At Home With Sandra and Dr. Sassan Alavi
Posted on February 3, 2020
The vacant lot sandwiched between hilltop homes high above La Jolla wasn’t much to look at. But Sandra Alavi saw its potential: the coastal view was dazzling. The site overlooks La Jolla Shores and the Scripps Pier, and on a clear day, one can see all the way to Carlsbad. Luckily, Sandra’s husband, Dr. Sassan Alavi, agreed. It was love at first sight. Four years later, their 8,500-square-foot house on three levels was completed, a well-designed showplace where the Alavis are raising eight-year-old twins Austin and Jamie, along with two large, fluffy sheepadoodle dogs (a cross between sheepdogs and poodles). The house is also a serene retreat for the couple’s uber busy lives.
They are deeply involved in Dr. Alavi’s Center for Cosmetic Surgery in Bankers Hill. They also own restaurants and music venues including Music Box, Prohibition, El Chingon, Havana 1920, and Nicky Rottens. Sandra’s adult daughter, Vanessa Wells, runs the couple’s Pure Salon & Spa. Sandra has long been a businessperson in her own right, having founded and sold a half-dozen salons over the years.
But philanthropy is at the couple’s heart. Their twins were preemies — born seven weeks early at just three pounds each. Now they are thriving, but the Alavis remember the hours and hours in the neo-natal intensive care unit at Sharp Mary Birch Hospital. So, they are especially supportive of Miracle Babies, the nonprofit that provides additional resources for critically ill newborns and their families. They are also committed to Rady Children’s Hospital and the Breast Cancer Foundation.
It was the Alavis’ growing family that led them to look for a new home, enlisting the aid of architect Bejan Arfaa, builder Sunset West Development, and designer Kelly Dougherty. The coastline informed the house’s curving lines and disappearing glass door to maximize ocean views. There is no formal living room. No need. The family actually “lives” — and often entertains — in the living room and adjoining kitchen, separated only by a wood and granite wall and a double-sided fireplace. A glass-walled wine room, which houses Dr. Alavi’s vast collection, features highly polished wood cabinets of a walnut veneer that’s used extensively throughout the house — in the kitchen cabinets, wall units, closets, and in the downstairs powder room (all from Francisco Mendiola of CDGI).
Dougherty designed much of the sleek contemporary furniture custom made by Andrew Morgan, adding pops of color that Dr. Alavi loves, including a curved armless sofa in aqua and multi-colored silk ottomans. Lime green dining chairs surrounding the long glass table are all from Roche Bobois. Flooring on the main level and stairs is seagrass limestone, a durable stone found on shallow sea beds. For seamless living, Dougherty continued the same flooring on the deck but used a brushed finish for outdoor use.
The backsplash in the kitchen is a striking green agate slab from Italy that is backlit by 12 x 12 LED light panels for an otherworldly glow. Dougherty also used a variety of stones in the kitchen. The main counter and island, housing the main sink, is waterfall quartz. The slab on the island closest to the ocean view is turtle green granite. Appliances are Miele.
Interior spaces can easily accommodate a crowd, but parties spill out onto the terrace with its outdoor kitchen, lounging areas, and fire table. There is also a second outdoor kitchen, barbecue, and playground.
The dramatic foyer is crowned with a massive chandelier designed by Dougherty in collaboration with White Elk’s Vision in Glass of Glen Haven, Colorado. Dr. Alavi, who loves art, took special interest in the home’s collection. One wall of the foyer is dominated by works from the artist Jennyfer Stratman, who Dr. Alavi commissioned to create three separate pieces. “But the whole wall became one big piece of art,” he says. The space also includes two bronzes. Artist Wade Harb created large metal art panels in the entry and kitchen, and on a hallway leading to a downstairs media room. “What’s interesting about art is that the more you realize what you like and don’t like, the more you find out about yourself,” observes Dr. Alavi. “It’s very comforting to find out what you like — and give it to yourself.” Andrea Naversen
Photography by Vincent Knakal