December 5, 2023

Jo Mai Asian Culture

Embrace Artistry Here

Asian Arts & Crafts in the pocket of La Jolla

5 min read
Far East, meet West Coast.

Far East, meet West Coast.

Let’s start off this week by disclosing a little secret: while there are plenty of outlandish homes for us regular folk to gawk at on Zillow and similar real estate sites — especially in a diverse county with as many wealthy enclaves as San Diego has — we’re not seeing everything.

There are clear advantages to listing a home for sale on the open market, at least for most sellers. You want to get as many eyeballs on your property as possible, in the hopes of finding someone willing to pay your asking price, or better still, starting a bidding war that will drive up your home’s sale price. And the easier it is to find your house on the local MLS (or the myriad other publications that draw their information from it), the more likely it is you’ll get your wish. But widespread attention is not always the goal, especially in the realm of high-end property. Because the thing about letting everyone peek into your home is that you’re letting everyone peek into your home. And not everyone is okay with that. Thus, the “pocket listing,” handled by a well connected agent who makes sure only the right sort of potential buyer ever sees or even hears about it.

That brings us to what the agent’s remarks on Zillow bill as “La Jolla’s ‘House of Dreams’” at 1428 Soledad Avenue. Reportedly, the property is hitting the open market for the first time in over a century. Built in 1911, the “Asian Arts & Crafts style” home sits just a few blocks from the Pacific and spans just less than 3100 square feet, and the very first photo on the tour makes it clear why it hasn’t needed publicity to attract new owners. The wood shingle siding looks good — if a little concerning, given how wary we are of fires in this day and age — but the green trim on the windows and doors, the bright red and yellow on the lattice in the roof gables…this is stuff we don’t see every day. More’s the pity.

Home sweet home or set for sweet martial arts movie fight scene? You decide!

We get a couple more outside shots before moving inside, where I can see a glass-walled room on the third story that must be the “crow’s nest bonus room” the listing mentions. A rather generic mud room is the first indoor space we encounter, but from there, we’re immediately whisked into a cavernous living space with rough-hewn wood floors (that might be original) and a spiral staircase leading up to an open landing that wraps around the lower level. There’s a lot of brown and orange in here, and while I’m not sure I love this color combo up against a bunch of black trim, I don’t hate it, either. What’s more, I am not sure how to do better.

A large rock fireplace fills one corner, flanked by a lot of cross-hatched single pane windows and doors. These probably aren’t great for insulation purposes, but visually, they work in the space a lot better than white vinyl dual panes. Besides, I’ll bet if you can afford to buy this house, you can probably pay someone to custom fabricate something that functions like new while retaining the vintage aesthetic. Or you can just wear a sweater.

A spiral staircase leads up to an open landing.

A closer look at the staircase makes me appreciate the craftsmanship that went into the woodwork, but seeing the backside of the run from the second floor up to the third is a little dizzying. There’s some sort of MC Escher-esque mind trick going on here, and I can’t tell if it’s intentional. As it is, I think we’re still on the second level when we get to a glass-walled TV room — it looks like it would be quite difficult to avoid screen glare in here, given all of the incoming light, but absent the television, it also seems we’d be getting an excellent view of the yard, with its gently-sloping grass lawns surrounded by old-growth trees and shrubs. Maybe find another spot for the boob tube? The crow’s nest room up top is sadly empty, but we get more great views from up here, including a peek at the ocean over the roofs of our neighbors. I’d want to make a way for these windows to open, then I’d sneak a chaise lounge up here and enjoy the breeze and scenery pretty much all summer.

Moving on, we get a few more exterior shots and a glimpse inside the studio apartment that’s built over the detached garage. It’s more modern than the main house, and seems to be in decent shape, but it’s also hardly bigger than an economy hotel room. The bed’s being turned at an angle doesn’t do much to make use of what limited space there is, either.

We’re told the estate comprises two separate parcels that make up a total of over a half-acre of land, which is a decent plot for a home this close to the coast. What we don’t see, however, are any bedrooms in the main house — heck, we don’t even get to see a kitchen or bathroom! My suspicion is that this means there’s room for a bit of updating, which is quite understandable for a 110-year-old house, but I’m still a bit disappointed.

Public records list a Marilyn Orr and Beverly Helm of Colorado as the current owners of the Soledad estate. Given that the assessed value of the property is a paltry $195,000 it certainly tracks that the home hasn’t been transferred outside of the family in decades, though a listed 2015 “effective build date” suggests that some extensive remodeling work was done in the recent past. That makes it all the more confusing that we don’t see much of the interior.

Anyway, the home was first listed in mid-June; it carries an asking price of $6,245,000 that remains unchanged to date. Even if you have to put a little work in to get the house move-in ready, you’ll still end up with one of the most unique residences I’ve seen after a full decade of doing this. Just please don’t change the exterior paint.

1428 Soledad Avenue | La Jolla, 92037

Current owner: Orr/Helm | Listing price: $6,245,000 | Beds: 4 | Baths: 3 | House size: 3000+ sq ft


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