By Dave Fratello | January 28th, 2008
It's not every day that they let the plebes, the riff-raff, you know, John Q. Public, waltz through an $8m house. Sunday was one of those days, though, with an open house at 923 1st in the Hill Section, and we just had to drop in. (Click the address for details via Redfin.)

Here's a tip for you if they offer the same opportunity again: Take dramamine first, for your head shall get to spinning after a short while touring through this 8,000-sq.ft. home. We've not seen such a peculiar layout in recent memory. There are head-scratchers around every corner and bend.

For instance, in a home that is "contemporary" in style – roughly speaking, that means it looks modern but has no actual style – one of the first rooms you'll see is a kind of throwback: a dark, wood-paneled office, with built-in bookcases and, lo, a bar. One whole curving wall is made of windows looking back into the house.

Follow the first-floor hallway in its winding curves and you'll spy two bedrooms, partly separated by glass doors (!?!), then another, quite cozy, and, er, we're sure there was a fourth, but we were starting to feel like we were lost in a maze.

Suddenly, we popped out into an extremely cool exterior living room – a high-end pool cabana (pictured). One whole wall, and half of another, have folding, windowed accordion doors that can be stashed away, leaving a large living room with a big-screen, sofas, a bar and 100% fresh air. Steps to the pool, of course.

Back to the maze, and we found our way upstairs. The vast master has tons of floor-to-ceiling windows, ocean views and, as you might expect, a bathroom the size of a small garage.

We found the walk-in closet, and here's part of the answer to how you can use 8,000 sq. ft. in a house: Make your closet the size of a locker room, with lots of seating. Appropriately, off one door is the gym. (In the closet, the lack of a woman's touch everywhere was partly explained – no women's clothes cluttering up the great expanses or built-ins.)

All those various peripherals are great, but you won't need a master that can entertain 50 comfortably, and you won't always have pool parties on Game Day, but you will use the giant upstairs living spaces – all of which have panoramic ocean/PV/Catalina views. We'd guess that 2,000 sq. ft. are devoted to the great room space here.

Perhaps our favorite (non-cabana) feature: The service side of the built-in bar positioned at the windows steps down, so that a server can prepare beverages without blocking the panoramic ocean views of any guests. (Pictured here, if hard to discern.)

2nd, 3rd and 4th-favorite features: The other bars that we're aware of. We'll update the story if we missed a bar somewhere.

Art appreciation: The entire home is filled with paintings by a single artist, unknown to MBC before this particular museum tour. Included are two rather large depictions of partially naked women in harems. Granted, this was all much more interesting to see than multiple shades of beige.

923 1st was built in 1991, and places its 8,000 sq. ft. on a nearly 11,000-sq.-ft. lot. The current owner paid $3.3m in 2003 – which must have seemed like a lot, way back then – and took to remodeling the house in 2006.

The recent vintage of the remodel is evident – materials are mostly slick and modern and reminiscent of high-end hotels and spas. You'll find spots where original (ca. 1991) details were left in place, looking perfectly nice but not 100% modern. And there are places, like the wood trim on windows outside, where it seems that the wood was stripped and refinished, because it just isn't slick. Small parts of the remodel aren't complete yet, so it's an A-/B+.

With all of that said, it's impossible to see 923 1st as an $8m house. It's too strange and wild and custom, it seems, to draw top dollar. The price is $1,000/PSF, well above the range of $760-$915/PSF we've seen in recent high-dollar sales. And in this house, it's not like square footage is in short supply, which limits the import of the PPSF gauge.

Oh, they'll tell you that the real comp is 863 6th, a "smaller" home (5400 sq. ft.) on a similarly sized 11,000+ sq. ft. lot, which sold off the MLS last August for $8.325m. But that sale remains a huge outlier, and we're guessing that 6th St. just made more sense. In reality, 923 1st is not a family home, it's an entertaining home that coddles the master of the house.

Since we're in the pricing stratosphere here, what of 230 Anderson, a huge (6200 sq. ft.) and newer family home with exquisite finishes everywhere, which couldn't draw $7m after 6 months of trying? A brand-new home at 2nd/Dianthus sold mid-construction for $7.2m recently.

Those homes tell us this one is probably high by well over a million bucks, and the lack of anything comparable makes it hard to get a fix on what price is right. We might not be shocked at a sale close to $6m, but much about 923 1st is simply unpredictable.

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