At Home With Scott Kahn & Shaunna Salzetti-Kahn
On a clear day, Scott Kahn and Shaunna Salzetti-Kahn can (almost) see forever. From their hilltop home in Cielo, high above Rancho Santa Fe, one can decipher La Jolla in the distance, the city of San Diego, and beyond that, the hills that separate the U.S. border from Mexico, more than 50 miles away. This accomplished, philanthropic couple is on top of the world in so many ways.
Scott, a leading executive with Illumina, is on the forefront of groundbreaking technology enabling researchers to gather and analyze genetic information to study the causes of disease. It’s hoped that one day, mapping one’s own genome — the body’s genetic information — will be so accessible and affordable that nearly everyone will have the genetic roadmap to help doctors diagnose, treat, and prevent disease. “If you have access to your genome, the hope is you can have medicines that work specifically for you, and you can avoid treatments that won’t work for you and avoid all the bad side effects that might occur,” says Scott. “And it’s important that it can happen for everyone. Otherwise, you stratify who gets good medicine and who gets bad medicine. So that’s why having costs come down is really important.”
Shaunna, with a long career in the sales and marketing of medical devices, now has new priorites — raising the couple’s healthy and precocious 8-year-old twins — while also raising funds and awareness for children’s causes. Hospitalized at Marcy Birch just 19 weeks into her pregnancy, Shaunna was often wheeled into the Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Rady Children’s Hospital where she witnessed medical teams saving the lives of premature babies. That profound experience has inspired her to volunteer time and treasure to Rady’s, where she serves on the foundation board and heads up the Rancho Santa Fe Unit of the hospital’s auxiliary. (The unit’s annual gala, “Circus Nights,” is January 31 at The Grand Del Mar with Sandra Den Uijl and Greta Sybert serving as co-chairs.) Shaunna is also vice chair of the Rancho Santa Fe Education Foundation, which raises money for schools. Both she and her husband are involved with the Kawasaki Disease Foundation.
If diagnosed early enough, they say, the disease is treatable and children can lead normal lives. (Illumina is building a diagnostic tool to sequence genomes and look for certain mutations.) The couple focuses their giving on children’s charities for a simple reason: “They (children) have their whole lives in front of them,” says Scott, “so we try to give it to them.”
The couple recently moved into their spacious hilltop home, inspired by farmhouses they saw in Tuscany. With the help of architect John Jensen and builder Greg Agee, they created a contemporary, light-filled space where, despite its expansive size, says Shaunna, “less is more.” Clean lines, no clutter, nothing to obscure the home’s dramatic views.
Walls are crafted of creamy Texas limestone, a counterpoint to dark floors of hickory wood and high, wood-beamed ceilings. Shaunna, who designed the home’s interiors herself, was particularly fascinated with light. “Lighting was my big deal,” she says. “I thought lighting can be the art.” She discovered Luna Bella Lighting at High Point Market in North Carolina, selecting dramatic fixtures for the living areas, while San Diego’s Continental Lighting crafted the outdoor fixtures and the massive chandelier that seems to crown the living room.
The kitchen counters are made of cool Calacatta, a white Italian marble with grey veining. A shimmering mosaic tile backsplash and custom-made zinc hood top the Wolf 60-inch double oven. Other bells and whistles include a Miele steam oven, a double refrigerator-freezer, a built-in coffeemaker, and a pullout shelf of snacks and cereals for the kids. There’s also an outdoor kitchen with a grill and pizza oven, along with a vanishing-edge pool, a slide, and fire pit. Shaunna calls herself the “experimental cook” in the family, trading on her Italian roots to whip up soups and sauces. Scott is the real cook, she insists, a Jersey boy who worked his way through college and grad school in local restaurants. When they don’t cook at home, they prefer Pamplemousse Grille where proprietor Jeffrey Strauss shares their love of fine wine.
Carved into the basement is Scott’s “baby,” a glass-enclosed wine cellar (built by Sustainable Wine Cellars) that can hold 2,500 bottles. There is also a bar and a dining area for wine dinners. Floors are stained concrete and walls are “papered” with wooden wine boxes. Scott also had a hand in the 11-seat movie theater where daughter Sophia puts on plays and the family enjoys screenings of How to Tame Your Dragon 2. But Scott gives most of the credit to his wife for the design of their new home. “I tell people this is Shaunna’s house,” he says with a smile. “I just live here.” Andrea Naversen
Photography by Vincent Knakal