many fireplaces, four and a half baths, lavish Roman spa complete with arches and columns, office, formal dining room, O’Shea’s original studio, wine cellar, European gourmet kitchen and a child’s little playroom with Juliet balcony above the living room that’s almost as high as the beamed (with hand-painted surfaces between each) ceiling that peaks at more than 20 feet.
When architect Eric Miller restored the home in 2001 for Brian Swette, the ex-CEO of eBay and other companies, he did so with a fierce observance of, and passion for, exquisite detailing. The balance of huge spaces, windows, vistas and delicate areas of unsurpassed, jewel-like facets largely define the home’s one-of-a-kind presentation.
One room exemplifying these elements is the Roman bath on the lower level where the polished terracotta floors (throughout main, lower level and stairs) have a 3-foot-by-5-foot “oriental carpet” of tiny tiles in soft blues and creams designed with center medallion, borders and flowing fringes, “threads” of single shapely tiles; a beautifully refined piece of fine art. The over-sized Jacuzzi is sunk within an elevated platform behind which a marble wall is inlaid with an arching “tapestry” depicting facing peacocks 3 feet tall and an ornate, slimly framed background. Marble columns with carved capitals support graceful arches between sitting areas, one with steam room, another with sauna.
The kitchen (located inconveniently; separated from the dining room by a large family room and the study) has a fascinating La Cornue four-burner (huge) stove with grill and a special cooking circle for giant soup pots. The stove is stainless with heavy brass borders and a tiny plaque of good wishes, signed by Swette. The black granite counters must be replaced. The sinks are handsome, heavy stone.
There is only one hallway in the house from the Roman bath to O’Shea’s studio. Otherwise, all rooms are arranged with one curving into another, privacy achieved by expansive landings and locations of labyrinthine closets (upstairs masters) and graceful corners. This sense of continuum affords a feeling of intimacy despite the colossal nature of the house; personal seclusion but no sense of isolation that comes with long, lonely hallways. Very thick walls absorb sounds and each room is like an inner sanctum.
The property, Casa de Bellaza Vista, is a proud landmark on the coast.