The high life

A $356-million mansion in Bel Air comes with a camera sculpture, images of celebrities and a deactivated helicopter

An oversized Leica camera sculpture (above) in the 38,000 sq ft mansion (left).
An oversized Leica camera sculpture (above) in the 38,000 sq ft mansion.PHOTO: BERLYN PHOTOGRAPHY
An oversized Leica camera sculpture (above) in the 38,000 sq ft mansion (left).
An oversized Leica camera sculpture in the 38,000 sq ft mansion (above).PHOTO: BERLYN PHOTOGRAPHY

NEW YORK • The new mansion that luxury developer Bruce Makowsky is selling for US$250 million (S$356.8 million) comes with 150 pieces of original artworks, US$30 million worth of classic cars (his estimate), a dozen high- performance motorcycles and a deactivated helicopter.

Understatement clearly is not on the agenda. But in a saturated spec-home market that gives the super-rich some super-sized options, even the appearance of getting bang for one's many bucks is a selling point.

The Bel Air mansion offers 38,000 sq ft of interior space, including 12 bedrooms, 21 baths, a 40-seat home theatre and a four-lane bowling alley. That works out to more than US$6,500 per square foot (psf).

By comparison, one lavish Los Angeles spec house changed hands last year for US$100 million or about US$3,300 psf. 

Mr Makowsky maintains that the house is worth it."It reeks of quality and looks absolutely spectacular," he said.

He spent three decades designing women's shoes and handbags and hawking them on television infomercials, before selling off the business for a reported US$330 million.

He then started putting his money into Los Angeles spec homes.

His biggest hit so far: a 22,300 sq ft Beverly Hills mansion he sold for US$70 million to Mr Markus Persson, creator of the video game Minecraft.

He is not the only one playing the spec-house game.

In 2014, developer Jeff Greene listed a 10ha Beverly Hills estate with 53,000 sq ft of living space for US$195 million.

In 2015, movie producer Nile Niami said he had broken ground on a 74,000 sq ft mansion with a plan to sell it for US$500 million.

Last year, houses were listed for more than US$100 million in California, Florida, New York and Nevada - part of a super-luxury market defined by sellers boldly asking for sums that would have seemed outrageous a few years earlier.

At such levels, a listing price does not always give an accurate estimate of the price a property will actually command. Hugh Hefner sold his infamous Playboy mansion in Holmby Hills, California, last year for US$100 million - half what he had originally listed it for .

And the house Mr Makowsky sold to Mr Persson was originally listed for US$85 million.

"I believe that if you build the very best, there will be a buyer," Mr Makowsky said, adding that his spec homes are filling a void in the Los Angeles market.

The super-wealthy, he argued, are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on yachts and aircraft, which they might use for only a few weeks a year.

"And yet these super-wealthy people are living in US$20 million or US$30 million homes," he added. "It's because no one has built homes for billionaires."

Judging from the sort of art and toys he has used to fill his new house, those underserved billionaires may be in the market for shiny surfaces, tasteful nudes and wall- mounted candy dispensers.

Among the objets d'art sprinkled judiciously across the home's four floors are jewel-encrusted guitars, an oversized Leica camera sculpture, an onyx-stone sculpture of an Hermes Birkin handbag and blown-up images of actors Brad Pitt, Jack Nicholson and Angelina Jolie.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 21, 2017, with the headline 'The high life'. Subscribe