When Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter Alicia Keys and her husband, record producer Kasseem Dean (aka Swizz Beatz), bought their ultra-luxury home, The Razor House, designed by three-time Architectural Digest Top 100 designer and visionary architect Wallace Cunningham, named she considers it one of his best works. Today, another of Cunningham’s exclusive signature properties comes to market in San Diego County’s coastal community of Encinitas.
Valued at $23.5 million, the property is poised to break its own record for the most expensive home sold in Encinitas history.
Following the grand traditions of some of the greatest architects of the 20th century, the modernist home was featured in an episode of HBO’s futuristic “Westworld” series.
Upon entering the house, the first thing visitors see is a crescent-shaped infinity pool wrapped around a circular terrace – hence the name Crescent House.
The house, 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 on the bluff of this coastal community’s most ambitious street, the Crescent House is both sculptural and architectural.
“This property is like a museum, it’s art,” said Compass’s Lisa Waltman, who is marketing the home with Kelly Howard. “Our most recent sale on this prime ocean-facing street, Neptune Ave in Encinitas, closed a few weeks ago for 3,174 per square foot, which was an original 1974 home on a much smaller lot. 532 Neptune stands alone in terms of its uniqueness and quality, with an area of 0.43 hectares it is one of the larger ones on Neptune.”
The contemporary masterpiece of concrete, glass and steel overlooks the Pacific Ocean on one of Neptune’s largest lots. Layered design and curved walls protect a central courtyard with its unique crescent-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 bedroom with an en-suite bathroom and a second room that can serve as an additional bedroom, complete with Murphy pull-out beds.
The house is full of bonus rooms that can double as a gym, yoga studio, media room or office. Each bedroom and the living areas offer endless ocean views, while some also offer elevated views to the east where the lights twinkle in the night sky. Patios, porches, decks and decks maximize coastal outdoor living and the feeling of floating on the ocean.
“This house just happens to be upside down with all the main rooms on the top floor,” Cunningham said. “The intent was to create a path to the top without realizing that you are actually ascending. There are a series of ramps that can be taken, stairs and a lift. It offers multiple trips. Each path is designed to shield you from the street and adjacent properties and to open up dramatic views beneath and through the building. The lower slope forms a wall protecting the garden, terrace and pool. The top ramp leads you to a walk in space that arrives at the living room. From there you look all the way through the house to the ocean. The design is not based on a preconceived idea. It really is a journey and information gathering. It is a sculpture of movement, space and light that affects your senses and emotions.”
He added: “Designing is like being a detective, you go into a client’s existing home and you look at what books they read, what art they have, what music they like, and it evokes a response. You create magic of the whole process. Buildings should be a portrait of their owner. It should be like a media presentation: watch the day go by, watch the light change, watch the shadows grow and slowly the artificial light that fills in the evening The whole tapestry of life is embodied in these buildings.”
Waltman and Howard are super impressed with the wow factor the house offers. “This property is like a museum,” Waltman said. “It’s art. Our most recent sale on this prime ocean-facing street, Neptune Ave in Encinitas, closed a few weeks ago for $3,174 per square foot, and that was an original 1974 home on a much smaller lot. 532 Neptune stands alone in terms of its uniqueness and quality. With an area of 0.43 hectares, it is one of the larger ones on Neptune.”
As for Encinitas, a coastal area in North County San Diego, Waltman says it’s the essence of paradise. “It has a very stunning coastline with different elevations and cliffs,” she explained. “Some coastlines in other states are quite flat, while California’s coastline is dynamic. Many buyers discover our piece of paradise here.”
Howard added: “The land value alone is huge in itself, and then you adjust how unique the house is with its artistry and architecture. And then you understand that you have something that sets it apart from any house in that block or in the zip code. With the current building restrictions between the city and the Coastal Commission, you wouldn’t be able to build this house in that spot today. It just can’t 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 vacationed in the seaside town of Encinitas for the past four to five years.
“We started looking for a vacation home in Encinitas because we just loved the area,” Williams said. “We found this place and it was incredible. When the brokers 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 list, I saw Wallace Cunningham’s name on it.
“Coincidentally, a friend of mine was the previous owner of the Razor House, so I had experienced a Wallace Cunningham house,” Williams added. “I decided to buy it in the first 60 seconds of a tour of the house. Eileen never physically saw the house before we bought it. I said to myself, ‘I’ve been a Frank Lloyd Wright fan all my life. water was my dream. I can’t buy Fallingwater, so I think I can think of this.” This is the best thing I’ve ever done.”
Quinn agrees, saying the house isn’t like just living in a house, it’s living in an experience.
“You live in a work of art, in the mind of a genius,” she said. “Most houses have one or two great views. In this house, wherever you look, every place you sit, not only has a view, but how the architecture is built, the views have been exploited to be as big and beautiful and as private as possible.
“And you don’t just have a view of the ocean, but a lot of those houses on Neptune, you have a tunnel view because of the house next door. As Wallace shaped this house, your gaze expands outward like a triangle. You can have a view all day, 24 hours a day. This house will ruin us forever with every other house we live in. I wish everyone could experience it.’