When Nico Lencioni was in kindergarten and his teacher asked the class to draw a house, he surprised her by drawing a wavy, elliptical figure, not the typical rectangle with a triangle on top.
Nico’s parents invited the teacher over to their home for a visit, to see for herself. The teacher, not surprisingly, was amazed when she saw the house.
“Everyone basically has this ‘Wow!’ reaction, and it’s pretty polarizing: You either love it, or you hate it,” Assemi says of the home, which is now listed for $599,000. Its roof mimics ocean waves and is covered with cedarwood shingles.
“It’s just so unconventional, but inside, it’s a regular house,” says Assemi.
The home has three bedrooms and three bathrooms in 1,845 square feet, and its ceilings are 21 feet high. It comes with 6.22 wooded acres on Collins Creek at the base of the Sierras and Sequoia National Park, about 20 minutes from Fresno, CA.
“It’s completely hidden. If you look at it on a satellite view, it’s just like 100% wooded, overgrown with honeysuckle and sycamore trees,” Assemi says.
“The driveway is walled vegetation, and then they created this clearing, and boom!—the house sort of reveals itself as you come down the driveway.”
In 1986, the schoolteachers Dennis and Deborah Lencioni, who were then 25, commissioned architect Arthur Dyson to build them a home on a shoestring budget.
Dyson is now 80 years old and has built more than 700 buildings, many in the Fresno area. Dyson was an apprentice for the legendary architects Frank Lloyd Wright and Bruce Goff, and by the mid-’80s, had already designed a number of notable residences.
According to Assemi, Dyson’s creative process includes having homeowners fill out multiple-page questionnaires describing their likes and dislikes.
The Lencioni home reflects the couple’s interests. The family wanted openness—even the upstairs bedrooms are open, with no full walls separating them from the rest of the house.
“This house was very much designed for the way [the Lencioni] family lived. The master bedroom has this giant hole in the wall, like a circle, that basically opens out into the family room down below,” Assemi says. The same goes for another bedroom, which cannot be completely closed off.
The lack of privacy meant that any family member could talk to anyone else at basically any time.
“It was very much designed for the way they wanted to live at that time, and the interesting thing is, [Mrs. Lencioni] would never build that house again today,” Assemi explains.
Dennis Lencioni died in 2003, and Deborah has since remarried and now lives in another Dyson-designed home. She has made this one available for short-term rentals, at around a $200 a night.
“Writers, musicians, have come through and rented it for a week at a time. It very much has that retreat vibe,” Assemi says.
The dense vegetation, he adds, makes it feel about 10 degrees cooler than the surrounding area.
“It’s literally like once you enter the driveway—it’s very cliché—but it’s like time stands still a little bit. You are transported to someplace totally different, because it’s completely isolated.”
Inside, the free-form home celebrates nature and organic architecture, with extensive use of wood and glass. The owner’s late husband was a blacksmith and designed the staircase and other metal accents himself.
“It’s unbelievably heavy and is all plate steel,” Assemi says. He notes that the home may require some work from a buyer who appreciates this home’s bold vision.
The home has won several awards, including the 1989 Honor Award for Design Excellence from San Joaquin chapter of the American Institute of Architects. It’s also been featured in many magazines and television programs, including a 2012 episode of HGTV’s Extreme Homes.
“Almost everybody has some initial reaction to it,” says Assemi, adding that the photos of the home, however spectacular, really don’t do it justice.
He says the perfect buyer will be someone looking for something special.
“It’s someone who is a little earthy and wants to be in touch with nature—and is OK challenging the status quo.”