Fly Like an Eagle Into Steve Miller's $16.8 Million Washington Estate
The musician Steve Miller famously wants to stay right there at home, playing his music in the sun. And that’s what he’s been doing since 2011, when he built an 11,686-square-foot home on 38.72 acres he had owned in Friday Harbor, on San Juan Island, Wash., for decades. Alas, he’s now got to be movin’ on, and his house at 67 Roulac Lane in Friday Harbor is on the market for $16.8 million.
As befits its Pacific Northwest setting—San Juan Island is the most populous of its namesake 172-island archipelago northwest of Seattle—the house is a marvel of woodworking, with clear fir on the walls, ceilings and floors. “Mr. Miller was very exacting in the selection of the wood materials,” said Dean Jones, president and chief executive officer of Realogics Sotheby’s International Realty, which holds the listing. “There are no knots in this building. This isn’t a home with a bunch of drywall. It’s very organic, celebrating the natural wood and the beautiful surroundings.”
Jones described the sprawling rambler as having a Polynesian feel: “Hawaiian Lanai meets Northwest contemporary.” It’s outfitted with oversized barn doors that easily slide open to those surroundings, letting in sea breezes.
The house sits atop the hill looking out over the harbor, nestled among rocks, with manicured lawns and even a small rock amphitheater. There are several fire pits around the property, including one close to the house and one along the water, as well as a two-sided fireplace, with one side inside the house and the other outside. Plus a pair of Japanese-style hot tubs, with LED lights and bubble jets.
The home was intended both as a spot for entertaining and as a respite. “It’s a serene and extremely private property that [Miller] would retreat to after the tours and the big cities and all those lights and people,” said Jones.
The house's open floor plan may be excellent for entertaining, provided nobody wants to stay the night. There are only two bedrooms, though the recording studio and the home office are easily convertible to bedrooms. In addition come five bathrooms and a 3,289-square-foot finished basement that has served as Miller's game room, home theater, and makeshift art museum; there’s also a safe room where he stored guitars. The entire home is wired up for great audio.
New residents will be legally entitled to build guest quarters and outbuildings on the property. For auto enthusiasts, the home has a wood-floored garage suitable for collectible cars.
Although driving in can be a chore (more on that in a second), it’s easy to fly or boat in and out. The property comes with a 360-foot, deepwater dock, where Miller’s yacht, the Abracadabra, was moored. (The yacht is not for sale; it's BYOY.) The house sits a few minutes from the Friday Harbor airport, at which charter and commercial flights land, and seaplanes can land in front of the property and pull up to the dock.
“It’s not uncommon to entertain a family and have them charter a seaplane from downtown Seattle and get dropped off 45 minutes later at your dock,” said Jones. Then there is the area’s extensive ferry system. The Washington State Ferry from Anacortes, Wash., which carries both people and cars, takes a little over an hour; a ferry also leaves once a day from Sydney, B.C., taking nearly two hours. Several private companies offer car-free "foot ferries” from Seattle, which take about two-and-a-half hours.
San Juan Island is a haven, no matter how wealthy or well-known you are, he added. “You could be Bill Gates and walk down the street in flip-flops and not be stalked and not feel uncomfortable.” The island has a vibrant, walkable downtown, farms (harvest some lavender), spas, and hiking retreats that range from pricey to free.
Because it requires a little bit of work to get to and from the big city, San Juan Island is still a little bit off the radar for a luxury property market. “If this setup was in the Hamptons it would easily be twice the price,” said Jones. “It’s a relative bargain compared to more established outlets, but we’re very quickly following in the same footsteps.”
Indeed, local real estate is not as premium as you might think. The median listing price is around $469,000, and homes range from humble cottages (this two-bed is asking $294,500) to a four-bed, five-bath, 5,399-square-foot home asking $5.85 million. Currently, Miller’s home is the second most-expensive listing on the market, after this five-bed, 11-bath, 19,676-square-foot estate. According to Zillow, Miller’s home is 3894.3 percent higher than the median asking price. And the price per square foot of Miller’s home—$1,438—is even higher than the other ultra-luxury property, which comes to $1,105 per square foot. Clearly, the "celebrity premium" here is no joke(r).
Jones said tremendous wealth has been coming up from California. “They have one of the most burdensome tax rates in America,” Jones said, while Washington State has no income tax. Many of those Californians are looking for a place to hang their head, long enough to establish residency. “You can keep your La Jolla mansion and call it a second home,” Jones said, “then live six months and a day here to become a Washington resident.”