110 Topaz Avenue

Balboa Island: baiting up the fishing rods with anchovies or squid in the predawn on the Sapphire Street dock, cinnamon rolls, turkey sandwiches from the Hershey Market Deli brimming with lettuce and avocado, the homes, nestled up all close together, on neat one-way streets, an island built upon a sandbar with a recently heightened cement seawall. I love Balboa Island, it is a natural home to me. My dad grew up spending a week every summer renting a house on the island where the only rule between sunrise and sunset was to tell someone you were taking the ferry across to the Peninsula. Due to this, I spent my youth waking up at 5:00AM, even on days when we weren’t supposed to go fishing just to ask if my dad and I could, to go fishing in the bay, on Sapphire Avenue, just a few blocks away from this home, located at 110 Topaz Avenue.

110 Topaz Avenue is located on Balboa Island’s highly desirable 100 block, the sand a mere two houses away, and, across the bay, a strait on view of the fabled Pavilion, ringed in covered verandas, crowned with a large Victorian cupola. This home, with its “Modern Farm House,” as per the listing, aesthetic and design, parallels this nostalgia for a bygone era, for a place rich, misty water-colored memories. I am very intrigued by the Modern Farm House design trend that is currently commanding quite the presence on the Southern California luxury spec house radar. From Ladera Ranch to Malibu and North Hollywood, the Modern Farm House reigns supreme in market, and I will continue to explore this in future posts. But back to this house, which is situated on an extra-wide lot with views of the Pavilion, welcomes you up and off the street with a gracious stone stairway, shrubs trimmed into neat rounded shapes, an expansive wood table for many future meals al fresco.


I am a major fan of the two-pone paint on the home, with the majority of the façade painted a cream color and the tower aspect painted a darker burnt sienna. The stone wall, elevating the terrace off the street, is a beautiful, and wonderfully delineating feature, helping to define and anchor this exterior room from the moment you arrive curbside. In fact, the house is surrounded by terraces and balconies from which to take in the sea air. The massive steel doors and inviting Dutch front door are all delightful additions, and details, both to view and interact with.

The interiors of this home are the epitome of easy, breezy elegance. Walls of glass fold away in both the living room, inviting you out to the massive al fresco table on the terrace, as well as a smaller, more intimate patio seating area, screening out the neighbors with a mature olive tree, off the extensive white kitchen, complete with honed Carrara marble countertops, a personal forever-favorite. A special treat is mounted on the wall outside the kitchen window: a flourishing hanging garden. The whiteness of the interiors of this house are also working quite nicely for me—a modern, discerning take on summer whites. For added glittz and glamor, the dining room boasts a glassed-in wine cellar that can display a collection and a half of vintages. The light wood used for the beams and flooring, when paired with the white walls, clapboard siding, and dark steel windows and doors, creates a very nice interplay within the home. “The eye has to travel,” as Diana Vreeland said.

The second floor and third floor roof deck continue this relaxed sophistication throughout. Windows, light, and air abound, even as a new home is in the middle of construction next door; this home is exceptionally well situated with its surroundings. And my favorite part of interacting with the house is the elevator, which, growing up in a single story ranch home, I would value as stairs can become so tiresome and unnecessary—gimme a big, sprawling Cliff May ranch house and I’ll be happy as a clam.

The location of the corner office, taking in the best bay views, would be a wonderful place to create. I am also exceptionally excited by the large covered area on the roof top, it’s substantial fireplace, and elevated jacuzzi, and all topped off by a string of lights! The effect of it all is quite stunning in its simplicity and deliberateness.

In regard to the interiors, I would do as Axel Vervoordt would do, as seen in Architectural Digest. Light, simple, with splashes of color and weighty colors for intense depth.

I’ve always wanted to live on Balboa Island, and this house is a string contender should that day come.

The home, currently listed for $5,525,000 by Heather Kidder and Stephanie Lowe of Compass Real Estate, has a total of 5 bedrooms and six bathrooms, encompassed within 3,606 square feet of living space on a 3,825 square foot lot. Your location is bar none on the island as it is only two blocks from the iconic ferry which connects bikers, pedaestrians, and vehicles to the peninsula, just across the bay.

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