Saint Malo: A house more inspired by the English Tudor style than the French Norman style
Nestled between the Pacific Coast and Buena Vista Lagoon
All homes in this secluded, gated community adhere to a strict design language.
(Editor’s note: The listing was removed after this piece was submitted, but we’re presenting the story anyway, in part because, given the home’s history on the market, it seems likely that she will be re-enrolled soon.)
This week’s entry, for me, is one of those reminders that no matter how much you think you know about a subject, there’s always more to learn. I’ve been doing things related to real estate in San Diego for a quarter of a century now, and I’ve been writing about our county’s upscale properties and neighborhoods in these pages for nearly a decade. Some time ago I spent several weeks mapping the county’s seventy miles of coastline, looking for vacant spaces and observing the dramatic changes that had taken place over a few decades.
Welp, looks like I missed a few vacant lots during this inventory. In fact, I missed a whole neighborhood. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t a lack of effort that led to oblivion. It just seems that the handful of Saint-Malo beach dwellers are rather interested in not being found.
The owner’s suite was added in 2008, but retains the ambiance of yesteryear.
Originally built between 1929 and 1939 as a train-accessible escape for Los Angeles’ elite, St. Malo is said to be one of the first (if not the very first) gated communities in the county. To this day, guards remain posted at the entrance to keep intruders out, and properties rarely come to the public market – in a searchable database dating back to around 1996, I can find only 35 listings for 50 to 60 properties behind the door. Even other media on the neighborhood are scarce; a blog post herean article there.
The story, as best I can piece together: the community was named for Saint Malo, a port town off the French Brittany coast that grew to become wealthy and prominent as a hotbed for gangs government-backed hackers. All the houses were designed according to a strict design language, although this seems more influenced by the English Tudor style than the French Norman style commonly attributed to the community. What’s odd is that every house seems to have a wooden shake shingle roof, despite a 2012 fire safety law that effectively banned the material by imposing costly chemical treatment requirements for a material that doesn’t. was not known for its longevity anyway.
Residents of Saint-Malo also seem to despise the fact that their community is located in Oceanside, if at all. While the Buena Vista Lagoon to the south (part of the shore also belongs to the homeowners association) is the official boundary, several archived listings boast of having been granted an exception and can therefore claim that Saint-Malo is in fact in Carlsbad, even more confused.
Although not all land in Saint-Malo is waterfront, a good part of it is. And while the HOA says the beach is private, technically in California an individual can only own land up to the mean high tide line, which means when the tide rises and crashes against the riprap at the edge of the owners’ courtyards. , there is no actual beach. When it is out, anyone walking north of Carlsbad or south of Oceanside is welcome along the St. Malo coast until the change of tide covers it again. There is, however, a pair of sandy lots that the HOA is keeping vacant behind the breakwater, which is as close to a private beach as you can get.
Considering the relative paucity of listings in this small enclave, I’m a bit surprised to report that there are actually two examples on the market at the time of this writing. One was built in 1939 during the initial development phase, but as this is a very expensive house section, we will focus on 70 St. Malo Beachthe most expensive offering at the moment and a six-bedroom, six-bathroom home built in 1953.
“Nestled between the Pacific coast and the Buena Vista lagoon is a seaside oasis named Saint Malo,” notes Zillow. “This coastal settlement has remained one of Oceanside’s best-kept and longest-kept secrets…first gated community in San Diego…impeccable reputation for exclusivity and prestige…” Okay, we know all that. But in addition to the sandy vacant lot (sorry, “beach”), there are also five tennis courts, a volleyball court, and a shed for residents. Number 70 is also “the only house with a swimming pool in all of Saint Malo, and a beautiful one on top of that”. Let’s take a look, shall we?
From the front, we definitely get a taste of old European architecture: whitewashed lower walls with exposed timber above, steeply sloping roof angles to shed snow that will never arrive on along the oceanside coast – and the stone driveway and wooden barn-style garage doors are a nice touch. An aerial shot that follows lets us know that we are a few houses away from the actual beach, and also that at least a slight nod to modernity has been allowed here, as solar panels are installed on several sides of the roof.
The pool area is interesting, flanked by the house on three sides and featuring both a trailing edge style design and what appear to be a pair of leaf-shaped lounge chairs sitting on a platform barely below the pool. ‘water. I’m a bit lost as to why the lighting effects seem to turn the water green at night.
After a bunch of overhead photos and a handful of brick patio that sits below the pool deck, we finally get inside. “It is impossible not to notice the unique features of this home, some of the most notable include Douglas fir wood planks, antique Tassie oak imported from an Australian school, antique chandeliers, repurposed antique doors, Kolbe windows, custom Clive Christian cabinetry and 5 gas fireplaces throughout,” the listing boasts. Okay, it’s a lot and all over the place, but the first room we see is pretty, with its exposed beam ceiling, wide plank floors and brick fireplace. The furniture layout is a bit confusing, but we can sort that out later.
“No expense was spared” in remodeling the “gourmet kitchen,” the listing continues, ticking off a list of expensive appliances while missing the glaring fact that the kitchen-dining room divider appears to be simply a pair of tall dressers that don’t match the kitchen or dining room in style or color.
The “vast owner’s suite overlooking the lagoon” was added to the house in 2008. The bedroom has its own fireplace and sitting area, populated with chairs, sofas, pillows and curtains in so many different vibrant patterns that I am now dizzy after watching it continuously for 30 seconds. There’s also a pair of tubs, one of which features a “BainUltra Champagne Bubble Bath” – not sure what that is, but BainUltra seems to be a very expensive brand of tubs that start around $5000. Guess this one has jets in it.
While everything here is modern and luxurious, I appreciate that the owners are really committed to making the house feel like it belongs in the 1950s, from the tile and wallpaper choices to the vinyl-look upholstery on the theater seats, despite the relative scarcity of private movie theaters in 1950s homes.
We get a few more photos of bedrooms and bathrooms (including a shower seriously compromised by the slope of the roof), then we’re outside to see the communal amenities and the guard shack that keeps commoners out.
Public records indicate a Robert and Adelyn Firtel as owners of the Saint Malo estate; the house does not appear to have changed hands by public sale for at least 25 years. After a previous attempted sale for $6.2million last year attracted no buyers, the home was relisted in early March for $5,995,000, a price unchanged when the property was removed off the list on July 13.
- 70 Saint-Malo Beach| Oceanside, 92054
- Current owner: Robert & Adelyn Firtel | Registration price: $5,995,000 | Beds: 6 | Baths: 6 | House size: 5441