While it’s far from being a delightfully quirky pineapple-shaped house under the sea, this midcentury modern residence on the market in San Marino for $4 million still ranks pretty high when it comes to the cool factor. Not only is it a pedigreed property — designed by noted Case Study architects Buff, Straub & Hensman — but it actually served as home base to the late “SpongeBob Square Pants” creator Stephen Hillenburg, who lived there at the time of his death in 2018.
Hillenburg and his wife Karen purchased the iconic house 15 years ago for $2.5 million, according to public records. Now offered at $4 million by George Penner of Deasy Penner Podley (and already in escrow, per the MLS), the place most likely looks a lot like it did on the exterior when it first appeared on Canon Drive in 1959 — complete with the quintessential post-and-beam architecture so popular at the time.
Inside, however, it sports some meticulously restored interiors crafted by Los Angeles-based architects Space International in 2009. Think vaulted ceilings augmented by skylights and clerestory windows, dovetailed white oak built-ins, light gray stone, reclaimed “end-block” oak flooring, and floor-to-ceiling walls of glass that afford a seamless indoor-outdoor environment.
Found atop a gentle knoll, on a half-plus-acre of land bordered by mature trees, the three bedroom, three-bath home offers 3,000-plus square feet of open and inviting living space on a single level. Stone pavers and steps lead to the entrance of the light-filled dwelling, which opens to a flowing floor plan highlighted by a spacious living room showcased by a vaulted tongue-and-groove ceiling, towering brick inlay fireplace with a raised hearth, and doors that open to a partially covered entertainer’s deck that leads via a set of stairs to the woodsy grounds.
A chic gourmet kitchen features a large center island, and a walk-in wet bar with wine refrigerator. Also standing out is an eye-catching master suite outfitted with custom furnishings (including a bed platform, nightstands, credenza and writing desk), which also has a sleek skylit bathroom equipped with dual vanities, and a tub and shower clad in mosaic tile.
Outdoors, a picturesque backyard is punctuated by a lap pool and multiple lounge areas. Two separate structures include a guest house with bathroom and an art studio.
Born in Oakland, Hillenburg was raised in Orange County, Calif., where he wrote a comic book to teach his students about tide pools while working as a marine biology educator at the Ocean Institute in Dana Point. That later sparked the popular Nickelodeon TV series in 1999. The animator died from complications of ALS, a progressive neurodegenerative disease, at age 57.