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Jerry Hicks | Photo: John Dole | August 1, 2014
John and Heidi Oswald set out to build their dream home—a modern waterfront abode that’s environmentally friendly and a place they’d live in forever. And then…
Building one of the only green homes in Newport Beach was a longtime dream of business entrepreneurs John and Heidi Oswald. Every inch of the four-bedroom waterfront abode they created in the private Bayshore community reflects upon their environmental passion—the imposing recycled steel beams, the soy-foam insulation, the recycled ledger fireplace, the spectacular barn-door dining table.
“We’d both gone to Newport Harbor High School, and we wanted our two young boys to go there. That was going to be our home for life,” says John, whose international company, Cuipo—named for the tallest tree in the rain forest—sells products that range from water bottles and watches to T-shirts and hats, and the money is used to purchase additional rain-forest land. So it was only natural that the Oswalds would want their living space to be eco-friendly too.
But, before living in it for even a single day, they sold it.
“We didn’t build it to make money,” he says. “We built it for us. But you can’t be foolish either. A real estate agent who was a friend of ours convinced us the home had such great value that we should test the market.” The Oswalds had three offers at full price within the first hour it was available. They wound up selling it for more than their asking price—which was in the $5 million range.
Now, it’s the dream home of a pair of Orange County dentists, David Guichet and his wife, Jacinthe Paquette. The couple keep separate practices in prosthodontics, an aesthetic dentistry designed to improve smiles. They weren’t going to chance not getting the Oswald house, so they immediately offered an extra $55,000 above the asking price. “I was in a class while my wife was taking a look at the house,” says Guichet. “She sent me a text message that says, ‘Get over here. ASAP!’”
Guichet says he knew his wife’s instincts were right the moment he stepped inside: “Right away, I noticed the nickel fixtures on the doors. The styling of the whole house was so progressive. We were just struck by the contemporary nature of the home. We didn’t feel like we had to change a thing.”
The Oswalds and the dentists had one thing solidly in common: They wanted an environmentally sound home, energy-efficient with little need for heating or air conditioning. Both the master bedroom upstairs and the entire open downstairs space is fronted by sliding glass pocket doors the full width of the house. The home doesn’t need light during the day. They can heat or cool the interior by just sliding the doors.
“It’s like living outdoors, but being indoors,” John says.
The home, with its high ceilings offset by captivating white oak wood floors throughout, overlooks a private marina at the Lido Channel, across from the luxe Lido Isle. The spectacular water-world view comes into play all the way back to the kitchen. “The kitchen was probably my favorite part of the house,” John says. “It has this great 14-foot island, where you can look out at the water. It’s like the center of everything going on.” On her first tour of the house, Angie Mathews, who works for John, quipped: “Is there a better place in Orange County for doing dishes?”
The home is so energy-efficient that Guichet says their utility bill is less than one-third the cost of their previous residence down along Newport Coast. “I’ve not had a chance to meet John,” he says. “But the man is a true artist. This house is a work of art.” The abode is 3,700 square feet, but because of all the open space supported by steel beams, it feels more like a 6,000-square-foot estate.
John gives much of the credit to the builders at Venice-based Sander Architects. (Whitney Sander is known as the go-to guy in green architecture.) But he does acknowledge that he and Heidi oversaw the construction and implementation of every detail. “Green is in our DNA,” he says. “Our hearts and souls went into making this the greatest green home anywhere.” The home’s also outfitted with low-flush toilets, barn-piece closet doors and Energy Star appliances. Low-VOC paint was used, and the cedar wood siding and white oak floors were approved by environmental overseers of the Forest Stewardship Council.
John was told before he started building two years ago that it was only the second green home in Newport Beach, and only one other has been built since. But green homebuilding isn’t his only passion. With Cuipo, he’s known for buying up huge acre blocks of rain forest in Brazil and Panama—nearly 120 million square meters—to protect them from corporate takeover.
So do they regret selling their dream home? At first it was a mix of emotions, John admits. “They bought the house fully furnished, but I had left some personal books there, and I had gone by to pick them up. I met the wife, who told me how much they loved the house,” he says. “For just a minute there, her saying that was almost like a twist of the knife—this was our house. But the thing is, I’m glad they love it. Even without living there, I will always think of it as our house—Heidi’s and mine. We learned so much. And the way we looked at it, just building it was a dream come true by itself.”
And the kicker to all this? If they learned to build it once, they could do it again. And that’s just what the Oswalds are planning. They’ve moved to Park City, Utah, and aim to construct another green home, where they’ll live with their sons—Preston, 5, and Rhys, 3.
As for Guichet and Paquette, their three sons are older, but it’s important for them to have a place where the boys can come home and have their own rooms. They’ve bought a Duffy boat and paddleboards. They don’t expect to ever get tired of the home and what it has to offer.
“From the angle of this house, every morning at dawn, the sun illuminates off the faces of the homes across the channel,” Guichet says. “Then they glisten back at us. It’s just so magnificent to see.”
Phillip, their youngest, now studying medicine at USC, says his favorite moments come in the late afternoon, on the upstairs balcony. He watches the colorful sailboats come in for the day. And he’s turned the back upstairs patio into his own private medical school study hall. “It’s just so hard to believe this is
ours,” he says.
In the future, the elder Guichet and his wife may put in solar panels, though hidden to not detract from the house’s beauty. But for now, he says, they’re simply enjoying every day: “We’re just so thankful they chose us to sell it to.”