weather icon Drizzle

What it’s like to live with Red Rock in your backyard — PHOTOS

One of the main benefits of living in the Las Vegas Valley is its proximity to the beauty and solitude of Red Rock Canyon.

In 1990, Congress designated Red Rock Canyon as a National Conservation Area (RRCNCA) including Bonnie Springs, Calico Basin and the village of Blue Diamond. In July 2003, Clark County established the Red Rock Design Overlay District, regulating the private land within the boundaries of and surrounding the RRCNCA. This act placed restrictions on the type of growth that can be allowed in the overlay district. Simply put, it limits new homes. There are probably fewer than 300 homes in the area and little private land. Anyone looking to move into the conservation areas, the options are:

1. Buy one of the few existing homes, or;

2. Buy an empty lot and build a new home.

Talk about being between a rock and a hard place.

Still, the area is drawing a few local architects; and many are building vacation homes for those looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Currently, there are five lots for sale in Blue Diamond and two for sale in Calico Basin, according to Kristen Routh Silberman, a Realtor who lives the area. Calico Basin has “probably 60 parcels, everyone is at least 2 acres and there’s 27 houses. We’re starting to see values move back up. Prices are $400,000 an acre, minimum; there’re $1 million lots there, too,” said Routh-Silberman with Synergy, Sotheby’s International Realty.

Blue Diamond has a post office, store, library and elementary school with an average enrollment of less than 30 students, a church and a community park.

Realtor Pauline van Betten of Realty One Group said 70 percent of Blue Diamond’s 115 homes were built before 1955, and have two bedrooms, one bath and no garage. “Villagers tend to stay in Blue Diamond for decades, not years, and it takes a major life-changing event to pry them away knowing how hard it will be to get back into the village,” van Betten said. The upshot of this is an equity imbalance as the land becomes more valuable than the existing homes, yet the ability to attract buyers with the means to invest hasn’t matched that momentum.

Says owner Ira Russack, who is trying to sell his Blue Diamond house and two adjacent lots, “it’s hard to find the right buyer, because most people who want to spend over $1 million are looking for something more glamorous.”

Real Estate Millions toured two homes for sale within the RRCNCA; Russack’s and one of the houses in Bonnie Springs.

Russack’s Santa Fe-style home owes half its charm to the architect, and the other half to landscape designer Jay Pleggenkuhle, who created a symphonic garden of desert plants that paint the landscape like musical notes shouting “the hills are alive with the sound of music.”

The house is a simple retreat. It’s most luxurious part is the master bath with jetted tub and steam shower. Any lavishness about this house is mainly in its outdoor spaces.

Set on the western side of Blue Diamond, the parcel consists of three adjacent lots at varying elevations bordering the Spring Mountains. The highest lot has several meditation areas. The house is on the center lot, and on the lower, eastern lot Pleggenkuhle created an orchard. “Ira’s big into meditation and yoga, so we did these special areas that line up with different peaks, so if you’re into energy flow, the whole Sedona thing, this actually makes sense,” Pleggenkuhle said.

Some self-seeding wildflowers were planted and have taken hold. It’s a natural, evolving garden; the opposite of the manicured plants at the typical hotel lobby, explained Pleggenkuhle, owner of Stonerose Landscapes. He was on staff at The Mirage for six years and designed Siegfried and Roy’s Secret Garden.

Much of the landscape materials were reclaimed from other places disposing of them, like the Joshua trees and boulders that frame the property, yet they look as if they were there for hundreds of years. He created terraced ledges with rocks that were abandoned at the town wash, and used cleaved stone to create a “grand staircase” to the house’s upper entrance. The front porch and side of the house are carpeted with swaths of yellow banks rose, in full bloom the week we visited.

Behind the house is a tall, tiered river rock waterfall that descends into a fish pond, and gradually trickles into a wash that ends “just like it dried out in the desert, said Pleggenkhule. “We created a dry wash waterfall you might find if you were hiking out in a canyon, and it actually functions to drain the property, too.”

Russack decided to buy a house because he was spending months here in the 1990s attending the semi-annual MAGIC (menswear) trade show as owner of the New York City business, The Canal Jean Co.

“It was not a good experience. I try to take care of myself … I’m a vegetarian and I found it difficult to eat at that time in the restaurants … So I decided to purchase a house, but looking at all the tract houses that were available, they were really not for me. Somehow, I was led to Red Rock and I found this little town called Blue Diamond.”

The owner was only interested in selling the existing house, not the adjacent lots, he recalled. “My plan was to buy the house, and maybe flip it, and get her to sell me the top lot, which is an amazing lot. I was not interested in that house. It was really a wreck.” Eventually he persuaded her. “I wrote her separate checks for the top lot and the house and I said, ‘I’m not going to buy the house from you unless you sell me the top lot.’”

In 1998, Russack hired a Santa Fe architect to design a greenhouse. They stripped the existing home down to the frame and converted the carport to a fourth bedroom. He incorporated wood artifacts from Santa Fe, such as corbels, a mission bell and wagon wheels in the yard. The door at the base of the sidewalk was imported from Indonesia. The kitchen has solid walnut cabinets. Its ceiling is made of knotty pine, and it has an eating nook looking east over the orchard.

The house is ecofriendly, from the low-volatile organic compounds paint, to the copper barrier embedded in some walls to stop electromagnetic fields transmission. It has a rewater system that collects gray water and distributes it to the landscape.

“Everything Ira put into this house had to be environmentally friendly. We were not allowed to use any chemicals like Roundup,” Pleggenkhule added.

Russack’s clothing store became a casualty of 9/11, and he closed it in 2002. Since he no longer makes frequent trips to Las Vegas, he spends more time at his other homes in Florida, New York and Brazil, and decided to sell the house to someone who will appreciate it and give it the attention it needs. “It was a labor of love … the plan was to never sell it, but to use it and enjoy it,” he said. “I’m hoping to sell it all as one piece, just out of respect for all the hard work that went into it.”

Only five families are privileged to own a house in the Bonnie Springs section of Red Rock Canyon, and after 25 years, John and Cathy Gauthier have put theirs up for sale for $1,650,000.

The sunrise lights up their master bedroom, Cathy said, so that “the mountains seem to glow in the morning.” Added John, after a rainstorm “there’s a huge shear cloud that comes over the mountain from Mount Charleston. It’s so predictable and it turns these spectacular colors sometimes. The light makes the mountains look really spectacular at sunset.”

Most real estate promotional photos feature the house front and center. In the photos of this one, the Spring Mountains in the back dominate the view, which isn’t to say the house is unremarkable. The 2½-acre property resembles Bonanza’s Ponderosa Ranch.

The property is accessed via a gravel road that passes by an arena where occasional sporting events are held. A gate separates the house from the road, which is lined with voluminous oleander bushes. There is an unfinished casita surrounded by cholla, ocotillo and agave plants.

The Gauthiers are retired geologists who met working for the same company on the Yucca Mountain project. Near the front entrance is a tall, perfectly preserved sandstone slab, possibly millions of years old. They bought the rare slab from “a guy down on Blue Diamond Road, when it was just a little country road … and he was going to carve his (business) name on it. Those are fossilized sand ripples on the face of it. We saw it and couldn’t stand the idea that he was going to carve it up, so we bought it,” John recalled.

Their eat-in kitchen looks north toward the other houses in the village. Pine trees they planted 25 years ago are now tall enough to provide a natural barrier. “When we do get wind, we get a lot of it, because there’s nothing to break the wind,” John said. “And, sometimes it really funnels down that valley. We’ve had 90-mile-an-hour winds.”

In 1991, the couple paid below the $275,000 asking price, and nearly doubled the square footage from 1,850 to 3,426 on basically the same footprint by adding a second floor and converting a carport into a sunroom. They remodeled the master bedroom, bath and kitchen, which has solid bamboo floors, beautiful cabinets and black granite counters with a rock-embedded backsplash.

A split rail is all that separates the property from the Spring Mountains and keeps away the wild burros that famously roam the area. “Prior to that, they could run up to the bedroom windows at four in the morning. You wouldn’t believe how loudly they can bray,” Cathy said.

The also added a wall around the back and one side of the house to enclose the exterior hot tub, while deciding not to install a pool. “There are critters of every shape and size out here, and a pool would just be a maintenance nightmare,” John said.

They put up, then eliminated bird feeders because “a slew of squirrels, rats, rabbits, coyotes came in packs to hunt them, and hawks were circling the house so we had a whole ecosystem in no time, so you have to be careful what you do out here in Mother Nature.”

Despite the beauty that surrounds them, the Gauthiers have a yearning to settle down in California’s central coast wine country. “The climate and landscape there is just to die for,” John said.

That’s funny; we were thinking the same thing about their landscape. The grass is always greener.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Real Estate Millions Videos
Real Estates Millions: Midcentury Remodel - Video
Originally built in 1966, this Midcentury Remodel has been modernized to appeal to the masses. The larger than life windows brighten up the entire home and offer brilliant views of the nearby mountains and golf course.
Real Estate Millions: Lake Las Vegas (23 Summer House Drive)
Real Estate Millions: Angeles Home In MacDonald Highlands - VIDEO
Angeles Scorsetti's nearly 10,000-square-foot home she and her husband, Steve Mason, purchased on the Dragon Ridge Golf Course and spent six months remodeling, leaving behind their Mandarin Oriental penthouse where they lived 8 years above the Strip.
Real Estate Millions: Boulder City Home - VIDEO
Mal Farmer takes us on a tour of her Bolder City home that she remodeled and lived it with her late husband Richard for over 30 years.
Real Estate Million: 27 Shadow Canyon Court - VIDEO
27 Shadow Canyon is a $5.5 million dollar home is 9,825 square-feet with six bedrooms and 7 baths. Shadow Canyon is equipped with an assortment of Tesla Amenities including power walls, solar panels, and an electric car.
Real Estate Millions: 2019 New American Remodel
Real Estate Millions: Las Vegas Motorcoach Resort - VIDEO
Various RV owners living in the community of the Las Vegas Motorcoach Resorts gives the crew a tour of their motor homes.
Real Estate Millions: Brett Raymer's Tanked Home - VIDEO
Brett Raymer from the TV show "Tanked" gives us a look into his 4 story home on the edge of Lone mountain. What would a tanked home be without a 700-gallon custom aquarium in the kitchen and a 6,000-gallon Koi pond in its resort-style backyard.
Real Estate Millions: 460 Probst Way
460 Probst Way is listed for $4.5 million and has 5 bedrooms, 6 baths, 4 car garage and is 6,738 square feet. The home is in a gated compound with an outdoor pool, deck, and kitchen with near 360 degree of the las vegas valley. The house will be auctioned on April 26-29th.
Real Estate Millions: Home + History Tour - VIDEO
A 1963 Paradise Palms home. Originally called the Monterey, the open floor plan features a living, dining and kitchen area in main living area, original hardwood flooring, original central vac system, both master bathrooms have original starburst tile and vanities, fully renovated kitchen with quartz counters and new appliances, waterfall edge island with counter seating, ‘Cosmos,’ a Soviet-inspired lounge with fog machine, laser lights, sound system and full bar, fresh paint, retro furnishings, new carpet, pool, pool deck with seating and covered bar, lifetime block and steel construction.
Real Estate Millions: Jim Rhodes Home Most Expensive In Las Vegas - VIDEO
Jim Rhodes has created the most expensive home on the market in Las Vegas. The home is listed at $29,995,000, 9,798 sq. ft., 8 Bedrooms, 8 Full Baths, 2 Half Baths and has 360-degree views of the Las Vegas Strip.
Pawn Stars Rick Harrison Real Estate Millions - VIDEO
Reality TV star Rick Harrison from Pawn Stars shows his eccentric home off in the Red Rock Country Club. The house is 8,845 square feet. It has five bedrooms, seven bathrooms and three additional rooms. It is listed at $3,999,999.
Real Estate Millions: Boulder City Home (613 Lido Dr) - VIDEO
Sitting on top of a mountain overlooking the Lake Mead recreation area, Scott Baranoff gives a tour of his 4,655 square feet Frank Lloyd-Wright inspired home in Boulder City.
Real Estate Millions: Hard Luck Mine Castle
Real Estate Millions: Flip or Flop Vegas
Real Estate Millions: Myron Martin
Real Estate Millions: $15M Palms Place Penthouse
Phil Maloof’s Palms Place Penthouse, which takes up the entire 59th-floor, is for sale for $15 million. (Samia DeCubas/Real Estate Millions)
Real Estate Millions: The New American Home 2019
Real Estate Millions: The highest-priced condos sold in Las Vegas in 2018
Real Estate Millions: One Queensridge Place
Real Estate Millions: 1210 Macdonald Ranch
Real Estate Millions: Jonathan Marchessault
Vegas Golden Knight Jonathan Marchessault, shows off his Summerlin home.
Real Estate Millions: Say Yes To The Nest
Camila and Brent Lincowski have planted roots in the Las Vegas area with a $1.5 million home in Henderson.
Real Estate Millions: KB Smart Home
KB Homes and Google have teamed up to create a smart home.
Marc-Andre Fleury selling Las Vegas home for $2.5M - VIDEO
Golden Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury has put his custom Southern Highlands home on the market for $2.5 million. The single-story home, built on a .63-acre lot in 2015, measures 5,285 square feet and has a 717-square-foot casita and three-car garage. It has five bedrooms and six baths. Fleury bought the home from former NHL player and fellow Canadian Sheldon Souray, according to public records. When he signed his three-year, $25M contract extension over the summer, Fleury told the media he and his family love Las Vegas and cited its great schools and neighborhoods with a lot of things for kids to do. Fleury said he and his family love their home in Southern Highlands, but wanted to be “closer to the Summerlin area." Home photos courtesy of Ivan Sher Group
Marc-Andre Fleury selling Las Vegas home for $2.5M - VIDEO
Golden Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury has put his custom Southern Highlands home on the market for $2.5 million. The single-story home, built on a .63-acre lot in 2015, measures 5,285 square feet and has a 717-square-foot casita and three-car garage. It has five bedrooms and six baths. Fleury bought the home from former NHL player and fellow Canadian Sheldon Souray, according to public records. When he signed his three-year, $25M contract extension over the summer, Fleury told the media he and his family love Las Vegas and cited its great schools and neighborhoods with a lot of things for kids to do. Fleury said he and his family love their home in Southern Highlands, but wanted to be “closer to the Summerlin area." Home photos courtesy of Ivan Sher Group
Real Estate Millions: Waldorf Astoria penthouses
Real Estate Millions: Cold Creek Log House
Real Estate Millions: Brett Torino Christmas
Real Estate Millions: Pia Zadora
Real Estate Millions: Lake Las Vegas
Home builder Toll Brothers has plans in Summerlin
Toll Brothers purchased of 128 acres of property near Mesa Park Drive and Town Center Drive will be used for a housing development. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Realtor specializes in midcentury remodels

Just say midcentury modern to Hayden Ross, and she’s all in. The Las Vegas Realtor and special needs physical education teacher for the Clark County School District specializes in that architectural style.

Designer Angeles Scorsetti creates showcases in home

The home, itself, is a series of elaborate showrooms, including the cabana, decorated by the perpetually inspired Scorsetti. All of the furniture and lighting is from their company, Scorsetti Design, which has a studio on 3091 Tompkins Ave. They have access to a library of 1,000 vendors all over the world. The interior decorating firm has created unique looks for many high-end homes throughout the Las Vegas Valley.

American Institute of Architects holds trade show in Vegas

About 20,000 members of the American Institute of Architects will descend upon Las Vegas Wednesday through Friday for the first time in 14 years as part of its annual gathering that had the group in New York City a year ago.

Las Vegas estate comes with Tesla for $5.5M — PHOTOS

GLH is collaborating with Tesla Inc. and other new technology vendors to create “superluxury homes of the future.” The company’s goalis to showcase intelligent, elegant, automated and eco-friendly homes within an integrated smart community that includes transportationas part of the residents’ lifestyle amenities.

New American Remodel built for energy efficiency — VIDEO

In seeking a Las Vegas home to turn into a state-of-the-art, high-end luxury remodel, architect Michael Gardner chose what he referred to as a “poorly built” 1950s single-story downtown ranch home on a property with well and water rights in an agriculturally designated area.

Las Vegas motorcoach resort offers luxury amenities

The Las Vegas Motorcoach Resort has elevated the RV lifestyle to a fine art, with amenities like a 10,000-square-foot clubhouse, a fitness center, a 24-hour guard gate and concierge services.

‘Tanked’ star Brett Raymer lists home for $3.2M

You haven’t seen or heard the last of Brett Raymer. The quick-talking and energetic former co-star of the Animal Planet reality television show “Tanked” can only been seen on reruns for now. The show recently announced its cancellation after 15 seasons and more than 150 episodes.

Luxury master-planned communities continue to thrive

The Las Vegas luxury real estate market had its strongest year since the Great Recession and shows no signs of slowing in 2019.

Hilltop resort has room for limo: Auction is this weekend

Sunsets are spectacular from inside the 7,400 square feet of glam and palatial splendor known as Sapphire Oasis at the eastern edge of the valley.