By Lucy Searle
The world's most expensive houses, on Sotheby's listings anyway, are a diverse group of properties. They range from state-of-the-art villas in the bustling but beautiful South of France to vast, isolated wineries in the USA. And while not every aspect of each of them is to everyone's tastes, each is extraordinarily beautiful in its own way and each has two things in common with the others: plenty of outside space and views to die for – both vitally important to all of us during the ongoing pandemic.
We spend much of our time seeking out the world's best homes, and while 'expensive' doesn't always necessarily equate to 'best', we can say with some confidence that the locations, amenities and gardens of these homes are some of the most stunning we have ever seen. Enjoy.
1. Palais Vénitien, Cannes, South of France
Interior square footage: 32,291
Exterior acreage: 6.18
Beds: 9; baths: 12
Marketed by Côte d'Azur Sotheby's International Realty, Palais Vénitien in the hills above Cannes was inspired by the architecture of Byzantium and Venice. It overlooks the blue waters of the Mediterranean and the wonderful city of Cannes.
Its grounds include a wealth of luxurious amenities, including a lake, a tennis court, secluded woodlands, and an expansive outdoor pool. Inside, the house features monumental columns and exquisite moldings, faithfully reflecting the elegance and grandeur so characteristic of Venetian design.
There are nine residential suites and numerous reception rooms, plus a cinema, nightclub, gym, sauna, hammam, wine cellar with exceptional wines already provided, tennis court, pools and, of course, sea views.
2. Mar de Amor, Paradise Cove, Malibu, USA
Interior square footage: 10,646
Exterior acreage: 2.6
Beds: 12; baths: 14
Marketed by Drew Mandile of Sotheby’s International Realty Beverly Hills Brokerage, Mar de Amor is described by Sothebys as a 'magnificent and timeless Architectural Modern compound on approximately 2.6 lush oceanside acres'. First impressions are all and this house has a long drive, at the end of which is a spectacular house with a facade of glazing.
The two story entry hall features a dramatic 18 foot floor to ceiling crystal chandelier, centered in a sweeping circular stairway in a backdrop of sheets of white walls and Bianco Carolina white marble floors. There's an open living, dining and bar room with seemingly endless floor to ceiling windows to the infinity pool – and beyond.
Ocean, coastline and island views are available from each floor, and as well as decks, patios, Zen walkways, greenery and intimate patios, there is a large private beach.
The house features a gymnasium, a 20 seat theater, a top of the line chef's kitchen complete with steel cabinets, black stone and Nano Glass Island with professional appliances and elevator serving the lower entertainment level. There is an eight-car subterranean garage and a tennis court, too.
3. Villa Theoule, nr Cannes, South of France
Interior square footage: 97,994
Exterior acreage: 2.96
Beds: 18; baths: 5
Marketed by Côte d'Azur Sotheby's International Realty, Villa Theoule Sur Mer is described as an 'an architectural masterpiece designed by a world renowned architect'. This contemporary designed estate is nestled within approximatively 1.2 hectares of landscaped park designed by Jean Mus. Located a few meters from Pierre Cardin Palais Bulle (the Bubble Palace), this iconic project offers four independent villas from 250 to 300 sq m each, and two 75 sq m apartments, built around a fabulous infinity pool.
Boasting panoramic views over the sea and the Estérel mountains, this luxurious estate, like our first property, is on the doorstep of Cannes in the South of France, and enjoys an exclusive, prime location on the top of a hill with a 240 degree sea view over its 30m wide swimming pool.
The villas have two different designs: Landscape and Maritime. The Maritime villas are the ones oriented toward the sea, their design and aesthetic approach refer to the world of the sailing. The Landscape villas are the ones oriented toward the coast and which are more integrated into the hill.
As well as a fabulous pool, pool deck and pool house, there is an outdoor dining area for 200 people, a spa with hammam, a sauna, gym and massage areas. There is also a kitchen designed for a Michelin star chef, wine cellars, and a multi-purpose room designed to accommodate film screenings and events. There is a multilevel security system conceptualized by Israeli specialists, and 16-car underground lobby parking, too.
4. Casteel Creek Retreat, Colorado, USA
Interior square footage: 32,000
Exterior acreage: 439
Beds: 8; baths: 16
Marketed by Kerry Endsley of LIV Sotheby’s International Realty, this Casteel Creek Road house in the Vail Valley is a mountain retreat like no other, nestling in the mountains, bordering 1.5 miles of wilderness and backing on to breathtaking open space, with two million acres of White River National Forest at its door.
The retreat is a place where grand entertaining, ultimate privacy and convenience are paramount. A scenic drive through mountain forest culminates at the impressive castle-like estate, boasting a dramatic $1,000,000-bridge to set the tone on arrival. Inside, an artful Chihuly chandelier sparkles through towering windows, welcoming guests to a spectacular mountain setting of the highest order. The 32,000-square-foot main house is clad in copper, steel, glass and stone, and the house features curated finishes, such as imported flamed Vyara granite and exotic marbles.
Inside, there are eight en suites, elevators, a home theater, a luxurious swimming pool, hot tub, exercise facility, spa and on-site nanny guest suite. The retreat also includes a caretaker’s home, two stand-alone Wild West themed guest suites, an additional guest suite, three fully equipped and furnished guest houses and one historic, primitive cabin, giving you an extra 13 bedrooms outside of the main residence.
Like to entertain? There is also an ice cream parlor and an authentic replica of the Silver Dollar Saloon. A 25,000 square-foot recreation building features a five-story rock climbing wall, elevator, full kitchen, authentic teppanyaki bar, fully equipped guest suite, exercise rooms, spa, Olympic size lap pool, and hot tub.
Like the outdoors life? The touring snowcat is equipped to accommodate 10 people, and there are 12+ miles of groomed paths for snowmobiles, cross country skiing, horseback riding, hiking and biking. The house also includes 12 high performance snowmobiles complete with suits, helmets, boots and riding gear, in addition to three ATVS. The stocked trout pond is a huge hit, as well as the shooting range, tubing-sledding hill, soccer field and huge indoor arena for tennis, baseball and basketball.
5. Mount Ida Reserve, Scottsville, Virginia, USA
Exterior acreage: 4,500
Beds: ; baths: We lost count
Marketed by Daniel Heider and Justin DiFranco of TTR Sotheby’s International Realty, the Mount Ida Reserve is located near the Monticello, Ashlawn Highland, Trump Winery, Dave Matthews' Blenheim Vineyards, Grace Vineyard and Steve Case's Early Mountain Vineyards.
It has undergone an almost two-decade, $100 million transformation by its current owners, and boasts miles of private river frontage, spectacular mountain views, rolling hills, fertile farmland, hardwood forests and the largest privately owned lake in Virginia with its own island.
The property includes two completely renovated historic manors and one recently constructed mansion of 12,000 sq ft, two eight stall stables, two tennis courts, an in-ground pool, a two lane go-cart track, 180 foot water slide, several beaches, a lake house, a grand 5,000 sq ft lake pavilion, two floating dock marinas and miles of fencing and paved and unpaved trails for horses, ATVs, bicycling or walking.
Perfectly appointed for fishing, hunting, water sports and land sports and grand family entertaining, the property also boasts several award-winning facilities including a spectacular 12,000 sq ft lodge developed around a 100-year-old stable.
Designed with events in mind, the stone and cedar clad lodge has state of the art amenities including full caterers' kitchen, and two large event spaces with spectacular outdoor spaces. There is also a newly constructed 10,000 sq ft event barn offering a 25 ft stone fireplace to complement its two beautifully appointed banquet rooms. A third event facility, the recently completed Red Barn, is an 8,000 sq ft fully designed event space with a 35 ft observation tower. To complement the event spaces there is an awe inspiring 12,000 sq ft cedar and stone clad tasting room complete with a full-service restaurant for 250. The facility includes an award winning 15- barrel craft brewery which utilizes barley from the nearby seven-acre barley field.
An oversized outdoor fireplace with waterfalls and stone walls, bluestone walkways and an observation deck make Mount Ida the most popular of Virginia wineries and breweries. An adjacent 20-acre vineyard (with an additional 150 acres prepared for vineyard expansion allowing for the largest vineyard in Virginia) creates an enchanting setting for guests. The property also includes a portfolio of 26 single family rental properties strategically developed by the owners around the perimeter of the property.
A 20,000 sq ft shop, multiple carriage houses, barns and outbuildings, 15 miles of paved roads, 25 miles of board fencing, 10 diesel backup generators, 25 springs and multiple automated wrought iron gated entrances help service and secure the property.
My first job was writing a DIY column for a magazine for the over 50s (which seemed a long way off back then). I then moved to a DIY magazine as deputy ed, then freelanced my way around the homes departments of most women's magazines on the market before working on Your Home and Family Circle magazines as homes editor. From there, I went to Ideal Home magazine as associate editor, then launched 4Homes magazine for Channel 4, then the Channel 4 4Homes website before going back to freelancing and running a social media business (you can see where I had kids from the freelancing gaps!). I was tempted back to the world of big business by the chance to work with the great team at Realhomes.com, where I was Global Editor-in-Chief for two and a half years, taking it from a small website to a global entity. I've now handed the reins of the website to our American managing editor, while I take on a new challenge as Editor-in-Chief of Homes & Gardens.
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