No ordinary mansion
Bruce Makowsky has made his name designing Los Angeles homes for billionaires, with his latest property, 924 Bel Air Road, shattering records for the city’s most expensive listing. At a price tag of US$250 million (S$348.7 million), he tells us about some of the inspiration and details that are worth the cost.
You built a fashion empire before becoming a real estate mogul. What precipitated your transition from fashion to property development?
When I moved to California (from New York), I felt like there was a real opportunity. I saw that we were at the very beginning of a complete overhaul in the Platinum Triangle [Bel Air, Holmby Hills, Beverly Hills]. This is an area where houses had been built in the 1950s and 60s, and today the city is being rebuilt. I just wanted to have some fun, and to build spectacular homes.
What inspires your design process?
It all starts with the location. My latest homes have been “view properties." Southern California has the most amazing views in all of California. From snow-covered mountains to the lights of the city to the Pacific Ocean, it’s spectacular. And from there, my aesthetic is more like that of a yacht designer. My vision is to bring the same sensibility you find on spectacular yachts to land. When you walk into one of my homes, all of your senses are simulated. The attention to detail is flawless. You are bombarded by luxury. I figured, someone who owns a 200-foot yacht only uses it seven or eight weeks a year; why wouldn’t he want the same kind of luxury 52 weeks a year, in his own home?
What are you looking for in a client? Who are the people who buy your homes?
My customers are part of a very niche market. Only about 3,000 people in the world can afford the houses I build. My buyers believe in having a good time. When they walk into one of my houses, it’s an emotional experience. Anyone who walks in will either love it or hate it. And my clients are people who love every second of their lives.
Are there any details in 924 Bel Air Road that make you particularly proud?
What I’m most proud of is that I, along with my team, was able to put together a place that produces a sensory overload: amazing view, amazing location, unparalleled stone work, water features around the entire house, and an audio-visual component you will not find in another house in America. The house has three theatres, two wine rooms, 30 places to sit, eight places to eat. The pool is stacked on top of the second level, there is an incredible spa on the third level. People’s mouths just drop open. From the second you step onto the property, you feel like you are almost being transported into a virtual reality of happiness. There’s no other home that will give you this feeling. It’s really exciting that I get to put all of these bespoke items into this house, and create a luxury beyond belief.
You’re selling an automobile showroom with the house. How did you come up with that idea?
I’ve been a car collector for some time, and I wanted to put some beautiful cars I own in this home, for a buyer who wants them. I put the cars in the house because anyone who owns a house like this should have something beautiful to drive into Beverly Hills with, to be seen in. These are gorgeous cars. Life isn’t a rehearsal. If you’re fortunate enough to have a lot of money, you want the ultimate home, the ultimate driving machine.
Self-financing huge real estate projects like this must be risky. Does the exposure make you nervous?
It’s clearly a gamble, but I believe that there is always a customer when you deliver amazing quality. And I’m not looking for 50 customers, I’m just looking for one. I believe that there will be someone who has to own this. So far, it’s always worked – I’ve sold all eight of the houses I’ve built here, and I’ve always been happy with the price I earned. My team, we’ve been the leader in Southern California, as far as raising the bar and creating beautiful homes. I just believe that at the end of the day, someone will come in. We have three offers already on the property, but it hasn’t sold. I am waiting for the right person.
Now that you’ve completed 924 Bel Air Road, what’s next?
I have two more pieces of land [in the Platinum Triangle] and we’re going through the permit process. The next house is a bit bigger than this one, but it will be a few years until you see the next project. Can any market cool off? Absolutely. But Southern California is always a great investment. A lot of people right now are worrying about where to put their money, but this is a sound investment. And one of my properties will always be a trophy property.