By Kathy A. McDonald | March 30, 2015 | Home & Real Estate
For 100 years in LA, a movie star’s home has been his palace.
Providing the ultimate escape from traffic jams and prying paparazzi, this architectural home, which recently sold for $7.6 million, is situated atop a gated promontory overlooking Hollywood. Every window has a jetliner view, and glass doors glide open to allow unrestricted—and completely private—access to the outdoors.
Once there was a defined movie star way of life. Silent-film legends like Harold Lloyd and studio-era icons such as Gregory Peck built grand Beverly Hills or Bel-Air estates and outfitted them with help from famed production designers—carefully tended spreads on multiple acres that had all the trappings of manors fit for European royalty. In comparison to contemporary mansions (which can be upwards of 25,000 square feet), these bygone palaces were modest in size, though thoroughly glam.
Today, the mega-manse with surrounding compound seems to have more appeal to international buyers and business titans than Hollywood royalty. (Recent high-profile buys include Sean Combs’s $39 million “chateau” in Holmby Hills and Minecraft video game founder Markus Persson’s $70 million spec house at the heights of Trousdale.) Although there are some film stars who live large—Mel Gibson’s multiple Malibu digs stand out—desires have morphed over time. These days, it’s not about square footage; rather, privacy, seclusion, and setting (preferably behind a long, gated drive) are the common denominators for A-list talent when it comes to buying residential real estate in Los Angeles.
Although her contemporaries and BFFs are in Echo Park, millennial screen queen (and Academy Award winner) Jennifer Lawrence recently bought a romantic, 5,500-square-foot, French-style home in Hidden Valley Estates above Beverly Hills. Her $8.225 million statement house, formerly owned by Jessica Simpson, is on a guard-gated private street and secluded behind tall bamboo (Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis are also in the ’hood behind a gated drive; Cameron Diaz and Nicole Kidman have homes nearby—they, too, off the public thoroughfare). One bedroom was transformed into a dressing room with adjacent salon vanity, while the master has an oversize walk-in closet—filled to the crown molding with Dior, one imagines.
“The more famous they are, the higher up they go,” says Jason Oppenheim, a real estate agent and founder of the Oppenheim Group. The ideal is a private driveway and a street inaccessible to tour buses. “The women want a secluded, fairytale, landscaped property, while the guy buyers are view-driven and opt for sexier, contemporary homes,” he says. And once there are kids, then it’s “out of the hills to Brentwood and the Palisades.”
Shell shocked: The master bath of this Hollywood Hills hideaway (see previous page) features an eggshell tub and panoramic, 360-degree views by which to bathe.
One of Oppenheim’s recent listings (which sold for $7.6 million) is a showplace fit for a media star. The architectural home practically flies off its gated promontory over Hollywood—look up on a summer night to see it glow from the Hollywood Bowl. Each room has in-demand jetliner views, and the infinity pool falls away into the metropolis; the master bath features an eggshell bathtub and Fleetwood doors that open to the air.
“It’s hard to find a great property for any buyer; add in the need for great privacy, and that makes it more challenging,” explains David Offer, a top-performing agent with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, who specializes in Brentwood and LA’s Westside. Surprisingly, despite the number of gated estates and enclaves, “privacy is really challenging to get in this town,” Offer says of the number-one request from his high-profile clients, who often search extensively to find a paparazzi-proof property. Homeowners must conform to wall and hedge-line height limits; then there’s the need for a private drive. “You can’t have anyone looking down on you from above or across the canyon,” Offer explains. Two-story homes can be problematic, as the second floor may be visible from the street. Add in a list of requested upscale amenities—home theater, gym, master with expansive closet and bath, family room/kitchen, and guesthouse/staff quarters—and the search becomes even tougher.
Producer Albert “Cubby” Broccoli’s son Tony's French-style spread is listed for a cool $17 million. Major draws include its très privé cul-de-sac location and eye-popping views of the surrounding hills.
For over-the-top European-style estates and the affected grandeur of yesteryear, today’s A-listers decamp to… Europe. Hence those headline-making overseas haunts, notably George Clooney’s villa on Italy’s Lake Como or his country estate on its own island in the Thames River, 40 miles from London (a post-nuptial purchase of $16 million). Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie remodeled and expanded the Romanesque-style, 35-room, 1,200- acre Chateau Miraval in Provence, the famously photographed site of their 2014 wedding. Extras include a moat and two helipads. Private air travel seems a must-have. Offering ultimate privacy and remoteness, Mel Gibson has his 500-acre hilltop jungle estate in Costa Rica, Playa Barrigona (with three manses and beach below) listed with Christie’s Great Estates for $29.75 million—this getaway, too, has its own helipad.
But ultimately, in-town trophy properties still draw the most interest. An off-market, $17 million listing from Michael Sutton of The Agency comes with serious Hollywood pedigree (it's the home of James Bond movie producer Albert “Cubby” Broccoli's son Tony, to be exact). The 6,800-square-foot French-style home is a quick drive up from Sunset Plaza, but feels a world away. “It’s steps away from trouble, on its own cul-de-sac, and is completely private,” says Sutton. Designed for entertaining, there are views for miles and the ability to live an ultra-glam Hollywood lifestyle. Just like the good old days.
Photography courtesy of jason oppenheim/oppenheim group