Nick Nolte’s guesthouse was once a recording studio for the likes of the Eagles and Chicago; his two-acre Malibu estate (once owned by Spencer Tracy) is on the market for $6.995 million.

LA’s grand estates are legendary for their centuries-old European architectural tradition. First embraced by royalty, whimsical and decorative pleasure pavilions, sometimes called “follies,” were small buildings on an estate, which became destinations in and of themselves. “Princes, lords, ladies, and kings would journey out from the main house to hunting lodges or pleasure pavilions, often done in an exotic architectural style,” explains Santa Monica–based Marc Appleton.

Memorable examples stand out: Sanssouci Park outside of Berlin, created by King Frederick II of Prussia, is famous for its Rococo-style palace as well as its Chinese teahouse. At Versailles, the smaller chateau on the grounds, Petit Trianon, is where Marie-Antoinette entertained sans courtiers cramping her style. America’s untitled “aristocracy” latched on to this architectural tradition too—as have celebrities of a more recent vintage. Grammy queen Céline Dion recently listed her Jupiter Island, Florida, five-pavilion compound for $72.5 million. Postmodern Neoclassical in style, it boasts a four-bedroom guesthouse, a tennis house with virtual golf range, and a pool house with tricked-out kitchen.

Here in LA, the grandest in-town estates keep their guests, staff, and often extracurricular pursuits away from the main house. Mark Wahlberg’s million-dollar-plus, two-story gym is set apart, as is a two-bedroom guesthouse, all part of the property listed for $12.995 million by Hilton & Hyland’s Felix Pena (250 N. Canyon Dr., Beverly Hills, 310-278-3311). Connected by hiking trails, Sheryl Crow’s three-house compound is on the market for $12.495 million and is being represented by Myra Nourmand and Joanne Vuylsteke of Nourmand & Associates Realtors (421 N. Beverly Dr., Beverly Hills, 310-888-3333).

Outbuildings range in style and character: Look for traditional in Hancock Park, room for the Harley in Malibu, or a Neoclassical writer’s retreat/pavilion in Holmby Hills. “The concept of a compound of buildings is a wonderful way to make the experience of the garden essential too,” advises Appleton.


Sheryl Crow’s multi-dwelling Hollywood Hills estate, listed for $12.995 million includes a rustic-style guesthouse with a cozy living room featuring a fireplace.

That ability to walk across luxuriantly landscaped grounds to a guesthouse holds extra appeal in Los Angeles, where the creative community seeks out properties that can serve as both home and workplace. “Creative people tend to be attracted to fractured living spaces because it allows them to separate family and work experience in the same place,” says real estate agent Brian Ades of Sotheby’s International Realty (9255 Sunset Blvd., LA, 310-503-8080).

Jane Kellard of the Westside Estate Agency (23410 Civic Center Way, Malibu, 310-317-8207) is repping actor Nick Nolte’s two-acre, $6.995 million canyon estate in Malibu (once owned by Spencer Tracy) with a guesthouse almost as famous as its present owner. Formerly a recording studio, the guesthouse was where hit tracks by the Eagles and Chicago were recorded. “The stand-alone guesthouse is a real selling point, as it provides real privacy for the owner. And it’s an incredible environment for guests who have their own space and separate entrance,” explains Kellard of the two-bedroom, three-bath, soundproofed structure with full kitchen. For buyers, a guesthouse is “a very sought-out criterion because it creates an environment to be with people but still have your own space,” she adds.

“Guesthouses are always a huge plus and a key reason why a property was purchased in the first place,” agrees real estate agent Irene Dazzan-Palmer of Coldwell Banker Previews International (23676 Malibu Road, Malibu, 310-317-9354). She’s representing a Broad Beach manse (listed at $8.975 million) where the two-story, loft-like separate guesthouse is outfitted with state-of-the-art appliances as well as a floor-to-ceiling rock fireplace.

Malibu zoning rules limit guesthouse square footage. “It’s easier to buy an estate with a guesthouse than add one later on due to codes and setbacks,” advises Dazzan-Palmer, who finds that clients on the highest end use them to house staff such as a driver or chef. While it is difficult to quantify an exact dollar figure, a guesthouse adds to a property’s value. Dazzan-Palmer notes that a tricked-out secondary structure without a doubt “makes a property more valuable. I’ve never heard someone say, ‘I don’t want a guesthouse.’”

Even smaller outbuildings are fashionable again. Gone are the days of the gazebo—the favored folly of the past. Today, the fully outfitted outdoor “entertainment center” is de rigueur— especially in LA—and includes features such as oversize pizza ovens, living room-style seating, and a Viking barbecue, Dazzan-Palmer says. Because informal entertaining pavilions and pool houses can be separate from the main house, architect Marc Appleton suggests clients “have fun with them. They don’t have to be the same cut architecturally; there’s an opportunity to be different and more exotic and create an environment that’s unlike the house,” he says.

These days a guesthouse also provides a valuable service: accommodating a growing demographic trend as aged parents move in. “Even on the highest end, I’m seeing clients converting guesthouses with wider doorways, making them more convenient and accessible for older people,” says Sotheby’s Brian Ades. As baby boomers age, Ades sees the accessible guesthouse as an increasingly desirable asset, although on-property “escapes,” whether for a queen or Grandma, have never really gone out of style.

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