The Manor from Unique Homes 2017 Ultimate issue.
Photo courtesy Hilton & Hyland.
As we mark the 17th “Ultimate” edition of Unique Homes, we look back at the exceptional properties and agents who have been a part of the annual celebration of the most expensive real estate in the U.S.
Over the 50 years since the first issue of Unique Homes rolled off the presses, countless estates have graced our cover. Hundreds have captured a top position on Ultimate Homes’ list of the most expensive, but only a very few are real estate legends. Trackback through record-setting sales and property listings, and a handful of properties filter to the top, including an equally select cadre of real estate agents.
What destines a property for legendary status? Rarity, provenance, architecture, land and location all play a role. “We have represented and sold many properties that are above and beyond, but what makes them legendary is the architecture and the history of the property, including notable prior owners, location, and the property amenities that set the bar for other luxury properties,” explains Judy Zeder, a member of the Jills Zeder Group (along with Jill Eber and Jill Hertzberg) with Coldwell Banker Realty in Miami.
“What truly makes an incredible luxury property is that it’s something that someone else would never have. It’s not just another house with a different material feature,” shares Shari Chase, founder of Chase International Real Estate in the Lake Tahoe/Reno region. “Rarity is huge,” she says, as is “not being bumper to bumper with a lot of mega mansions that are exactly the same.”
The 2016 sale of the Playboy Mansion cracked the $100 million benchmark in L.A.
Photo by Jim Bartsch.
Owlwood, Pickfair, Le Belvedere, Greenacres and Chartwell: the list of legendary properties that Joyce Rey, who heads Coldwell Banker Global Luxury’s division for Southern California, has sold is only surpassed by the number of accolades she has received over her more than 40-year career. Her sales have achieved price records multiple times, sometimes for the same property. In 1976, she sold the Sonny and Cher mansion for $1.2 million, a record at the time. Two years later, she sold it again for $4.2 million, which surpassed all other prices, setting a new high in the U.S. and worldwide. “It was a really big deal,” she says. “It changed the marketplace.”
The storied history of this property, which was renamed Owlwood to honor owls living in the estate’s towering trees, continues to the present day. The acquisition of neighboring properties and additional acreage over the years enhanced the value. Last offered for sale well above $100 million, it appeared on Unique Homes’ Ultimate list last year at $115 million. It sold in December in an off-market transaction for a reported $88 million.
Once dubbed “the Crown Jewel of Beverly Hills,” Owlwood’s resume includes a number of other high-profile names and celebrities, including Marilyn Monroe.
Ultimate Manhattan? The Tommy Hilfiger penthouse at The Plaza in New York City graced the cover of Ultimate Homes in 2014.
Casa Casuarina, seen here on the Unique Homes Fall 2012 cover, was the home of Italian fashion designer Gianni Versace.
Having a much-loved celebrity often adds to the cachet of a property. “Americans love celebrities,” says Jill Eber. “When a celebrity is comfortable using their name in connection with a property, it really makes a difference. Every home comes with a story and a celebrity’s story just makes it more interesting. A lot of properties are sold by very successful business people and the properties are just gorgeous, but when a home is sold by a celebrity or athlete, buyers are curious and sometimes they are attracted to that cache.”
Few celebrity homes received as much buzz as the Miami Beach mansion owned by the late Gianni Versace. “Everything about the Versace property, known as Casa Casuarina, was fun and exciting,” says Jill Hertzberg, who, along with Eber, sold the property. “It was a totally iconic property known worldwide. Every room was different with the most extraordinary mosaic tile designs throughout. The property was built for fun and entertainment and the buyers who purchased it just loved it! They all jumped into the pool on the day they got it. Standing in front of the mansion with reporters from all over the world is something I will always remember.”
Among our Ultimates, few have generated as much interest as The Manor, dubbed The Spelling Manor when it came to market in 2009 at an unprecedented price of $150 million, eventually selling for a reported $85 million in 2011. The buyer, Petra Ecclestone, daughter of Formula One billionaire Bernie Ecclestone, embarked on an extensive remodel, eventually bringing the estate back on the market in 2016 at $200 million. The 2019 sale price, $119.7 million, set a new, but short-lived, record for Los Angeles. Only a few months later, another legendary property, Chartwell, sold for a reported $150 million, achieving a new benchmark.
Designed by Sumner Spaulding in 1933, Chartwell, like several other legends, including the Manor, was inspired by French chateaus. Located on 10 acres in Bel Air and surrounded by pristine gardens, it ticks off all the attributes of a legendary estate. Although it is notable for the highest list price, $350 million, in 2017, few other mansions are as familiar to so many. Featured on the 1960s sitcom, The Beverly Hillbillies, it was home to the Clampetts.
It’s worth noting the estate is actually in Bel Air. The Bel Air Hillbillies might not have been as catchy a title as the Beverly Hillbillies, says Gary Gold, with Hilton & Hyland, one of the agents listing the property. Using a home at one address, but identifying it as being in another location in films and television is not unusual, according to Gold.
Chartwell was listed by a team of agents including Rey and Jade Mills with Coldwell Banker Realty, and Gold and Jeff Hyland with Hilton & Hyland. When prices breach $100 million, it’s not uncommon to have multiple brokerages marketing the property.
“These big sales have many layers of complexity. It can be a trust, a bankruptcy or a probate, and everyone at this level is well represented. And at $100 million, no one is flexible,” explains Gold. Often the team of agents and brokers will divide the tasks depending on their expertise. Gold says he is always 100-percent committed to getting the deal done.
Having brokered the sale of the Playboy Mansion, Gold jokingly refers to himself as the “Roger Bannister of luxury real estate.” Like Bannister’s one-minute mile, the Playboy Mansion smashed the $100 million ceiling in L.A. and opened the door to a number of legendary estates trading at or over $100 million, including Chartwell and The Manor.
“These types of mansions usually come on the market once in a blue moon, once a decade, but recently a number have traded in the last couple of years,” Gold shares.
When it came on the market, the Playboy Mansion received lots of media coverage. Still, when Jade Mills, who represented the buyer, initially saw the property, she wasn’t expecting to find a zoo. The property had “been talked about, but not really the zoo and the peacocks and everything that was there,” she says.
“When I first went there, there were all of the animals, monkeys, peacocks were all over the property — I just thought that it was so amazing that right in the middle of Holmby Hills, you had all those fabulous animals. So, it was just fun to see, and to see the grotto.”
Gold says the number of birds increased over time as local avians decided it was a great place to call home and joined the menagerie.
Another interesting tidbit was an abundance of pushbuttons in this home, sort of a smart home before the era of home tech. For example, push a button and the bed would turn around. The grotto had an array of buttons, all glowing red, and a phone from which you could dial up whatever music you wanted
Foundation of Value
But for legends, it is the amount of land or an impossible-to-replicate location that usually sets them apart. A majority occupy sizable parcels, whether it’s hundreds of acres like Tranquility in Tahoe, or a dozen or less in Bel Air or Holmby Hills. The exception are places such as Malibu, where a setting on the beach is more prized and rarer than acreage.
“Regardless of the condition — like new, falling down or anything in between — each owner puts their heart and soul into these homes,” shares Robert Kinlin, co-owner of Robert Paul Properties, who works with some of the most expensive in Boston and on the Cape. “But a lot of times, people are buying the land and the feeling it evokes when they’re outside walking the property, because you can’t change the land, but you can change the house.”
“The biggest thing you can have with a beautiful estate is Mother Nature,” adds Shari Chase.
When Chase founded her brokerage in 1986, the word “luxury” really wasn’t part of the vocabulary. Instead, she says, “we talked about estates and extraordinary estates, and her tagline was Exceptional Properties for Exceptional People. “I wasn’t going to bother with just any kind of real estate. I only wanted the best, and whether I had one or two or three sales a year, it didn’t matter. I mean, as long as they were fantastic. I think the very first sale was lakefront.” Early on, Chase was involved in what she describes as “the most extraordinary sale we ever had at Tahoe,” the Thunderbird Lodge at a record $50 million. “It held the price record in the entire nation for over 8 years.”
Not often are newly constructed homes destined to become legendary, but Le Belvedere, sited on over 2 acres in Bel Air overlooking the city with a romantic landscape that includes a swan pond, rose gardens and a 280-degree panorama of city lights, is the exception. Over-the-top features such as opulent materials, a ballroom seating 200, a media room seating 50, and a 500-bottle wine cellar, were exceptional when it came on the market in 2009, but the way every detail is executed, the stateliness of the architecture and the sense of harmony from all facets working in perfect sync pushes it from a “stellar property” to a legendary estate.
Le Belvedere, like Tranquility, is also exceptional for its amenities. At that time, shares Rey, “people weren’t building so many of those major theaters. Before that, only those in the industry had large screening rooms.
Rey was involved in the sale of Le Belvedere for $50 million — the highest in the U.S. in 2010 –— and again in 2018 for $56 million.
In recent years, there have been a number of newly built for-sale trophy homes, some with list prices stretching current benchmarks. What sets these properties apart is the number of over-the-top features, including curated art installations, stocked wine bars, car collections, an onsite staff and even a helipad. The objective — to include everything someone might want in a home — is aligned with the motives behind the inclusion of extensive amenities in classic estates.
No matter how exquisite a property, new owners have a penchant to put their own stamp on it. “I just think that it’s amusing that people must make even, you know, the most expensive, beautiful home — they must make it their own. So sometimes it’s just been remodeled, and then torn completely apart. And they start over,” shares Mills, who brokered the 2019 sale of The Manor. And this practice is not limited to prime estates. Instead, it reaches across the entire price spectrum, whether a house is $1 million or a $100 million.
Few other homes on our annual list have received as much attention as this estate. “The Manor was sort of like no other,” recalls Mills. With 123 rooms and more square footage than the White House, it is one of the largest in Los Angeles. Size and prices generated publicity, but it was the extensive amenities, including gift-wrapping rooms, vast closets, a barber shop, hair salon, bowling alley and nightclub that captured the public’s fancy. There aren’t as many closets as large as the one in the master,” Mills ventures, estimating it to be in the 2,500-square-foot range.”
Listing by Jeff Leonard
PRIVATE GATED SANCTUARY IN SOUTHWEST MICHIGAN
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Peggy S. Lotz
MVP Realty LLC
GRI, ABR, AWHD, e-Pro, CIPS , GREP, PSA, RSPS, SRS, SFR, SRES
Raised with Midwest values of honesty and integrity, Peggy developed a very strong work ethic. Her background in real estate began in the 1970s in Wisconsin, and since then has worked in many facets of real estate, from residential and luxury markets to law offices. Peggy and her husband have lived in Southwest Florida since 1995. She serves the areas of Miromar Lakes, Estero, Fort Myers, Bonita Springs and Naples. Her passion shows in her commitment to you. Whether you are looking to buy or sell, her goal is to exceed your expectations. She will welcome you to “paradise”and provide you with exceptional service.
Listing by Peggy S. Lotz
Boat from Your Backyard Dock —Miromar Lakes, FL
For enjoyment, go fishing, skiing or enjoy water sports on 700+ acres of freshwater, and call Miromar Lakes, #1 Community in the USA, your home! This custom-built home has extensive upgrades, 3 split en-suite bedrooms, a den and pool bath. The gourmet island kitchen is full of amenities. Outdoor living includes an outdoor kitchen, saltwater pool/spa, lanai, and semi-private deeded pier with floating dock.
With powder-white sand and turquoise waters that offer tranquil swimming and world-class surfing, this gated seven-bedroom property — set on beautiful Lorient Beach — is one of St. Barth’s most luxurious beachfront estates.
“This property represents an extremely rare opportunity to purchase a beachfront estate in St. Barth,” says Tom Smyth of St. Barth Properties Sotheby’s International Realty who is listing the property for 35 million euros. “We generally see an opportunity like this once per decade.”
Features include wraparound terraces providing easy access to the interior from all sides, a stunning pool, a spacious living area, a gourmet kitchen, and five equal master suites are all accessible from the courtyard.
Additionally, the expansive courtyard encompasses a private spa and a bar, and a two- bedroom caretaker’s house is located near the entrance. The property allows for expansion.
For more information, contact:
St. Barth Properties Sotheby’s International Realty
St. Barth +590.5220.127.116.11
Designer Diane Durocher quoted “Adventure, curiosity and exploration are what opens young minds to infinite possibilities” as the inspiration for the boy’s bedroom in the home. Choosing a color palette and furniture to grow with the child, Durocher explains the room represents a child’s curiosity about world, travel and life. Featuring an en suite bath, the bedroom is the perfect space for growing and learning.
Designer ~ Diane Durocher ASID, IIDA, CAPS, CID
Diane Durocher Interiors
Instagram ~ @diane_durocher_interiors
Photography by Mike Von Tassell Photography
Just blocks from Lake Michigan and approximately 16 miles from the city of Chicago, this Georgian Home in East Winnetka, Illinois has the luxury and elegance of 1918 updated with the magnificence of today’s standards.
“This home would be perfect for anyone that is into older homes with architectural details we don’t see today, but still has all of the updates and attributes of 2021,” says Lisa Kowalenko of Keller Williams Momentum, who is listing the property for $2.85 million. “It’s warm and inviting everywhere through the home, while still being spacious and efficient.”
The home features six bedrooms and four full and one half baths and an exquisite master suite with an incredible dressing and closet area that is the envy of the North Shore. Outdoors, the private country club-quality yard boasts a terrace, pool, and a hot tub to help create a lifetime of memories. “As you walk through the property you can almost feel the glory,” says Kowalenko. “This is definitely a true gem.”
Offering 100 feet of private beach frontage on Lake Michigan in Norton Shores, this two-bedroom, two-bath cottage showcases three miles of beautiful Lake Michigan shoreline.
“The property is contiguous to the P.J. Hoffmaster State Park, so no one can build to the left of the property — and you can enjoy private walks along the beach, miles of hiking and skiing trails and kayaking in the summer,” says Bradley Wisk of Keller Williams Harbortown who is listing the property for $1.5 million.
The home has been recently restored and features include a teak deck leading to the beach, an open floor plan, a chef’s kitchen with luxury appliances, a bath with a large walk-in shower and jetted bathtub, and a lower level with two bedrooms, a full-bath, and laundry room.
Photos courtesy of Bradley Wisk.
Using the homeowner’s collection of antique wooden panels depicting the 12 zodiac symbols, designer Sam Ciardi created a Southeast Asian designed dining room. The room is a warm and cozy space, according to Ciardi with Samuel Robert Signature Spaces, who chose to center the room around a custom dining table.
Every inch of the zen-inspired room breathes life into the space, from the abundant green plants to the dark, earthy ceilings, to the bespoke credenza painting. The “deep bold, ‘Palm Frond'” transports you to the perfect paradise that encompasses a tropical, tranquil elegance.
For more information on the ASPIRE House Princeton Designer Show House, click here.
Samuel Robert Signature Spaces
Rockaway, New Jersey
Photography by Mike Van Tassell Photography
This zen master suite is the perfect space to unwind or start the day, with an impressive master bath, spacious walk-in closet, and distinguished furnishings. A soft mural wall and striking full-wall fireplace create warming ambiance in the space, highlighting comfort and opulence.
For more information on the ASPIRE House Princeton Designer Show House, click here.
Designer ~ Judy King
Judy King Interiors
Instagram ~ @judykinginteriors
Photography by Mike Von Tassell Photography
Live among the rare Bosphorpus mansions in Istanbul, Turkey in this seven-bedroom, four-bath Andonaki twin mansion (built in 1890).
“What makes Istanbul the city is its history,” says listing agent Sühran Aras of Coldwell Banker-Baras. “Its charm has remained unchanged over time — since the Byzantine period and even earlier times — which signifies the value of the city. A life on the Bosphorus, where you can feel Istanbul in your bones, is the most prestigious way of life you can ever have here.”
The home is close to the Bosphorous bridges and private pier and the main entrance opens to the pier and front garden.
“There are only a few places in the world like Istanbul where you can feel the past in every corner of your home while living a modern life,” says Aras who is listing the home for $9 million. “This mansion offers the opportunity to admire the Bosphorus from every room, including the living room, which has direct access to the terrace.”
The home also features a heated wave pool, Turkish bath, and an elevator.
“This home is for those who want to be in touch with nature and admire the enchanting beauty of the Bosphorus, all while residing in the city center,” says Aras.
For more about this property, go to www.cb.com.tr/baras
For more information, contact:
SÜHRAN ARAS | COLDWELL BANKER-BARAS
www.cb.com.tr/baras | email@example.com
O. 90 (216) 384 02 22 | C. 90 (532) 451 36 16