In 1923, a rare-book dealer named Alice Millard commissioned Frank Lloyd Wright to build a home for her in textile block design on an acre of gardens in Pasadena, CA. He had previously built her a home in Highland Park, IL in 1906.
The lot had a steep ravine, and Wright designed the home to cling to it, and to be nestled among the trees. The 3-story 2400 sq ft house’s concrete blocks were made using sand, gravel and minerals found on the property. The 3 stories spiral around a central chimney. Redwood ceilings and paneling add warmth. Filtered, dappled light flows through the house through the perforated blocks and tall windows. There are 4 bedrooms, 2 kitchens, a living room and a formal dining room.
He used roughly textured, earth-toned blocks to blend the color and form of the house to the trees and hillside, different from his other designs but in keeping with his love of natural materials and belief that buildings should complement their surroundings. The blocks were created in wooden molds with modernized Pre-Columbian patterns on the outside and smooth insides and featured a symmetrical pattern of a cross with a square in each corner. They were reinforced with conventional mortar. While the budget was $10,000, the project cost $17,000.
First floor has the kitchen, servant’s room and a dining room that opened to a terrace and reflecting pool. Second floor has the main entrance, guest room and 2-story living room with fireplace and balcony. Third floor had Millard’s bedroom with balcony overlooking living room and outdoor terrace.
The house, like many of Wright’s homes, had leaks during rains but nevertheless Millard added a separate studio in 1936 which Wright’s son, Lloyd Wright, designed. It was initially greeted with criticism and laughter, but today some considered Millard House one of Wright’s best works. It has the feeling of living in a work of art.
In 1926, the house was ranked by a panel of 10 distinguished citizens and architecture experts as one of the 12 most significant landmarks in the Los Angeles area. In 1980 the New York Times mentioned that Millard House was world-famous and ranked it among the few Los Angeles buildings that have become classic works of the 20thC.
The house was reported to have been purchased in 2000 for $1.3MM with restoration estimates at least double since “glass was incorporated internally into the concreted blocks by hand” which caused imploding/exploding difficulties in all of Wright’s concrete-block houses in Los Angeles. There are four such houses built by Wright in Pasedena. Once on the market for $15MM. Price now is $7.495MM.What is the out-of-the-box idea? Selling to a Japanese art-collector and moving the house to Japan.
Luxury features and amenities abound in a beautiful castle in McLean, Virigina, the Chateau Noble, built in 2006, currently on sale for $14,500,000.
Wrought-iron entrance gates open to circular stone drive. On two stunningly landscaped acres, atop a hill, there is a 27,000 sq ft chateau with Beaux-Arts focus including arched paned windows, coffered and volume ceilings, beautiful crown moldings, stunning woodwork and built-ins, pretty fireplaces, granite, bluestone terraces and French Doors.
Upon entry there is a sweeping staircase and coffered dome with Schonbek chandelier. Stair railing is made of rich black scroll work.
A grand ballroom has gold-limestone flooring and can fit 200 guests with 6 French Doors for entry.
The library also has coffered ceilings as well as custom bookshelves and pocket doors in mahogany paneling.
Gourmet kitchen has top-of-the-line appliances, gold granite countertops and recessed lighting. Formal dining room can set 24.
The more-than-spacious master bedroom suite has a separate sitting room with fireplace. Closets are fitted with cherry wood built-ins. Five more ensuite bedrooms each have marble and tile bathrooms. Three powder rooms are on the main floor. Lower level has a workout room overlooking a private garden courtyard with 18 C Venetian fountain.
and oversized steam shower. The elevator goes to three floors. Fourth level houses staff quarters and full bath. Balconies combine brick and cast stone. Seven gas fireplaces are in the eleven-zone heating system with Carrier air conditioning handlers. The Crestron wireless control center controls heating and sound and there is a Lutron lighting system.
The pure elegance and grandeur make the home fit for visits from royalty, and yet there is an intimate feeling suitable for family and friends to enjoy the premises of this magnificent home.
Sale price: about $220MM. London skylines, private wine tasting facilities and top security features including bullet-proof windows and a panic room, SAS-trained bodyguards and floor to ceiling windows with fabulous views of central London were the major attractions to the 6-bedroom 2-floor penthouse in One Hyde Park, Knightsbridge, London. Eye scanners are featured in private elevators to prevent unwanted intruders. The building is heated using geothermal bore holds sunk 450’ to extract heat from the earth’s crust. The apartment contains an air purifier to ward off poison gas attacks. The new owners, anonymous, expect to move in by the end of the year.
Eighty apartments have been sold in this new unique complex, one of the world’s most expensive residential areas. This upscale neighborhood has an average apartment cost of $30MM. 65% of all properties in the block have been sold with 30% of the buyers Europeans and 25% Middle eastern as the worlds financial elite flock to London, taking advantage of the weakness of the pound.
There is also tunnel access to the Mandarin Oriental Hotel and their 24-hour room service with TV chef Heston Blumenthal opening a fabulous new restaurant and to spas and squash courts and the unit has its own car park.
“Trophy properties” sales remain strong. Some speculate that trophy buyers of today might be from Nigeria or the Middle East, with large oil profits facilitating these sales.
This is a property to love and cherish. Golf Digest ranks Porcupine Creek's 19-hole golf course within a private residence in Rancho Mirage as 13th Best in California. Aside from a residence created in the early 2000’s by the owner and architect Narendra Patel, an award-winning architect of desert custom houses, where the main house is 18,430 sq ft with a 1,860 sq ft guesthouses and four 600 sq ft casitas, there is a clubhouse, pro shop and driving range which enhance the property that lies on 249 acres. Views are of the mountains, golf course and city lights.
The rustic yet elegant Porcupine Creek property is in the quiet, serene Mirage Cove area where many homes cost less than 1% of the idyllic desert retreat. It is listed for sale for $75MM, the highest price ever for a desert estate. The golf course is 6718 yards from the back tees. Palms, saguaros, evergreens all line the course and four nurseries are used for landscaping. Two US Presidents influenced the design of two holes, George H.W. Bush #8 and Gerald Ford, a frequent guest, #10. The 19th hole winds back to the main house.
A spectacular 80-foot-diameter fountain ringed with 90 individually lit jets that shoot water up to 80 feet high is at the formidable entrance to the main house. The splash resounds enough to be heard from the 15th tee. Inside, the foyer boasts a vintage Lalique table and carved thrones. A sheet of water runs down a tile mosaic — handcrafted by Italian artisans — that depicts a golfer and a woman in period dress on the Porcupine Creek course.
Throughout the house, ceiling murals add artistic whimsy, such as in the his-and-hers powder rooms flanking the foyer. His shows two men wearing top hats and red bow ties, with wine and cigar, playing chess. Hers audaciously portrays harlots peering down from a balcony. Other murals, such as the one gracing the ceiling of the great room, reflect a more traditional tone.
The entire second floor holds the master quarters, reached by elevator or stairway. A baby grand piano sits in the master bedroom, a wall-length balcony allows light to stream in, and includes a spa. There are his-‘n-her bathrooms with sitting areas, room-sized closets and walk-in showers with overhead murals. The suite includes his-‘n-her offices and a coffee station.
A stage, tables and room for dancing are included, along with a hearth, in the “party pad.” Commercial kitchens, indoors and out, provide cooking power and serving space to serve crowds. The children’s nearby play area has a full-size circus Carousel and trampoline. The childrens bedrooms feature carved wood, kid-sized beds and a playroom with an Alice in Wonderland-styled and -sized door and nanny quarters across the hall. Porcupine Creek’s game room boasts a white Carrera marble bar with brass foot rail and taps, limestone fireplace, mahogany bookshelves, and a stained-glass domed rotunda lined with built-in banquette seats from a church in Europe setting off a billiard table supported by brass lions.
The spa has a check-in desk, its own entrance, and top-of-the-line equipment including the ROM “4-minute” cross trainer, two massage/treatment rooms with Endermologie machines, a steam room, Vichy shower room, hot tub and hair salon.
Stained glass from European churches and elaborately carved wood lend an air of historical grandeur, and were influenced by the owners trips to elaborate French chateaux. A carved fireplace in the Great Room came from Florence. There are European stone sculptures on the lawns. Ceiling murals are whimsical.
Profile of a potential buyer: a resort company such as Four Seasons, W Hotels, or perhaps Donald Trump would repeat his $100MM coup in Palm Beach with the former Gosman estate. However, there is a development agreement precluding its use as a resort. Foreign aristocrats are candidates, who might love golf, the Palm Springs weather and lifestyle, enjoy entertaining on a grand scale, and who have the funds to maintain this huge estate. They might be flying guests to the airport and shuttling them to the estate. Fund raisers and weddings have been held at Porcupine Creek, and could be held again in the future. This is a formidable American retreat, perhaps fit for a king.
The charms of living in a historic home include a personality and sense of nostalgia that new homes cannot impart. The above photos are of Delray Beach. Before buying, consider these issues, perhaps with an inspector along who has experience with historic homes:
- Be sure these are in good working order
- Heating and Cooling
- Electrical systems
- Foundation – check that it is in good shape or what will it cost to repair
- Termites – any damage? Are the live? Dead? Your inspector can find a pest control inspector who can tell you
- Need repair or when should it need replacement?
- Insulation – is it adequate
- Have your inspector check for lead, radon, mold and asbestos
- Age of the house
- What restoration is needed and what will it cost – you may need a structural engineer to evaluate the home
- For repairs, are original materials available or substitutes
- Is the house listed or does it qualify to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places as you might be entitled to reduction in property tax or state income tax credits, but there may be regulations or requirements when doing restoration or upgrades
- Check out local and area laws and regulations re historical properties
There is much joy and reward in restoring and living in a historic home. The photos just above are of Boynton Beach.