For more than a decade, Razor House, the stunning cliffside mansion by architectural designer Wallace E. Cunningham in La Jolla, California, has alternately been described as a “magnum opus,” an “architectural masterpiece,” and “America’s coolest home.”
But since purchasing the modernist gem in 2019, Grammy Award–winning singer Alicia Keys and her husband, renowned music producer Kasseem Dean (a.k.a. Swizz Beatz), have preferred to call the home where they and their two sons, Egypt and Genesis, now reside “Dreamland.”
Explaining the name, Keys says the expansive, nearly 11,000-square-foot residence, which overlooks the Pacific Ocean and is rumored to be the inspiration for Tony Stark’s futuristic bachelor pad in the Iron Man movies, is “a place to create dreams and to be bold enough to dream your wildest dream—for us to even be here is a wildest dream.”
It took some time for that dream to become a reality. Dean set a picture of Cunningham’s singular creation as his phone’s screen saver for eight years. During that time the multilevel manse, named after the neighboring Razor Point Trail, appeared and disappeared from the market, but the producer remained hopeful. “I was low-key manifesting it,” he states.
When the couple’s real estate agent, Stephen Sweeney, called with news that the house was again available, Dean was elated. “When your screen saver comes to life, it’s unbelievably crazy,” he exclaims.
Still, he worried that his wife, born and bred in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood, would veto a move to the West Coast.
It’s worth noting that one of Keys’s biggest and most beloved hits to date is “Empire State of Mind,” the 2009 collaboration with Jay-Z that has become the unofficial anthem of the city that never sleeps.
“She’s Miss New York,” Dean, himself a Bronx native, declares. “They might as well make a sculpture of her the [new] Statue of Liberty.
Coincidentally, Cunningham invokes the word sculpture when asked about the famous residence. “Every wall in this house, every bit of it, is sculpture,” he states. “These beautiful S shapes, these chevrons going down the hillside, curvatures flying in space over your head.
It’s more akin to sculpture than architecture.” And, he makes clear, it “is incredibly important to me. It’s dearest to my heart.” While it’s the type of spread that elicits awestruck reverence, it wasn’t until the couple spent a “date weekend” exploring the estate (at the invite of its previous owner) that Keys began to imagine her life there.
The singer says that during a morning meditation session she was rendered speechless by the sight of parasailers soaring over a nearby mountain: “In that moment, I felt like I was witnessing a beautiful metaphor, and I wanted to not ever forget how endless we are and how the unimaginable can happen. That’s what did it for me. I was taken.”
After snagging the home, the couple set about making it their own. Enter interior designer Kelly Behun, whom Dean contacted via Instagram. “I got this DM, and I was like, ‘Am I being Punk’d? Is someone playing a joke on me?’ We had never met before,” Behun recalls.
Unbeknownst to her, Dean was a longtime fan of her work, regularly visiting her Instagram page for inspiration. “There are many designers who know how to put expensive things into your house, but the soul is missing,” he says. “Kelly has soul.”
She also has patience. Behun had to work around pandemic limitations—a majority of the collaboration happened remotely—and the power duo’s packed-to-the-minute calendars. One week alone in September saw Keys debut her new single “LALA” at the MTV Video Music Awards, host a birthday revel for her husband, and enjoy a secret soiree celebrating her new album, KEYS. In that time, Dean, recently named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people of 2021, also presided over the latest installment of Verzuz (the popular rap battle series he co-created with Timbaland in 2020) at Madison Square Garden. As if that weren’t enough, the couple even squeezed in a twirl at the Met gala for good measure.