Address to Impress

Lipsy dress, $120, Aqua ring, $25, Bloomingdale’s,; earring ,Twirl, $15, 3840 5th Ave., 619.291.0933; Steve Madden shoes, $70, Tutto Cuore,, 858.490.4685

By Pat Sherman

Photography By Brevin Blach (unless otherwise noted); model: Nicole Noonan, No Ties Management; stylist: Kelsey Luce; hair & makeup: Christina Mansi, The Factory

From energy efficiency to earthy color palettes to man caves, it’s hard to say which home trend came first. Was it the egg chair or the chicken coops?

Either way, whether it’s an East County estate or a beachfront condo, home is where you hang your hat-or at least where you sleep and recharge your iPad.

Local real estate brokers, a green thumb from Walter A ndersen Nursery and a prominent interior designer helped construct this view of modern home life in America’s Finest. Please enjoy the tour. The expert advice is on the house.

Luxe Outlook

Expanding residential horizons in San Diego


an Diego County started the year off with a median home price of about $304,000-a decrease of nearly nine percent from December.

But in America’s Finest (and perhaps most scenic) City, the abundant coastal and mountain terrain gives home buyers a chance to elevate their options, choosing from a vast inventory of stunning views.

According to Realtor Seth O’Byrne of Troop Real Estate, a view can increase the value of a home or condo by as much
as 20 to 30 percent, depending on its “wow factor” and scarcity. In La Jolla, appraisers estimate that a view can add $100,000 to $150,000 to a home’s value, he says.

“If you can see breaking waves, sand and rocks, the view could be worth $500K,” O’Byrne says. “Peek-a-boo views on condos or townhomes could be worth as little as $10k, in some cases.

“At a high-rise downtown, if every unit in a stack is identical from the second floor to the 20th floor (and) has the same view, the value to each unit is dramatically decreased.”

Residential mortgage banker Craig Sewing, host of the KCBQ radio show REAL Talk, offers a more moderate estimate. He says a view will historically add about 10 percent to a home’s value, though many variables are involved.

“It’s all about the comps,” Sewing says, meaning that the price one neighbor’s house sells for can have a direct and sometimes significant impact on the sales price of other homes in the vicinity.

While jaw-dropping views come at a cost, average home values in neighborhoods with prime views have decreased considerably, making the time ripe to give these domestic overlooks a second glance.

Taking Turns

Rotating home a labor of love for retired phone company exec and wife

Things have been looking up-and around-since Al Johnstone and wife, Janet, completed their rotating home atop Mt. Helix in 2004.

The East County home, perhaps the only in the world that can make continuous 360-degree rotations, cost the couple about $1 million, though they received many material donations generated by the initial interest in their project.

It took the couple three years to finish the home, with Al serving as architect and Janet as interior designer.

“You can see the Coronado Bridge all the way around to Steel Canyon Golf Course (in Jamul),” Al says. “We can see the ocean, Point Loma, Downtown San Diego, Mt. Soledad, Catalina and San Clemente Island. So, yeah, it’s a great view.”

Though most rotating bars and restaurants, such as S eattle’s S pace Needle, have plumbing and electrical in a stationary, central core, the Johnstone’s rotating second story uses patented flexible plumbing and wiring.

“In a house, you need to have plumbing and gas, Internet and HDTV in the rotating portion, so I had to go in and invent what I call the swivels that would allow that to take place,” Al says.

He has patented 45 items related to his home technology and says he has an investor interested in building a high-rise in which each floor would rotate independently.

“We have formed a company, 360 Technology,” Johnstone says. “If the economy ever turns around, hopefully somebody will build one.”

Mt. Helix Stats: 4 bedrooms, 5,100 square feet
Elevation: about 1,280 feet
Rotation cycle: fastest, 33 minutes; slowest, 24 hours
Year completed: 2004
Listing price: Not for sale
Investment: About $1 million
Average. Neighborhood home value: $425,000 (up from $390,500 last year)

Sunset Cliffs Estate

For those wanting to see how the other half views the world, there is no shortage of homeowners willing to rent their vistas for the right price.

Rent on the three-bedroom, four-and-a-half-bath Sunset Cliffs estate featured on the cover of this magazine and in the fashion photos of this feature ranges from $1,500 to $2,000 a night, depending on the season and duration of the stay.

The Spanish Colonial-Mediterranean home offers inspiring ocean views from just about every room, and is just steps from one of San Diego’s favorite surfing beaches. It can be rented for a weekend respite, wedding or corporate event.

Average neighborhood home value:
$588,500 (down from $897,500 a year ago)
Contact: 619.393.0399,

Stats: 6 bedrooms, 5.5 baths, 5,294 square feet
Year built: 1988
Listing price: $7.8 million
Average Neighborhood home value: $490,000 (down from $605,000 last year)
Agent: Patricia Lou Martin,

Plucky 19

Real estate broker Jim Abbott says of the vividly-decorated unit he’s christened, “Comic-Condo,” located on the 19th story of San Diego’s 19th-tallest building, the Meridian, “You can’t help but smile when you walk in.”

The condo was remodeled by Sweig General Contracting with “whimsy” as its theme. Its doting grandparent owners designed the condo as a way to keep their visiting grandchildren visually stimulated, Abbott says.

Downtown San Diego
Stats: 2 bedrooms, 2 baths, 2,500 square feet
Year built: 1985
Listing price: $1.8 million
Average Downtown condo
Value: $305,000 (down from $312,000 last year)
Agent: Jim Abbott,

Normal Heights
Stats: 3 bedrooms, 4 baths, 4,739 square feet
Year built: 1980
Listing price: $1.2-$2.2 million
Average neighborhood home value: $445,000 (up from $339,500 last year)
Agent: Alan Schmitt,