A Rare Frank Lloyd Wright-Designed California Home Sells for $22 Million
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A Rare Frank Lloyd Wright-Designed California Home Sells for $22 Million

The ship-like house is the only one of its kind by the architect on the ocean

Wed, Feb 22, 2023 9:29amGrey Clock 3 min

A significant Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home in Carmel-by-the-Sea, Calif., has sold for its asking price of $22 million, an enormous price per square foot for the area.

The single-storey, roughly 1,400-square-foot property, on a rocky promontory overlooking Carmel Bay, is the only home of its kind completed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright in a coastal environment, according to paperwork submitted for its designation on the National Register of Historic Places. Sitting on a triangular site, the house appears like a ship’s prow growing out of the landscape.

According to the historic places report, the home’s most prominent feature is a hexagonal living room framed in glass panels with panoramic views over the coastline. The three bedrooms are located in wings to the rear of the property, which is shaped like an arrow. Mr. Wright had the lot lowered 4 feet to enable the house to melt into the landscape, the report shows. The house made the National Register of Historic Places in 2016, records show.

The sellers are a group of descendants of the home’s original owner Della Walker, an artist and the widow of Minneapolis lumber executive Clinton Walker. The couple relocated to California in 1904, living there for four decades before Mr. Walker’s death in 1944, the historic places report says. The descendants couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

The buyer is Esperanza Carmel LLC, records show. The company’s website describes it as a real-estate investment and development firm. It is headed by Patrice Pastor, a businessman and property developer based in Monaco, and owns other significant properties in the Carmel area. A spokesperson for Esperanza did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Ms. Walker originally wrote to Mr. Wright in 1945, asking him to consider the project, according to the historic places report.

“I am a woman living alone—I wish protection from the wind and privacy from the road and a house as enduring as the rocks but as transparent and charming as the waves and delicate as the seashore,” she wrote. “You are the only man who can do this—will you help me?”

Mr. Wright quickly agreed to work on the project, expressing his pleasure that her letter was “brief and to the point.” In later correspondence between the pair, Ms. Walker wrote to the architect that her daughter had sent her a picture of Fallingwater, the architectural house Mr. Wright had designed in Pennsylvania. “If Mr. Wright did this for a stream, what will he do for an ocean,” she said her daughter wrote.

The original construction of the house, constructed from cedar wood, Carmel stone, steel, copper, concrete and glass, was completed in 1952. In 1956, a studio addition was designed by Mr. Wright for Ms. Walker’s craftwork and weaving at the southeast corner of the building. The plans were eventually used to make way for an expanded primary bedroom in 1960, the report says. The total lot size is around 14,000 square feet and includes a small beach, according to the sellers’ agent.

Canning Properties Group of Sotheby’s International Realty represented the sellers in the deal. Jessica Canning said the home was a rare combination of the ideal setting and architectural pedigree. Though she declined to comment on the buyer, she said the property had sold to the buyer with the very first showing.

“They fell in love with it exactly how it is, right down to the pillows and the books,” she said, noting that all the furniture was included in the sale. “The authenticity and character of it was one of the major draws.”

The famous Carmel Butterfly house is named for the shape of its roof. It has an asking price of US$40m

The property is one of a number of architecturally significant homes that have been marketed for sale in Carmel over the past year. Carmel’s Butterfly House, known for its distinctive Midcentury Modern architectural look, is on the market for $40 million. In July, Brad Pitt bought a roughly century-old home designed by Charles Sumner Greene, a prominent early 20th-century architect known for championing the American Arts and Crafts movement, for $40 million.


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Stronger demand in some areas is pushing unit rents up faster than houses

By Bronwyn Allen
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Renters are returning to the apartment market, leading to higher growth in weekly rents for units than houses over the past year, according to REA data. As workers return to their corporate offices, tenants are coming back to the inner city and choosing apartment living for its affordability.

This is a reversal of the pandemic trend which saw many renters leave their inner city units to rent affordable houses on the outskirts. Working from home meant they did not have to commute to the CBD, so they moved into large houses in outer areas where they could enjoy more space and privacy.

REA Group economic analyst Megan Lieu said the return to apartment living among tenants began in late 2021, when most lockdown restrictions were lifted, and accelerated in 2022 after Australia’s international border reopened.

Following the reopening of offices and in-person work, living within close proximity to CBDs has regained importance,” Ms Lieu said.Units not only tend to be located closer to public transport and in inner city areas, but are also cheaper to rent compared to houses in similar areas. For these reasons, it is unsurprising that units, particularly those in inner city areas, are growing in popularity among renters.

But the return to work in the CBD is not the only factor driving demand for apartment rentals. Rapidly rising weekly rents for all types of property, coupled with a cost-of-living crisis created by high inflation, has forced tenants to look for cheaper accommodation. This typically means compromising on space, with many families embracing apartment living again. At the same time, a huge wave of migration led by international students has turbocharged demand for unit rentals in inner city areas, in particular, because this is where many universities are located.

But it’s not simply a demand-side equation. Lockdowns put a pause on building activity, which reduced the supply of new rental homes to the market. People had to wait longer for their new houses to be built, which meant many of them were forced to remain in rental homes longer than expected. On top of that, a chronic shortage of social housing continued to push more people into the private rental market. After the world reopened, disrupted supply chains meant the cost of building increased, the supply of materials was strained, and a shortage of labour delayed projects.

All of this has driven up rents for all types of property, and the strength of demand has allowed landlords to raise rents more than usual to help them recover the increased costs of servicing their mortgages following 13 interest rate rises since May 2022. Many applicants for rentals are also offering more rent than advertised just to secure a home, which is pushing rental values even higher.

Tenants’ reversion to preferring apartments over houses is a nationwide trend that has led to stronger rental growth for units than houses, especially in the capital cities, says Ms Lieu. “Year-on-year, national weekly house rents have increased by 10.5 percent, an increase of $55 per week,” she said.However, unit rents have increased by 17 percent, which equates to an $80 weekly increase.

The variance is greatest in the capital cities where unit rents have risen twice as fast as house rents. Sydney is the most expensive city to rent in today, according to REA data. The house rent median is $720 per week, up 10.8 percent over the past year. The apartment rental median is $650 per week, up 18.2 percent. In Brisbane, the median house rent is $600 per week, up 9.1 percent over the past year, while the median rent for units is $535 per week, up 18.9 percent. In Melbourne, the median house rent is $540 per week, up 13.7 percent, while the apartment median is $500 per week, up 16.3 percent.

In regional markets, Queensland is the most expensive place to rent either a house or an apartment. The house median rent in regional Queensland is $600 per week, up 9.1 percent year-onyear, while the apartment median rent is $525, up 16.7 percent.


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