HOUSE OF THE YEAR
Readers voted for a condo on Lake Tahoe as their favorite home from the 2013 weekly features; waterfront homes in Greenwich, Conn., and Florida were also favorites in the online contest.
You could say that Zari Mansouri’s Lake Tahoe home has views to die for.
“The colors from the west shore are just so spectacular,” she says about the vistas from her roughly 4,100-square-foot Lake Tahoe condo—the same golden hues in Fredo Corleone’s fatal scene in “The Godfather: Part II.”
That scene, in which Fredo, played by the late John Cazale, takes a one-way fishing trip after betraying the family, was filmed in what is now known as Fleur du Lac Estates, a 22-unit condominium development on the western shores of Lake Tahoe, near Homewood, Calif. Originally built in the 1930s by industrialist Henry Kaiser, who was instrumental in the creation of the Hoover Dam, the 15-acre compound was converted in the early 1980s into this gated luxury development.
“I thought, my God, that is so fascinating,” she recalls, but it wasn’t the Corleones that brought her to Lake Tahoe—it was the skiing. As the president and chief executive of Laboratory Skin Care, a business-to-business biotech company in the San Francisco Bay Area, she spent her free time traveling to nearby Squaw Valley Ski Resort, until she finally decided to make Lake Tahoe her primary home. She bought the condo for $4.575 million in 2006, according to public records.
The property also won over WSJ.com readers: Ms. Mansouri’s home received the most votes, 88,957, out of the 897,478 votes cast in the 2013 U.S. House of the Year contest. Ms. Mansouri’s home is on the market for $6.499 million; the other homes in the poll were also on the market at one point during 2013.
For years, Lake Tahoe has attracted affluent buyers from the tech and financial-services industries, including billionaire Larry Ellison, CEO of technology company Oracle Corp. ORCL -2.73% In March, Mr. Ellison listed his 2.6-acre compound on the eastern shore for $28.5 million, according to Jennie Fairchild of Chase International Real Estate. He is building another compound on the north shore’s Incline Village.
“They like the quiet and peaceful serenity” of the western shore.
In 2013, the median sale price of a waterfront home was $4.7 million on the north and west shores of Lake Tahoe, up 20.6% from the previous year.
Despite its prime location, inside the four-bedroom, 4½ bathroom home left something to be desired, says Ms. Mansouri. Before her renovations, a corridor of mirrored walls made the space feel outdated.
“You went into the entry and… you felt like you were mice looking for cheese in a maze,” joked architect Rob Rogers of RWR Art-Architecture in Truckee, Calif., who was part of the team that completed the three-year, $3.5 million renovation project.
For Mr. Rogers, the solution was simple: “What we need to do is blow a hole through the fireplace,” he remembers telling a less-than-enthused Ms. Mansouri. Drastic, perhaps, but efficient, he argued—the hole would create a double-sided fireplace.
“Everybody told us we couldn’t do it,” he says, in part because of the engineering and air-filtration systems required. Today, the roughly 6-foot, 8-inch fireplace (big enough to stand in, they note) is a focal point.
“We certainly weren’t going for typical Tahoe,” says interior designer Justine Ringlien, who incorporated contemporary décor to match the unusual wood finishes, like Sapele mahogany from Africa that was used for flooring. The home features 13 distinct sound zones and wiring for a professional DJ booth. They tore down interior walls and added glass panels on the lakeside for what Mr. Rogers calls the “explosion view,” because of its breadth.
“I’ve had friends who visit who just want to take pictures in that same spot,” she says, referring to a view from the compound that overlooks the scene of the fictional mob hit. In the busy season, tour boats stop near the waters by the private compound for a peek at the development’s “Godfather” history.
Upstairs, Ms. Mansouri kept the focus on the lake, with a master-bedroom suite that includes an all-glass shower. The shower faces the bedroom; a dry sauna is hidden behind a door with a two-way mirror.
“It looked super X-rated,” to have a glass shower in the middle of the bedroom, Mr. Rogers joked, but that wasn’t the intention. (“I wanted a spa bedroom,” Ms. Mansouri says.) The glass shower was designed to extend the views, so that the lake is visible from the vanity mirror.
Her reasons for moving to Fleur du Lac go beyond water views. As a single woman, she says it helped to have maintenance and upkeep handled by the condo development. There is 24-hour security and a concierge-like service that handles requests, such as reserving the original Kaiser family boathouse and yacht club for parties.
Ms. Mansouri says she is one of the few year-round residents of the community, allowing her to enjoy the perks of condo living with the privacy of a single-family home.
Ms. Mansouri says she is selling because she is spending more time near her office in the Bay Area. The home was listed in May 2013 for $6.99 million. Condo fees are $3,900 a month.
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