House hits market at $10.7 million

A La Cañada Flintridge woman who spent years perfecting every aspect of an aristocrat’s dream home has put it on the market for a staggering $10.7 million, an asking price that aims to set a new bar for local real estate values.

It’s an impressive space: 8,000 square-feet of high ceilings, carved marble fireplaces, stately polished limestone floors, seven bedrooms and living spaces wide open to natural light that pours in from an expansive courtyard and pool area.

But for all of the grand aspirations, reminiscent of an 18th-century French royal chateau, the 567 Meadow Grove St. estate owned by Heather and Austin Kim is really a monument to obsessive detail.

Tiny flowers carved into a dining room’s coffered ceiling live in subtle varieties of red, orange and blue —all hand-painted down to each petal under the constant direction of Heather Kim, who conceived the home’s design. A small westerly window is barely noticeable above a grand stone and wrought-iron staircase worthy of Norma Desmond, but its tinted glass bathes the grand entry hall in different shades of light.

OK, but $10 million? Who’s got that kind of scratch?

“We’ve had a few showings, but this caliber of buyer isn’t looking for an ordinary house,” said Sookie Mathews, the REMAX/Tri-City Realtor listing the home.

According to other area real estate agents, a $10.7 million sale would set a new bar for La Cañada residential property values.

“Ten million is unprecedented,” said Phyllis Harb of Prudential Realty of California’s La Cañada office.

By Harb’s memory, and a quick check of the Multiple Listing Service professional database, the last home sale to raise apparent market ceilings was a sprawling hilltop estate on Foxwood Road. Listed for $8.2 million, it sold in September 2005 for $7.37 million.

Harb also recalled the mid-2008 sale of a historic Dutch colonial on Flintridge Avenue for a little more than $6.2 million. That property and its 67,000-square-foot lot was listed for $6.5 million.

Meanwhile, the average closing price for the 15 homes that sold in La Cañada in March was about $1.4 million, Harb’s records show.

Though it’s clear that a list of potential buyers for the Meadow Grove Street estate is limited to people with a lot of cash and an appreciation for its French-inspired design, another local Realtor said there’s a good chance it’s going to sell — and high.

“Would it set a record? Of course it would,” said Rowena Emmett of Dilbeck Estates Realty in La Cañada. “But even in this carrying on about doom and gloom, La Cañada is not like the rest of the world. It’s a really strong area. What we’ve noticed in the last couple of months is that our high-end [properties] are getting multiple offers. It’s going to be an amazing spring.”

Emmett said she recently went into escrow on a home along Mesa Vista Drive listed for $4.25 million. Another Dilbeck agent is currently listing a 10,000-square-foot English Tudor estate, complete with 45-foot lap pool and guest house, for $7.9 million.

Kim, who primarily speaks Korean and is said to have made her fortune in garment manufacturing and developing high-end properties in Korea, lets her husband and Mathews do most of the talking.

But if she gets even close to her asking price, the home will have increased in value four times in six years, even after a national real estate market collapse.

A quick check of the real estate website shows that Kim (on the books as Sung Hye Kim) bought the property for $2.3 million in April 2005.

But the new price tag, she said, takes into account millions — she wouldn’t say how many millions, exactly — invested in the always big but once very plain-looking home, according to a real estate promotion from 2005.

Those renovations included raising the home’s roofline, adding 2,000 square feet of floor space and installing a hand-painted cupola to match the family room’s curved bay windows — never mind the addition of back yard marble pergolas fit for Caesar, a side-yard waterfall garden and koi pond and countless handpicked decorative elements.

Kim even took pains to make sure the home’s thick stone walls, double-pane windows and outdoor fountains conceal freeway noise, audible now only from a far corner of the backyard terrace.

So after all that hard work, why sell?

“This is her hobby. She has a talent for creative arts,” answered Austin Kim, a retired Korean-language media executive. “She wants to create. When she finishes up, she loses interest.”

This, he said, has happened before. Since moving to La Cañada Flintridge from Westwood 12 years ago, Kim has overseen the purchase, renovation and sale of two other homes in the city — one English-style, the other Mediterranean — both in the Descanso area.

And when this house sells, there’ll be another. The Kims said they hope to buy yet another La Cañada Flintridge home to remake as their own.

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