Occasionally you come across a house that is more of a list than a dwelling. Developer Bruce Makowsky’s latest offering is one of those. This is a house built to justify a randomly generated price tag. It is the built embodiment of feature creep in which every conceivable luxury (except, perhaps, taste) is stuffed into a Los Angeles villa to try to make it worth the $250m asking price. This will up the ante in the US top-end real estate market by more than $100m — the most expensive house sold so far was a $147m effort in East Hampton in 2014. At 38,000 sq ft, there is plenty of space, so what is on that list?
You might start with the pool around which the house seems to be centred. It is an 85ft infinity pool with a swim-up bar and a screen that pops up hydraulically to allow you to watch movies poolside.
Downstairs there is a four-lane bowling alley with gold-plated pins and a 40-seat home cinema featuring reclining leather seats and a James Bond-themed wall. The candy wall apparently cost $200,000, although I’m not sure if that includes the candy (pick ’n’ mix to Brits). There are specially commissioned glass ping-pong and foosball tables, though why they should be better in glass, I am unable to imagine except, of course, that it makes them more expensive.
More conventionally there are 12 bedrooms and a surprising 21 bathrooms, bathroom inflation being one of the key markers of super luxury. There are also three “gourmet” kitchens (it is not clear if there are others that are non-gourmet), two elevators, a massage studio and wellness centre, and a gym.
Furthermore, the house comes with its own collection of cars, on show alongside the gaming tables. (Though surely the fun for the super-wealthy is precisely in collecting the cars?). And there’s a chopper on the roof, albeit one that doesn’t work and has been placed there as an art installation. Apparently it featured in Air Wolf, a 1980s TV show.
The house is executed in a kind of generic modernism, situated somewhere between pseudo-Bauhaus, non-specific holiday villa and Lego, and its interiors are characterised by the expensive marbles and super-polished stainless steel more familiar from luxury yachts than domestic interiors (check out the complex, skeletal spiral staircase). It turns out that Mr Makowsky did indeed take inspiration from super-yachts, wondering why, if rich people were willing to spend so much on a toy, they would not be willing to spend similar amounts on a home.
But perhaps the emblematic space here is a rather curious, roped-off seating area, its walls adorned with celebrity photo portraits, its floors made plush by a deep-pile white carpet and the bottoms of its inhabitants pampered by the softest of leathers. The velvet rope gives the visual clue: this is a house with its own VIP lounge. Who, you wonder, might be invited and who might be excluded by the bouncer with the clipboard? In your own home? Imagine inviting friends for dinner and then moving on to the VIP area, from which they would be excluded. Or is it to keep the staff out? And if it is, who serves the drinks?
This is an architecture inspired by the symbols of celebrity lifestyle rather than by any architectural ideas. It belongs aesthetically to the world of yachts and exclusive nightclubs, to superstar cribs and celebrity selfies. This Bel Air house is a monument to an image of success captured on an iPhone, it is the frame for the ultimate selfie in which LA, shrouded in a layer of smog, forms the backdrop and this white, bright and super-shiny, insanely expensive house becomes the star in its own reality show.
Photographs: Berlyn Photography