'Brushstroke' Home in La Jolla, a Work of Genius, Is Put Up for Sale

If you could build a house in brushstrokes, it might resemble this architectural impasto in La Jolla, CA, that's on the market for $12.7 million.

It's one of the higher-priced properties in the area, but a lucky buyer will acquire a unique stroke of genius. Renowned architect Wallace Cunningham custom-designed this home, nicknamed Brushstroke, for Barbara and Paul Saltman.

It was "a giant art project," says listing agent Bob Andrews of Willis Allen Real Estate. Paul died in 1999; Barbara recently passed away; and the home is their legacy to Southern California architecture.

"[The Saltmans] loved architecture," Andrews says.

The Saltmans built the home in 1995 after tearing down their original home on the same 1.3-acre plot. It sits 14 feet above the property's lush gardens, which ensures a better view of the surroundings. The long, rectangular house has angles constructed for optimum views, including the blue of the Pacific Ocean.

Those views extend into the area behind the home, the site of a spectacular infinity pool.

"Water is more than a swimming pool [to Cunningham]," Andrews explains. "It's about audio and visual -- the way it reflects light and structure."

The willow leaf-shaped pool is raised and jet black, allowing for awe-inspiring reflections when the light is just right. Water pours over the slick dark edges to be recycled back again.

"The sound of water coming off it is unreal," Andrews says.

The one-story house has walls of glass on both sides -- a "glass box" as Andrews describes it. The sculpture-like walls at the front of the property were built to maintain privacy from the street.

While most of the house is made from steel and glass, there's more than a touch of California woven within the structure. Cunningham used centuries-old redwood, sourced from an old water tank, to line the sides of the house in large wood planks that provide a distinctive distressed look.

The whole house appears to curve, as if bent under the gentle pressure of brush bristles. The roof bows into the interior, bending walls and mirrors. A kitchen counter slopes away from the ceiling.

The floating fireplace appears squeezed, like a bow tie. The floors are made of dark French limestone, and they are perfectly level.

The shape of the roof is more than just an aesthetic touch. According to Architectural Digest, the shape of the roof means no gutters are needed -- something Barbara Saltman requested. The result is a roof that drains water and leaves into a catch basin below.

All of the curvature in the home's design brings a distinct Eastern calmness complemented by a 40-year-old Zen garden, and bamboo, melaleuca, and bonsai trees that dot the property.

"It looks like a temple," Andrews says. "It's such a radical combo of contemporary architecture and an ancient kind of feeling."

The home is a three-bedroom, but not in the traditional sense. At only 22 feet wide, the living and sleeping areas are partitioned off by walls, not enclosed by them.

Standing at the front end of the house, peering down a side hallway, you can see all the way to the back.

"[The Saltmans] were really creative people," says Andrews, who is also a friend of the family. "It's one of the best homes I've seen anywhere, really."