After years in the entertainment industry, Janus Cercone and Michael Manheim are finding a way to make stories come to life off screen — in high-end home renovations designed for celebrity customers who want luxury and great taste, even if it costs 8 digits.
Cercone and Manheim bring luxe tastes and inspiration drawn from hotels and restaurants — havens of moneyed celebrities. When they choose a property, they first imagine the characters that might live there. Then they thoughtfully construct a backdrop like the set for a movie.
The couple’s 11th property, The Stone House at 27222 Escondido Beach Rd in Malibu, just hit the market for $10.25 million. The home, which the couple lived in during parts of the yearlong renovation, was outdated when they bought it.
They have imagined the buyer very specifically, as they always do: Someone with a busy life in the city who wants a private retreat on the beach to get away from it all but who occasionally will want to entertain in the home, too.
“We build what is essentially a set that we hope will allow the character to live their fullest movie,” Cercone says, sitting on the home’s deck with a glass of sparkling rose. “This buyer comes to the beach to shed their shell, all the tension, to relax and be themselves.”
Cercone is a musician and screenwriter. She wrote “Leap of Faith,” a movie starring Steve Martin. Manheim, her husband, is an Emmy and Golden Globe-winning movie and theater producer.
Those who have bought from the couple’s Jaman Properties include late-night host Conan O’Brien, who purchased a Brentwood mansion they designed, and actress-comedian Fran Drescher, who bought a beach house the couple fixed up to sell in Malibu. Entertainment industry alumni crafting homes for the rich and famous is a bit of a trend. Former “Melrose Place” and “Baywatch” star David Charvet and his wife, TV personality Brooke Burke-Charvet, have done the same in Malibu. Rapper Vanilla Ice started a career in real estate, building something of a second act for himself on reality cable TV.
The thoughtfully designed Stone House was a pink stucco beach house when Jaman Properties bought it. Cercone and Manheim added a stone exterior and designed it to resemble an old French estate. The raised ocean view deck is high enough to hide residents from passers-by on the beach, and the couple added other celebrity-friendly amenities: a screening room and temperature-controlled wine storage. They kept the old spiral staircase and mail-ordered a 200-year-old metal door from Argentina.
To list the home, the couple chose PE teacher-turned-agent to the stars Ellen Francisco of Coldwell Banker Previews International, whose clients have included huge names in show business.
In the kitchen, a mirror ensures the cook doesn’t miss the ocean view while turned away from it. And everything is top-of-the-line, from copper fixtures to a La Cornue stove to a microwave that pulls out neatly like a drawer. In the bathroom, a backlit aquarium is hidden behind the toilet that you can’t see until you’re in there with the lights out.
The inside of the home is just 3,000 square feet, about average for a high-end beach house but small enough to convert the entire second floor into a master suite, with an ocean view tub with and a steam shower capable of playing music through a Bluetooth connection. Finally, one last amenity you don’t find everywhere: a tiny pinot noir vineyard outside the home’s gated courtyard.
Cercone calls it the “mini-vinny” and hired a winemaker to design it. It will make three barrels a year, a novelty that would not occur to just anyone. But then again, the home wasn’t designed for just anyone. It is someone’s perfect retreat.