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‘Japanese farmhouse’ in Watsonville knocks $1 million-plus off price

Far East-style actually a product of California fad from the 1970s

Japanese style farmhouse in Watsonville. Photos by Samantha Olden

The so-called Haiku House at 1209 San Andreas Road near Watsonville (in Santa Cruz County) fancies itself a piece of 16th Century Japan by way of 20th Century California.

The four-bed, three-bath farmhouse sits on 9.3 acres. Note that the farmhouse style isn’t strictly ornamental in this case. For the past half a decade, this house has indeed been turning out produce; the county has it registered as a berry farm.

But the big sell here is that this 1992 home hearkens to classic 16th-Century Japanese wooden homes, with their distinctive pole-and-beam designs.

“The style is an elegant reflection of modern lifestyles which aim to live gently on the land. Expansive rooms, freedom of interior space, natural light and air flow are all part of the grace and simplicity,” according to the ad.

With all the grace and simplicity 1209 San Andreas has as a reimagining of Kyoto, it’s Kyoto by way of Hawaii, USC, and Tennessee.

The term “Haiku House” refers to the signature style of Southern California designer Gordon Steen, who developed a yen for classic Japanese architecture and created a market for it in the U .S in the early 1970s.

As the Los Angeles Times reported in 2012:

Steen's interest in the architecture of 16th century Japanese country houses started when he was stationed with the U.S. Air Force in Japan. Steen studied architecture at USC but was neither a licensed architect nor a structural engineer, yet his pole houses accomplished the twin feats of a peaceful, calming aesthetic and structural integrity in earthquakes.

Haiku Houses caught on first in Hawaii and later in Southern California. Steen’s original company is no longer in business, and Steen himself died in 2004. But a different model house company in Tennessee keeps the Haiku House name and style in circulation.

Realtor Samantha Olden says this one is a Tennesse fabrication, the spitting image of the model house in the cataologue.

This Watsonville Haiku House first listed in the fall of 2015 asking $2.95 million. Today it’s asking $1.88 million.