Tag Archives: luxury home

8 Urban Residences with Sky Gardens

A private garden, a backyard with trees and flowers, these are luxuries that city dwellers must sacrifice for the conveniences of modern urban living. At least, that has been the prevailing notion. However, some of today’s architects view the matter quite differently.

“There is a huge disconnect between how we live in our cities and what we need, as human beings, for quality of life,” says Eran Chen, Founder and Executive Director at ODA studio in New York. “I don’t think that we should be forced to choose between enduring life in the city, or escaping to suburban areas.”

East 44th Street in New York City with a view of One World Trade Center and Sky Garden Terrace

East 44th Street in New York City with a view of One World Trade Center and Sky Garden Terrace

Chen’s solution to this disconnect is to combine the two typologies. His studio recently released plans for East 44th Street, a slender residential tower in Midtown Manhattan that has open floors for sky gardens. By “stretching” the building vertically beyond its original program, the studio was able to create gaps, 16 feet in height, between every two floors. The gaps in the building will contain full floor sculptural gardens equal to the footprint of the building and will be directly accessible from each apartment. In other words, each 2,800 sq. ft. apartment will have 1,400 sq. ft. of open private garden. The tower will contain 44 residential units in total, with one, two or three-bedroom layouts and a duplex penthouse.

Other Manhattan studios are also inverting the traditional sealed box approach to tower design. Nearby on East 37th street, a slim residential tower proposed by Perkins + Will, will have built-in parks and an outdoor cinema.  The concept for the 700 foot tower, which features four open-air sky parks at various heights, was to take the urban fabric of Greenwich Village, where row houses will have a small park at the end of the block, and tip it vertically. “It creates this balance of your own private apartment and shared outdoor greenery that becomes almost like that park at the end of the street, except in a vertical way,” says Robert Goodwin, design principal at Perkin + Will.

Designing for dense future cities that will house an increasing number of inhabitants raises a number of questions. “How do you create livability in a dense city?” Goodwin says. “How do you make tall buildings that people really want to live in?”  This is a challenge that confronts architects around the world. Today, many design innovative new projects that aim to achieve densification without compromising on quality of life.

Cloud Corridor, Los Angeles

Cloud Corridor, Los Angeles

In Los Angeles, Chinese studio MAD has designed plans for Cloud Corridor, a high-density building with nine interconnected residential towers, that turns disparate neighborhoods into a vertical village with public spaces and gardens in the sky. The tower is meant to address the concern of suburban sprawl and also aims to connect people and nature. “The garden patios and courtyards provide a lush environment amid the surrounding urban density, and provide a retreat from the everyday among nature,” the studio says. The elevated corridors and multi-level garden patios shape the city skyline and provide viewing platforms for residents to overlook the city below and the natural landscapes beyond.

In Dubai, a new project called Suites in the Skai has 60 storeys with more than 500 apartments featuring their own sky gardens. Some also have swimming pools. Hussam Abdelghany, the associated design director at Atkins Global, says the sky gardens at the tower, which is due for completion in 2017, will increase shade and encourage wind penetration, producing a microclimate that will make the gardens a pleasant experience for most of the year, even when it is hot.

Diamond Lotus, Ho Chi Minh City

Diamond Lotus, Ho Chi Minh City

In Vietnam, studio Vo Trong Nghia Architects recently unveiled plans for the Diamond Lotus project, three 22 storey towers located on a finger of land between two rivers outside of Ho Chi Minh City. The project, which includes 720 residences, will be shielded from the tropical sunlight by swathes of bamboo and are connected via a planted roof garden that can be accessed from each apartment. “The connected roof provides the residents with a large green space, which rarely occurs in the city,” the studio said. While other developments are expediting the loss of greenery in the city, the architects say the green bridge and green façade of Diamond Lotus are not only a dedication to the comfort of inhabitants, but also “a contribution to the landscape, appearing as a green screen in the city.”

Bosco Verticale

Bosco Verticale

Allowing city dwellers to experience greenery and outdoor space is one factor motivating architects to incorporate sky gardens. But there are other advantages too. One of the first residential towers to incorporate sky gardens, Bosco Verticale, was designed by Italian architect Stefano Boeri as part of the rehabilitation of the historic district of Milan between Via De Castillia and Confalonieri. The scheme comprises two towers, both of which incorporate trees, and one which houses 400 condominium units. In addition to providing residents with their own leafy oasis, the trees help to mitigate smog, produce oxygen and moderate building temperatures in winter and summer. The plants also attenuate noise.

Tower of Cedars, Lausanne

Tower of Cedars, Lausanne

Now Stefano Boeri has designed a new 384 foot tall residential building in Lausanne, Switzerland, that bears many similarities to the Bosco Verticale. Named Tower of Cedars, the project is set to house more than 100 trees, 6,000 shrubs and 18,000 perennials. The apartment units protrude from the structure and offer views toward Lake Geneva, while their roofs are designed to accommodate plants.

According to Boeri, the building in the Chavannes-Près-Renens district of the city will be the first tower in the world to be covered with evergreen trees, selected in part for their ability to withstand harsh climates, and also the environmental function of their leaves which absorb CO2 and produce oxygen. “With the Tower of Cedar Trees we will have the opportunity to realize a plain building that will have a great role in the Lausanne landscape. An architecture able to introduce a significant biodiversity of vegetal species in the middle of an important European city,” Boeri says. The tower will comprise 36 floors and include private residences, offices and commercial space. There will also be a gym and a rooftop restaurant.

While buildings with sky gardens easily invoke a sense of utopian wonder, they are not built without challenges, particularly when it comes to structural support. At the Bosco Verticale in Milan, the engineering team worked with botanists and horticulturalists to ensure that the structure could bear the load imposed by the plants. The steel-reinforced concrete balconies are designed to be 11 inches thick with 4.2 foot parapets.

Slender residential towers such as those proposed in Manhattan have small floor plates and architects must ensure the building porosity does not compromise the tower stability.

At East 44th street, ODA utilized structural lateral systems in addition to a central core that act as the main supporting spine. The initial design did not include beams as the floors were supported by the building’s core, but Eran Chen says this proved structurally challenging. “By adding the beams we created ‘sculptured gardens’ that doubled as a way to protect against inclement weather while still providing 360 degree views.” Each garden is effectively covered by the floor above it and is protected from rain and snow.

Chen says the garden gaps at East 44th street also serve to lessen the wind load impacting the building — other skinny skyscrapers accomplish this via unused gaps throughout the structure. And the expansive height of the garden space with also permit a suffusion of sunlight throughout the central core and perimeter.  “We are used to seeing New York City’s towers as monolithic boxes usually housing corporate power. But today, as these towers become more residential, they do not need to have the same scale or design. They shouldn’t express the same thing,” he says. “When it comes to residential towers, they should all contain accessible outdoor space for all residents.”

Still, some critics argue that outdoor gardens at these heights is impractical in a city like New York, where temperatures drop well below freezing in winter months and the wind, which is known to howl down the avenues, would in this case howl both below and above you.

In London some critics allege that developers use the guarantee of lush green spaces to get building plans approved, but rarely deliver on their promise. At 20 Fenchurch Street early CGIs showed a storyboard of seductive images with residents mingling among cherry blossom from a soaring vantage point. The tower was given planning permission in an area never intended for tall buildings on the basis that it would deliver a public sky garden. Once complete, however, the garden amounted to nothing more than a few spindly trees in pot planters.

While down in Singapore, green design is on everyone’s mind when it comes to new architecture and not just to get buildings approved. The latest project by architect Christoph Ingenhoven is at the forefront of green technology. Ingenhoven Architects coined the term “Supergreen”. A concept they live and work by. Their definition of Supergreen: ‘an awareness of energy and resources, both in design, construction and operation and in the realization of the building and its use.’ Marina One was designed with this in mind. Located in the heart of Singapore, at Marina Bay. The two towers will be able to take advantage of rainwater harvesting, solar power and natural ventilation. Most importantly, at heart of the development is a 65,000 sq. ft. park, landscaped to fit its natural surroundings. Whether or not other future developments will follow suit to this extreme in Singapore, remains to be seen. However, Marina One is certainly taking being green, to the next level.

As with all new building trends, early incarnations will include hits and misses. It may take some time determine which types of sky gardens are truly used and enjoyed by residents. But architects like Chen are bullish about the potential for vertical parks to transform the contemporary urban reality.  “We believe that true luxury evolved from the ability to have the best of multiple worlds without compromise, and in this tower, the best of urban living melds with the dream of a suburban backyard,” he says. “There’s going to be a time in New York City where living without a substantial outdoor space is just going to be unacceptable.”

Story Credits
Text by Sophie Kalkreuth & Robbie Wilson

This article was originally published in PALACE 15

Review: Waterfront Bungalow, Repulse Bay

Situated at the waterfront of Repulse Bay, the house enjoys stunning seaview over Repulse Bay Beach. The property is peacefully elevated above the junction of Repulse Bay and Island Road, a spectacular site overlooking Middle Island and Deep Water Bay.repulse-bay-hong-kong-stairs

The Hong Kong Golf Club, Hong Kong Country Club, the Aberdeen Tunnel and the excellent shopping and dining facilities of Repulse Bay, are all within a few minutes drive. This spacious 3,462 sq. ft. residence offers ample living space that comes with ornate features and unobstructed grand view over Repulse Bay Beach.repulse-bay-hong-kong-restroom

With a classy foyer and a sophisticated interior scheme, this elegant home provides a separated living and dining room, connected to 358 sq. ft. roof terrace ideal for barbecue. A well-equipped island kitchen, a state-of-art nautilus-shaped staircase leading to three spacious bedrooms with boutique-style closet & Jacuzzi bath tub in the master bathroom (original layout for 4 bedrooms), ample storage space and two side by side car parks.

This article was first published in Palace.

Playboy Mansion Sold, Hefner Stays

The Playboy Mansion has a new master, one who finds himself living in the lap of decadent history, in a den of sin whose time has come and gone. The legendary home of Playboy Magazine founder Hugh Hefner sits in the Holmby Hills estate in Southern California and also houses the many Playmates, famously known as “bunnies”. We’re not sure about the Playmates but apparently the house comes with Hefner!

The new owner is probably no stranger to the famous Playboy Mansion parties considering he lives next door! Daren Metropoulos, the 32-year-old co-owner of Hostess Brands (you know, the ones responsible for Twinkies), has plans for the property in the years to come. While 90-year-old Hefner will live out his days in the house (yes, the Hef still lives and like mildew, he isn’t going anywhere), Metropoulos plans on combining the two estates to create a 7.3-acre compound.

A spokesman for Playboy declined to disclose the contingencies to be met to close the sale as well as the cost of the mansion, although the estate, now held in escrow, was valued at an estimated $200 million earlier this year. Back in 1971, Hefner bought the mansion for $1 million, and hosted some of Hollywood’s wildest parties. The mansion, built in 1927, became known for hosting its infamous pool parties with a lingerie-only dress code for female guests as they slinked about the mansion.

Some famous names who partied — and partied hard — include Elvis, who is said to have slept with eight Playmates at once. An impressive feat, though we still aren’t sure how that worked. Another who could have made it to the Playboy Mansion’s wall of fame, if it had one, was John Lennon. The famous Beatle was responsible for burning an original Mattise with his lit cigarette. The sale of the mansion, comes on the heels of the Playboy Magazine’s relaunch earlier this year as a mainstream publication. Its parent company is currently on sale for an estimated $500 million.

Profile: Designer Omar Khan

Designer Omar Khan’s rugs are much more than just floor coverings; they are space-transforming statement pieces. Like works of art, they add a final flourish, an injection of personality to a room, and their larger than life aesthetic is the fruit of Omar’s fertile imagination and creativity. While his collection of rugs ranges from the unabashedly dramatic to the intensely whimsical, Omar’s home is a glowing representation of his finely honed sense of aesthetic that he describes as utilitarian with a sense of bohemian.


This sprawling wood-paneled apartment in the heart of Kuala Lumpur has been Omar’s base for the past three and a half years, and after living in space-starved New York and Hong Kong, he’s enjoying the luxury of having large pieces of furniture and the joy of working on projects that are less transitional. “When I was working for the Pedder Group in Hong Kong, I handled a lot of store window displays that get pulled down after six weeks. This prompted my transition into interior design, which I felt was a bigger and longer lasting mark,” he muses.

A well-worn Chesterfield couch and a steam punk coffee table rub shoulders with a classic Eames lounge chair and large scale artwork (some of which are Omar’s charcoal studies from art school), while scattered throughout the apartment are curiosities and artefacts which he has collected through the years. “When I think of my home, it’s kind of a curation of my life so far. Because it’s got this collection of my sentimental items that I’ve kept over the years. I curate and group my things so that my home represents the living testament of my life story. My great-grandfathers’ Dupont lighter is one of my favorite items. I have this amazing porcelain floral arrangement from Kenzo, and of course, my rugs!”


While Omar travels widely for work, (almost as extensively as his rugs which have found homes in the Maldives, Singapore, Hong Kong, India and the Middle East among others), his home is also where he works and this wonderfully atmospheric space is always buzzing with artistic energy. “I like that the house has become this creative kind of hub. My bedroom and my personal spaces are separate. But the common areas, the living room and dining room, those are the heart where creativity happens. And I get to work with some really amazingly creative people,” he reveals. “My house is always kind of this revolving door of interesting people coming through for collaboration. I love that the house holds an energy like that. But it has enough cordoned off areas, where I can feel completely at peace and comfortable.”


Omar’s innate sense of refinement and love for the tactile ensures that his home is ultimately beautiful and comfortable—not a static showcase. As for his favorite spot, the often Dries van Noten-clad designer cites his wardrobe: “My closet is where all my good friends live, so I like to visit them from time to time or they’ll get a little lonely. But to be honest, I have a favorite nook in every space around the home.”

This story first appeared in FORM Magazine.

Kelly Hoppen Reshapes London Home

This stunning listed property spans across four floors comprising four bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms along with three cloakrooms, a gym and a roof terrace. (Unfortunately, aside from being in London, we cannot reveal any other information about it – Ed).

This remarkable project was a collaboration between client and designer. Having worked together for many years Kelly Hoppen was truly able to capture the client’s desires.

The brief for this property was to create a twist of Kelly’s signature style of neutral luxury and construct an eclectic mix of new and old with splashes of color.

Mel Yates_Kelly_The London Property (52)

As you enter into each room of the property you are captivated by its elegance, softness and quirky twists with pops of color blended into the furniture; hidden like treasure in the interior of cupboard doors or subtly expressed through upholstery, artwork and decorative cushions.

Each room is as inviting and intriguing as the next with the iron staircase adorned with waterfall feature lights guiding your pathway through the space. The use of natural materials throughout the bathrooms is in keeping with Kelly’s famously sought-after style; elements that add to the soft and luxurious feel of the property.

Mel Yates_Kelly_The London Property (16)

Photos courtesy of www.kellyhoppen.com.

This story was first published in FORM. 

Focus: MontAzure Private Estate, Phuket

On a site which boasts a unique natural setting, MontAzure will be sensitively developed to offer unique private luxury estates, low-rise beachside condominium residences, as well as luxurious hospitality components such as a lifestyle retail centre, retirement and wellness facilities, sophisticated beachside dining and low-key entertainment venues.

The first phase of the development offers 13 expansive luxury estates, each set on generous land plots ranging from 4,900m2 (52,700 sq. ft.) to over 10,000m2 (107,600 sq. ft.) in size.

The Estates at MontAzure (Bedroom)

A trinity of design talent was engaged to craft these exceptional homes — the doyen of modern Thai architecture, Lek Bunnag, Indonesian interior design legend, Jaya Ibrahim, and Tierra Design’s Martin Palleros who also master planned the entire development. Each estate will feature a private swimming pool, complemented with a children’s pool and Jacuzzi. Residents can also relax in privacy with private outdoor bath tubs and shower areas on the master bedroom pavilions’ wide verandahs. The roofs feature decks with lawns and covered dining spaces are accessible via a private lift and buyers can customize the interiors of the villas to suit their preferences. A wide variety of indigenous and planted tropical plants and trees decorate the beautifully landscaped gardens, coupled with the breathtaking views of Kamala Bay, making the development a safe haven away from the hustle and bustle of the main tourist centres.

The Estates at MontAzure (family room)

Beyond their luxurious private estate, owners have privileged access to the beach and a range of exclusive amenities and services offered at the MontAzure Residents’ Beach Club. The wider development will also feature a range of integrated hospitality services to ensure that residents’ requests and lifestyle needs are met with efficiently.

Price: The estates range from $7.5 to $15 million. The residences range from $250,000 to $2.5 million.

The Estates at MontAzure Vertical Panorma


Story Credits

This article was originally published in PALACE Magazine

Unit One Design: Private Sierramas Residence

Unit One Design needs no introduction to architecture and design aficionados. Founded in 1996 by John Ding and Ken Wong, its body of work spanning private homes and boutique developments is distinguished by creativity, elegant ideas and crafted details. The raison d’etre of this architecture and design studio is to create spaces that leave a lasting impression on the people using or visiting them—a goal that drives it to ever greater heights, winning numerous local and international awards, among them the PAM (Pertubuhan Arkitek Malaysia) Award 2014 in Single Residential Category for this remarkable private residence in Sierramas.


Unit One’s work is always based on ideas that are rooted to context which translates into a unique solution for a specific site. This ensures that a building cannot be transferred to a different spot simply because it just wouldn’t work there. Blessed with a high vantage point overlooking the lake, the house was orientated to exploit the views attained from this direction. In response to the difficult site, the house is organized geometrically and conceived as a set of three concrete frames sitting in parallel succession from the lake. These concrete frames are used as a device to layer the different portions of the house and to cater to the needs of a growing family, the private spaces are hung from above as enclosed boxes that leave the public spaces totally open.


While Unit One is renowned for its understated palette, their deft manipulation of space, material and volume creates impactful architecture. To create an unforgettable first impression, a tall main door makes a dramatic statement at the entrance, and gives guests a sense of arrival. This is reinforced by the Juliet balcony beside it which also runs all the way through the house to address security concerns. The expansive living and dining area with its double-height volume is accentuated by a cluster of Tom Dixon Pipe Pendant light that adds a subtle sheen to the space. This sizeable living and dining area opens up to the pool and main deck to create a large entertainment area with an external link to the leisure areas below, while a monolithic counter top extends to the exterior, further reinforcing the idea of a seamless transition.

The spacious deck has room for relaxing and entertaining.

Privacy is often a concern in homes and demarcating spaces so that the need of the family who uses it are met were considered in the overall layout. Tucked in the back, the master suite has the complete privacy of a wing all to itself, while the children’s bedrooms and the owner’s private office are arranged at the front part of the house. The façade is clad with a layered timbre structure that doesn’t just allow natural light to filter in, but also functions to restrict solar gain and prying views. Shrewdly placed at the edge of the house, the swimming pool forms a backdrop for unrestricted views of the lake.


This story was first published in FORM.

Focus: Napoleon III House, La Muette, Paris

A house with a garden near rue de Passy, this 3,230sf family house is in pristine condition and arranged over three floors. Greff International lists the former owner as Napoleon III so the pedigree is assured! There is an elegant central staircase, hallway, living room and a rotunda dining room with direct access to a 1,507sf garden. On the top two floors, there are four bedrooms, two bathrooms and walk-in wardrobe. In the basement, there is also a 538sf bedroom with shower. This generously proportioned property is south-facing and has ample space for parking. La-Muette-Paris-Palace-2

Price: €3.6 million ($4.07 million)


Greff International
Esplanade des Invalides
36, rue Fabert
F-75007 PARIS

Story Credits

This story was first published in Palace.


Review: Villa Poiret, Yvelines, France

Located approximately 40 kilometers from Paris in Yvelines and on a hillside by the Seine, the listed Villa Poiret was started by architect Robert-Mallet-Stevens in the 1920’s before architect Paul Boyer took over on the unfinished building in 1934. The villa is one of the three villas of this size built in France by Mallet-Stevens and is classified as 20th century historic heritage.

The villa adopted the appearance of a cruise liner, inspired by transatlantic steamers which were popular during the 1930s. Today, the building resembles a chateau from early modern times. It was restored and renovated in 2006.

With about 800m² (8,611sf) of living space, the main building is surrounded by approximately 1,000m² (10,764sf) of wide terraces and spacious roof terraces.Yvelines, France: Villa Poiret

On the left of the entrance hall is a south-east facing, right-angle lounge which boasts 7.1-meter-high (23-foot-high) ceiling and is flanked by floor-to-ceiling picture windows with black metal frames. Double glass doors in the corner of this full-length window, on the east side, lead out to large outdoor terraces and open up to nature views. There is an ornamental fireplace against one of the lounge walls. Two stairways lead down in a V-shape from the terrace to the south-east part of the parklands. Following on from the lounge, in the east wing of the villa, a long corridor leads to a study, a home cinema lounge, a bathroom, a toilet, two bedrooms, a dressing room and a bathroom with toilet. All the east-facing rooms have access to the terrace running along this side of the building. Two adjoining dining rooms face the entrance hall—the bigger of the two has large, south-facing picture windows that open out to one of the terraces; the second room has a stairway which leads down to the basement and provides access to the west-facing kitchen and pantry. The pantry has a French window opening on to another terrace. The kitchen also leads to a laundry room or storeroom. There is also a study, games room and billiards room.Plaquette-Villa-Poiret-stairway

There is a roof terrace on the west wing. A corridor on this floor also leads to a bathroom with a west-facing picture window, a toilet, two south-facing bedrooms with windows that open out to the south terrace, and an inner balcony that overlooks the main lounge. A wide stairway leads up to the second floor which comprises a terrace, from which a last stairway leads to the belvedere. This lookout platform provides an unobstructed panoramic view of the Seine valley as well as a 360-degree view of the surroundings.

The approximately 800 m² (8,611sf) basement comprises cellars and an area suitable for spa; fixtures and fittings are yet to be completed.

Buyer Information
Property: Villa Poiret
Location: Yvelines, France
Design resembles a chateau
The lounge opens out to large outdoor terraces and open up to nature views
Ornamental fireplace
All the east-facing rooms and a large dining room have access to the terrace
Games room and billiards room
Cellars and spa area in the basement
Price: €3,970,000 (US$4,463,530)
Nicholas Michelon
+33 (0)6 35 25 45 98 (France)
+852 9236 1456 (Hong Kong)

Story Credits
Text by Domenica Tan

This article was originally published in PALACE Magazine

Focus: François Champsaur, Designer

Just a few steps from the Champs-Elysées and Arc de Triomphe in Paris’ golden triangle lies the Hôtel Vernet, a post-Haussmann building that the Paris-based designer François Champsaur recently transformed into a contemporary haven.

Living room in an apartment warehouse conversion, La Joliette, Marseille

Living room in an apartment warehouse conversion, La Joliette, Marseille

Champsaur began by restoring the original detailing of the 100-year old property: the glass and iron roof in the restaurant originally designed by Gustav Eiffel, the checkerboard marble floor and the sweeping spiral staircase. He then enlisted local artists and artisans to make custom furniture, textures and materials. These are found throughout the hotel alongside one-off decorative details and unexpected color juxtapositions.

The entry area, now framed by shimmering glass panels hand brushed with blanc de Meudon leads to an airy lobby area where a large abstract carpet by artist Jean Michel Alberola unfolds between white columns and arches. The lounge area features hand painted frescoes, also by Alberola. Geometric forms, mostly black or white, float against a pale gold background echoing the room’s brass and copper tones. To counter­balance the room’s original marble and brass mantelpiece, Champsaur placed a pleated copper screen at the opposite end of the room and in front of the screen he designed a rippling marble bar that recalls the work of sculptor Jean Arp.

Vernet Hotel, Paris

Vernet Hotel, Paris

Artistic accents are characteristic of Champsaur’s work. The Paris-based designer eschews mass-produced furniture and products and tries to incorporate the craft of artisans wherever possible. “Paris is about the skills of our individual craftspeople,” he says. “The furniture-makers, the woodworkers, and the people who work with fabrics. In my small way, I try to stimulate their creativity and to revitalize their valuable expertise.”

Crafted Lamp by Champsaur

Crafted Lamp by Champsaur

Born in Marseille, François Champsaur studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris before joining the Ecole nationale des Arts Décoratifs (ENSAD). After working with various architects and interior designer studios he started his own firm in 1996 focusing on structural design, furniture and interiors.  He has since transformed luxury hotels such as The Royal Evian and the Vernet Hôtel in Paris, private homes throughout France, and furniture lines in collaboration with brands such as Pouenat Ferronnier and HC28.

Crafted Furniture by Champsaur

Crafted Furniture by Champsaur

Champsaur’s lamps and furniture pieces for Pouenat Edition are mostly made of lacquered and brushed metals that oscillate between folding, fluid and jagged lines, while his product lines for Beijing-based HC28 feature lacquering, interlacing and geometrical forms inspired by traditional Chinese furnishings. “I like to combine the best of what I know from French and Chinese craftsmanship,” he says.

Custom designed green bench in leather and lacquer - Trocadero, Paris.

Custom designed green bench in leather and lacquer – Trocadero, Paris.

A love of craftsmanship also informs Champsaur’s residential interiors. Recently, for the renovation of a residence in Paris’ Trocadéro neighborhood, Champsaur was tasked with a complete overhaul of a 5,382 sq. ft. apartment that had not been renovated in 40 years. The designer balanced the client’s desire for a dramatic new look with respect for the original architecture by first removing false ceilings and walls. “I wanted to strip things back to basics by focusing on strong details which have more in common with architecture than interior design,” Champsaur says.

Much like a sculptor, Champsaur peeled back to reveal the essence of the space. Narrow corridors, thick walls, heavy doors and dark corners were replaced by light-weight walls and partitions, open sight-lines and minimal color. Champsaur replaced the parquet with long pine boards and concealed the wardrobes and televisions behind wall panels he finished in an ombré color effect.

He also adapted the apartment layout to suit contemporary lifestyles. “The kitchen has become a living room in keeping with the current trend of cooking, socializing and eating in a large open plan space; the heart of the home,” he explains. In the dining area a custom green bench in leather and lacquer surrounds a bespoke marble dining table, both designed by Champsaur, while black dining chars by Konstantin Grcic add a sculptural touch. The marble and brass accents throughout give the residence a luxurious feeling, but one that is offset by careful attention to light and proportion.

Kitchen in apartment warehouse conversion. La Joliete, Marseile.

Kitchen in apartment warehouse conversion. La Joliete, Marseile.

The same attention is evident at a much smaller apartment Champsaur designed at a former warehouse in Marseille’s La Joliette district. Here he also focused on opening up the living spaces and bringing out the existing architectural elements. He unified the space by using the same flooring throughout, and in the sitting room he cleared all fixtures and storage units. To counter balance the ceiling height, he selected just a few furniture pieces that are bold, but low to the ground. These include the Sonia stool, designed by Sergio Rodriguez, the Bluff coffee table by India Mahdavi, the Wiggle side chair designed by Frank Gehry and a ‘Roue De Clement’ mirror-light fixture by Pascal Michalou.

While Champsaur loves to fill his hotels and homes with art, as a designer, he is also focused on the art of living and he carefully considers the way a space functions for its inhabitants. “For both homes and hotels, I always focus on three essential elements,” he says. “The fluidity of the space, the spirit of the place and the modernity. I try to create a lifestyle, not just a style. I believe a person’s home should be as much of a haven as a hotel is.”

Q & A

Can you describe your path to design? What and who were your major influences?

I think for me it was a bit like how chefs always say they had a grandmother who inspired them. In my case, it was the different houses that I grew up in, the taste of my family in general for design, lifestyle of course and a Mediterranean kind of simplicity. Within this process there was also variety, hence why I like to have many sources of inspiration around me at all times – books, images of design and art…anything visual.

What came first: designing furniture or interior spaces?

They both came together on my first project, The Café de l’Alma in Paris. It was a fantastic experience. The owners of the restaurant didn’t want to buy any of the furniture or anything that was going into the interiors – they wanted everything to be created especially for it. So I had my work cut out for me but it was fantastic as a young designer to have such a wonderful opportunity to really put my stamp on every aspect of the project.

Did you always have a love for metals?

Yes, I love working with metal. That’s why I take so much joy in my work for Pouenat Ferronier. According to the nature of the project, I tend to prioritize natural materials. I never choose pieces made of plastic and industrial materials. I much prefer oak, birch, Tavel stone or Burgundy, marble.

You are known for designing the homes of art collectors. Do you also collect?

I personally collect art and sculptures from the 1960’s. I like this period and also the 1950’s. The 50’s for me reflect a period of savoir-faire, craftsmanship, the individual, atypical furniture.

Have your tastes and design ideals changed since you started your career?

I am sure that my work has changed over time, however not dramatically as I am not a believer in trends. Of course they exist, but I think ‘trends’ can do more harm than good, so I choose not to follow them. Thinking has been globalized and savoir-faire is disappearing.

What would you like to work on next?

A venue that will gather all of my passions; wine, food, music and the Mediterranean art of living.

Story Credits
Text by Sophie Kalkreuth

This article was originally published in PALACE 15

Orchards Niseko, Hokkaido Japan

The Orchards Niseko is located on the northern most Japanese island of Hokkaido and on the eastern side of Hirafu. The resort boasts double mountain views of Mount Yotei—which is also known as the Mount Fuji of Hokkaido—and the ski hill, Mount Annupuri. The area is popular during the winter months but tourists are also attracted to the temperate climate, fresh air, quality food and wide array of outdoor activities which include hiking, cycling and golf offered during the green season, making it a year-round destination. Property demand has climbed alongside tourism figures and developers are taking advantage of the opportunities.

Unique features in houses at The Orchards Niseko include high ceilings, exposed beams, open plan living, and traditional Japanese entrances and hallways.

Unique features in houses at The Orchards Niseko include high ceilings, exposed beams, open plan living, and traditional Japanese entrances and hallways.

The Orchards Niseko is a master planned estate development with 40 residential land plots of pre-designed and custom homes; buildings will have complementary designs and finishes. They will all have similar styles which fit within the design parameters of the community and incorporate extensive use of timber, stone and glass. Buyers of custom homes are shown a design board and product samples to help in the process of choosing the type and color of external timber cladding, stonework, and the overall interior design of the 300m2 (3,229sf) space.

'Washi no Su' is a custom designed home which has 350sqm of living area.

‘Washi no Su’ is a custom designed home which has 350sqm of living area.

Alternatively, the process can be delegated by an architect and project manager, if buyers prefer. Construction process span approximately six months and may differ depending on the complexity of design requirements.

Each house will be strategically positioned in consideration of view channels and privacy. Externally, The Orchards houses are required to use selected colors from a master color palette; yet, no two house will be identical. Internally, the houses feature high ceilings of up to 6.5 meter above floor level on the upper level, exposed beams, large Japanese-style baths, open plan living, kitchen and dining areas as well as traditional Japanese entrances and hallways.


For example, ‘Washi no Su’ is a custom designed four-bedroom, six-bathroom home which has 350m2 (3,767sf) of living area with a garage, living space upstairs and downstairs, vaulted ceiling in the two master bedrooms. Other custom designed homes include the four-bedroom ‘Goyomatsu’ and ‘Kashi’, and the six-bedroom ‘Keyaki’ and ‘Winterhaven’. Pre-designed homes are such as the ‘Akagashi’ and ‘Kuromatsu’ which are three-bedroom and three-bathroom homes boasting 200m2 (2,152sf) and 202m2 (2,174sf) of living area respectively.

'Keyaki' is a six-bedroom custom designed home.

‘Keyaki’ is a six-bedroom custom designed home.

‘Akagashi’ has a traditional alpine roof design while ‘Kuromatsu’ has a gable roof design. Both open up to views of Hirafu’s ski hills, a farm and Mount Yotei.

'Winterhaven' is a custom designed six-bedroom home located on plot 40 with approximately 9,000sf of land.

‘Winterhaven’ is a custom designed six-bedroom home located on plot 40 with approximately 9,000sf of land.

Facilities in the Orchards include a clubhouse which features an owner’s lounge, open fireplace, reception area, multi-purpose space which can accommodate up to 80 people, gym and kitchen. There is also a pond, walking track, mature cherry, walnut, and pine trees, and a vegetable garden for guests and owners—especially nature lovers—to enjoy.

'Goyomatsu' is a custom designed four-bedroom home

‘Goyomatsu’ is a custom designed four-bedroom home

Rental returns fluctuate considering demand and running costs but investors can expect one to three per cent return per annum subject to the frequency and time of owner’s usage. Occupancy is expected to be above 50 per cent during the peak winter ski season and close to full occupancy during the winter holiday periods which usually run from Christmas to Chinese New Year. Midori no Ki (MnK)—Japanese property management company which manages the Orchards Niseko—encourages owners to provide feedback on nightly rental rates, however, the rates and inventory of rooms are managed dynamically (changes occur daily in some cases) to maximize revenue for each owner. Financing for home purchases can be obtained via Niseko Resorts Group on a case-by-case basis. Owners may choose to rent their homes or keep them for personal use.

Clubhouse facilities and other amenities at The Orchards Niseko allow guests to enjoy both indoor and outdoor activities

Clubhouse facilities and other amenities at The Orchards Niseko allow guests to enjoy both indoor and outdoor activities

Buyer Information
Property: The Orchards Niseko
Location: Niseko, Hokkaido, Japan
Developer: Niseko Resorts Group
Double mountain views of Mount Yotei and the ski hill, Mount Annupuri
Selection of pre-designed and custom homes
Extensive use of timber, stone and glass
Each house strategically positioned in consideration of view channels and privacy
High ceilings of up to 6.5 metre, large Japanese-style baths, open plan living, kitchen and dining areas, Japanese entrances and hallways
Open fireplace, bar, multi-purpose space, gym, pond and walking track
Occupancy is expected to be above 50 per cent during the peak winter ski season and close to full occupancy during the winter holiday periods
Price: Price on application
Contact: + 81 (0)136 555 122 or [email protected]

Story Credits
Text by Domenica Tan

This article was originally published in PALACE Magazine

Focus: Architect Isay Weinfeld

Arguably Brazil’s best-known architect since Oscar Niemeyer, Isay Weinfeld has been designing private homes, luxury hotels and furniture since he founded his multidisciplinary practice in 1973. From the beginning, the Sao Paolo native has designed projects from the largest to the smallest scale and across a variety of programs; including civic, commercial and residential architecture, as well as interiors. Recently his firm has completed the Fasano Hotel in Uruguay, a private residence for the Royal family of Monaco and a line of office furniture for Herman Miller.

Fasano Las Piedras Exterior

Fasano Las Piedras Exterior

Fond of using concrete and simple shapes, many of Weinfeld’s private residences seem to float above the landscape with boxy, cantilevered living spaces that open to the outdoors. Although the architect has designed a multitude of them over the past 35 years, he still approaches each, with great specificity. “A house should exactly fit its user,” he says, and he signs on only after listening to prospective clients describe how they wish to live. “What do you do when you wake up in the morning?” he’ll ask. “How do you spend your day?”

In 2011, Weinfeld developed a strong rapport with a young couple looking to build a home in Sao Paulo’s Jardins, an area known for its trendy shops and restaurants. The pair wanted an informal, light-filled dwelling where they could live with their three children and Brazilian art collection — something modern, but comfortable. Weinfeld’s design features a series of serene rooms punctuated by diverse textures.

Fasano Las Piedras Bedroom

Fasano Las Piedras Bedroom

While Weinfeld generally dismisses the label of Tropical Modernism, his designs share the movement’s flair for the tactile and a look that is both sensual and stark. At the Jardins Villa his restrained palette features weathered-wood paneling, iron-gray concrete and raw granite steps, while splashes of color come from the art pieces and from the lush green garden. In the living spaces, muted mid-century furniture includes a coatrack by Le Corbusier, Hans J. Wegner dining chairs and leather armchairs by Danish designer Ib Kofod-Larsen.

Fasano Las Piedras Pool

Fasano Las Piedras Pool

At a recent hotel project in Uruguay, the architect created a series of concrete bungalows that appear like stones scattered across the area’s rugged landscape.  The project, Hotel Fasano Las Piedras in Punta del Este, combines private houses, hotel bungalows, a golf course, polo fields and a three-kilometer long beach over 480 hectares of arid, rocky land.

After a detailed study of the program, Weinfeld opted for a structure made up of single units designed and distributed as isolated modules almost “landing naturally” on the ground like the rocks themselves. From the outside the bungalows look like low-slung rectangles; on the inside the design features large open spaces, endless unframed glazing’s and pure white surfaces that combine with rustic woods, saddle leather and eclectic furniture pieces.

Jardim Exterior, New York City

Jardim Exterior, New York City

The project is not the first Weinfeld has designed for the Fasano Hotel Group. He designed the original Fasano Hotel, which opened in 2003 in São Paulo and was named one of the “50 Best Hotels of the World” by Condé Nast Traveler. He also designed several subsequent properties under the Fasano brand, including the upcoming Fasano Hotel and Residences at Shore Club in Miami. Developed by HFZ Capital Group, the project is located in South Beach and when complete in 2017 it will include a revamped Shore Club with a 100-room hotel and 75 luxury condominium residences designed by Isay Weinfeld.

The project marks Weinfeld’s first large scale project in Miami. He is also, currently working on his first multifamily project in New York City. Jardim, which means ‘garden’ in Portuguese, will be located in West Chelsea overlooking the High Line Park. The project design features a simple, monolithic structure rendered mostly in brick and concrete with latticed wood screens and a generously planted second-floor terrace that envelops the site.

Jardim Living Room, New York

Jardim Living Room, New York

The apartments themselves are a classy mix of smoked oak, marble, brass and limestone and prices average about US$2,500/sq. ft. (or $2 million for one-bedroom units.) Douglas Elliman Development Marketing is handling the exclusive sales and marketing. Jardim, also incorporates a private driveway and 2,000 sq. ft. of gardens across two levels. On the ground floor, the courtyard is viewed through tall windows that provide a leafy backdrop for the front desk. Glass skylights in the second floor terrace allow natural light to filter through to the residence’s swimming pool and gymnasium below.

The project is a welcome departure from the flamboyant architecture that surrounds it, including the soon to be completed 520 West 28th Street, a spaceship-like condominium by Zaha Hadid Architects. “This isn’t a kind of architecture that shouts, it’s an architecture that speaks low,” Weinfeld said in a recent interview. “What is very important for me is to have a very well-designed plan. For me, the function of a project is very important. It’s not a question of beauty. The building has to work to make sense.”

Fasano Hotel and Residences at Shore Club

Miami has long been a favored destination for well-heeled Brazilian travelers, now Brazil’s top designer and hotelier are teaming for a luxury development in South Beach. Isay Weinfeld is converting The Shore Club, a historic hotel in Miami’s Art Deco district, into a luxury complex with condominiums, hotel rooms and poolside bungalows, while Fasano Hotel Group will operate the hotel and residences.

Fasano Hotel at Shore Club Exterior

Fasano Hotel at Shore Club Exterior

The Art Deco building, which is located on the waterfront in South Beach, was originally built by Miami architect Albert Anis, in 1939. Weinfeld is preserving and transforming the Central Tower, the Shore Club’s original 22-floor structure designed by David Chipperfield and adding external living spaces. New renderings show glass-lined balconies, light-colored materials and lush landscaping. There will also be a converted eight-story North Tower and two-story poolside and beachfront bungalows. The re-design will feature a total of 100 hotel rooms and 75 apartments, many of them offering expansive views of the beach and Atlantic Ocean.

The South Tower will house the main hotel lobby and retain many of the property’s original details while also bridging the indoors with the outdoors via a mix of terrazzo, concrete, steel and lush landscaping. Outside, the new swimming pool, will be the largest in South Beach measuring about 250 feet long and over 9,500 sq. ft.

For the condominium units, Weinfeld is creating a look of quiet, laid-back elegance by combining wood grain with white stone finishes. He has also designed expansive outdoor living areas, some terraces larger than 3,000 sq. ft., and used wide oak floors to transition seamlessly from inside to the outdoor areas.  All residences will have floor-to-ceiling windows and Bulthaup kitchens complemented by a full Gaggenau appliance suite. The condominium units range from one to one to four-bedrooms and 800 sq. ft. to over 4,000 sq. ft. There is also one tri-level penthouse and a selection of two-story bungalows. Buyers enjoy access to the new amenities building that will house a gym, yoga rooms and a spa. Prices start at $2 million.

Story Credits
Text by Sophie Kalkreuth
Images by Douglas Elliman

This article was originally published in PALACE 15

Dubai property Burj Khalifa

Insight: Appeal of Designer Apartments in Asia

Visitors to the recently completed Milano Residences in the Philippines will be greeted by its slick facade, before coming face to face with the lobby’s main draw – a Versace Home bubble sofa. Next to the statement piece is a sunburst coffee table with a crystal top, also Versace. All at once, touches of the Italian fashion mainstay unravel, in the black leather of dining chairs, steel chrome tables, and even the estate’s porcelain and silver tableware.

The $68 million, 340-unit Century Properties development is the brand’s first residential foray into Asia where designer brand properties have started to take flight, fuelled by demand from locals and expatriates alike.

Residents who opt to have their units in Manila designed by Versace Home are given exclusive access to the brand’s fine home collection, encompassing essentials from furniture to linens and pillows.

“The Versace world is not just expressed in fashion, but in the full spectrum of art and creativity,” said chief executive Gian Giacomo Ferraris, during an interview given shortly after the property’s launch in 2011. “From our love of beauty come tailor-made interior design services and home furnishings that tell of a genuine lifestyle – one that truly shows what ‘Made in Italy’ is all about.”

Ferraris added: “Milano residents will enjoy substantial value and will be proud of owning both an incredible investment and a symbol of a lifestyle never before seen in Manila.” By the start of 2015, the developer had sold 95% of 3,000 units across six projects slated for completion last year, including the Versace branded Milano Residences.

Why are labels having designs on property?

“Experiential luxury is growing faster than personal goods luxury and homes are a good bridge between the two worlds,” explained Mario Ortelli, senior research analyst at luxury asset management firm Sanford C Bernstein. “Designer homes are products you can live in.”

A growing demand for design brand residences in Asia suggests that buyers see property linked to fashion labels as stable, or at least, as stable as those linked with hotel chains and celebrity designers, translating into more gains across the board.

Labels also get an extra avenue to market their products, ranging from cosmetics to spa necessities and fragrances. It is no wonder more names are jumping on the Asian property bandwagon.

In June 2015, the Giorgio Armani Group signed a partnership agreement with Chinese real estate company Smart Hero Group for a residential project in Beijing.

Armani Casa will design the common areas, amenities and a few luxury apartments in a development targeted at integrating a modern aesthetic with the traditional concept of harmony between man and nature. It is expected to open by the end of 2017.

“The branded property sector is on an upward push,” said property developer John Hitchcox, who has worked with Philippe Stark, Kate Moss and Jade Jagger.

“I expect rivals will want to outdo Versace with even bigger and more flamboyant plans for homes,” Hitchcox added.

John Hooks, former deputy chairman of Giorgio Armani and group president of Ralph Lauren Europe, who is now CEO of the fashion holding company Pacific Global Management concurs. “We use modern, often Apple-designed products. We work in modern offices in modern buildings. We go on holiday in modern boutique hotels,” Hooks says. “Small wonder many consumers want modern at home, too. It’s what they know and are comfortable with, and homes are all about comfort,” he adds.

Priced Acquisition

As with branded accessories and apparel, association comes with a price tag.

Fendi Chateau Residences, Miami

Fendi Chateau Residences, Miami

At Miami’s Fendi Château Residences, a two-storey penthouse – which includes 7,000 sq. ft. of interior space, 2,000 sq. ft. of terraces and a rooftop pool – costs a whopping $25 million.

Besides having a private elevator, the penthouse is laced with customised Fendi Casa kitchen cabinets, Gaggenau appliances and Italian Calacata marble in bathrooms. The price of an oceanfront residence starts at $6 million, according to, well, us (Editor’s Note: The Palace team referenced the linked story in writing this article, which has now come full circle).

In the case of a dwelling in Milano Residences, where some units boast private wading pools, the figure is placed at a few hundred thousand dollars to more than $1 million.

This is a fraction of what a designer brand unit costs in Miami and just about the average of condominium lodging in land scarce Singapore, but extravagant for an abode in the still-rapidly developing Philippines.  Branded properties are not exclusively tagged to fashion bigwigs; they are traditionally associated with reputed developers and celebrity designers.

Milano Residences, Manila

Milano Residences, Manila

Buying into brands

Buyers are biting, and are likely to fork out 20% to 30% more for a branded property than a less glitzy equivalent, said Joanna Leverett, Savills’ head of international new developments.

“These developments tend to see a similar premium for rentals and on resale, so buyers feel confident their purchase will hold its value. They also increasingly prefer this hassle-free option compared with a standalone Tuscan farmhouse or southern French villa,” she explained.

Going by the trend of good returns, it is possible that Asian buyers are cashing in for investment purposes.

Luxury estate prices in the world’s major cities are set to continue slowing, from 3% in 2015 to 1.7% in 2016, according to the latest Knight Frank Prime Cities Forecast. The report mainly attributed this to China’s economic slowdown.

Hong Kong is expected to be the worst performing market with a price fall of 5%, followed by Singapore, where prices will probably fall by 3.3% in 2016.

St. Regis Residences, Singapore

St. Regis Residences, Singapore

Forking out extra for a branded home also ensures that buyers, should they choose to make the property their home, live in a lap of luxury. Units such as those in Singapore’s St Regis Residences offer butler services.

For those looking to keep an eye on their supercars, a pad in Reignwood Hamilton Scotts comes with a private garage that lifts cars to a resident’s living room. This does not come cheap. Renting costs $11,000 a month, while buyers can expect to pay $1,640 – $2,625/sq. ft.

Developing on profits

The benefits on tying up with an established brand extends to developers too. A report by C9 Hotelworks, a Phuket-based hospitality and property consultancy forecasted in October 2015 that more developers will strive for international hotel group affiliations.

This is “given the demonstrated brand premium in selling prices between 20% – 30% and the connection with associated hospitality assets,” the report added.

Four Seasons Private Residences, Bangkok

Four Seasons Private Residences, Bangkok

The hotel residences market in Southeast Asia is valued at $16 billion. This consists of 28,000 branded units spread over 120 projects. According to the same report, the number of developments could be influenced by land sale prices. Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam were at the top of the table.

Land prices in Singapore averaged more than $25,000/sq. ft. – the highest in the region. Even so, demand for units in the South Beach Residences condominium, eclectically conceptualized by reputed French designer Philippe Stark, has not wavered. The 190 luxury apartments are expected to be completed in the first half of 2016.

Story Credits
Text by Tina Chopra

This article was originally published in PALACE 15

Insight: Resilience of Bangkok Property

Despite being hit by political turmoil, the robustness and resilience of the Thai market proved to be stable throughout the various turbulences. According to Suphin Mechuchep, managing director at JLL, part of the strength in the Bangkok market comes from a good balance between demand and supply in the market, as well as the political stabilisation in the second half of 2014.

Moreover, there are other factors that will add to the optimism of the market. For starters, Thailand’s reform roadmap—amidst the stability so far—will enjoy more clarity in policy and direction, and all of this will bolster investors’ and businesses’ bullishness and overall consumer confidence. Moreover, the military government had gone ahead with various major capital spending initiatives, seeking to stimulate the economy through major infrastructure investments, all of which are expected to lift the country’s macro-economy soon, which will in turn help to grow the capital’s various property sectors.

The main property players remain well-funded and have the means to acquire income-yielding assets, or to grow their land banks. In fact, some of these developers have launched their own real estate investment trusts (REITs), which are in turn partly funded by a vibrant stock market in the country. All these ensure a sustained institutional demand for property further upstream, which keeps the market growing at a healthy pace. Beyond local factors, global trends including a low interest rate and low oil prices translating into residential markets having improved household balance sheets (as energy costs now take up less income) are expected to bring about a boost in the local property market.

The trends seen in the market corroborate these observations. According to data from Colliers, over 11,000 condominium units were launched in the city in the second quarter this year, about 9.5 percent more than in the first. Over 75 percent of these new launches were in the area connecting Bangkok along new subway lines. Moreover, significant numbers of luxury condominium units were bought up by investors despite selling prices being high and a competitive leasing market (with investment yields only hovering at about 3.5 percent, based on JLL estimates). Most of such investors have bought for capital appreciation, as opposed to seeking rental income, since prime condominiums in central Bangkok see an average of 20 percent price rises between when they were offered for sale off-plan, and when construction is over.

Some fret about the weakness seen in local demand. According to the Thai Chamber of Commerce, the confidence of new home buyers (also known as the New Residence Buyer’s Confidence Index) fell from January to June 2015 to 63.9, the lowest in the past year. The weakness is said to be due to various factors, including a dim outlook that Thais in general have taken about their own economy. However, that gap is increasingly filled by foreign buyers, as many major Thai developers have gone overseas to market their projects, particularly in China, Hong Kong and Singapore. This has led to a rise in the average take-up of condominium units, especially for units in the price range of $260 to $520 psf, which registered a rate of 90 percent. Those in the higher range of $651 psf also did well, at 80 percent. What is clear therefore, is that the demographics and dynamics of the Bangkok market is changing, and that could be just where the next big opportunity is.

Story Credits

Text by Willy Teo

This story first appeared in PALACE.

Robin Williams’ Napa Home Sold for $18 million

The 640-acre Villa Sorriso (Villa of Smiles) has been sold for $18.1 million according to a story broken by the Los Angeles Times January 27 and subsequently confirmed by the Wall Street Journal, citing co-listing agent Joyce Rey of Coldwell Banker Previews International. Villa Sorriso was built up and owned by the late actor and comedian Robin Williams.

First listed in 2012 with a price tag of $35 million, the property and its 20,000 sqf mansion suffered several prices before settling at the current price, which was reportedly a full cash payment. According to the WSJ, the buyers are French winemakers Alfred and Melanie Tesseron of Chateau Potent-Canet who plan to make wine from the property’s 18.4 acres of vineyards.

The vineyards are existing features, alongside hiking and riding trails, equestrian facilities and a spring-fed pond. The mansion is a three-storey, five-bedroom, 10-bathroom affair, with a two-storey rotunda-and-bell-tower entry, billiards room, 12-seat home theater, oak-paneled library and three safe rooms. There is also a 65-foot-long infinity swimming pool, tennis court, lawns and rolling gardens.

The funnyman committed suicide two years ago in news that shocked the world and left us a little poorer. Nevertheless, we now know much more about the Lewy Body Dementia that accompanied his Parkinson’s disease, and that doctors’ believe motivated his suicide.

This story was produced in-house, referencing the external sources cited, and uses an image from the AFP.

Rich Germans splurge on olive tree fad

Great olive oil can be extremely pricey but what about the olive trees themselves? Some people like to splurge on traditional luxury but a growing number of wealthy Germans prefer to pay tens of thousands of euros to move olive trees from their sunny habitats to cold northern climes.

With their gnarled, thick trunks, most of the centuries-old olive trees imported from Spain are past their fruit-producing prime.

Rather, the sculpture-like trees are sought for their aesthetic value and the Mediterranean touch that they can add to German gardens, better known for their geraniums, berry shrubs and gnomes. Some are even prepared to pay as much as 20,000 euros ($22,000) for a very old olive tree.

“I no longer need to get on a plane, I can stay at home and enjoy my olive trees. It’s better for the environment,” said Karl Heinz Maier, who owns two such trees in Willsbach, a village north of Stuttgart.

One of them, aged 400 years, stands proudly at the entrance of his villa. The second plant, at a relatively young age of 120 years, has found its place in the exotic garden of banana, lime and orange trees.

Olive trees are a synonym for longevity in some countries, as it is not uncommon for them to live for over a millennium. But they are defeated by the cold.

“It can’t stand anything below -15” degrees Celsius (5 degrees Fahrenheit), said Olivier Nasles, president of Afidol, France’s olive industry association.

Pampered like a baby

To help them survive the sub-zero German winters, they are wrapped in a thick plastic and fibre mattress, and heated with a spiral-shaped apparatus, said Torsten Jablonski, who sold the trees to Maier.

Jablonski said that as a result of the anti-frost strategy, none of the 800 olive trees he had brought to Germany had died from the cold.

Every year, the German businessman imports hundreds of olive trees from Andalusia, Spain which he then sells on to often wealthy clients from Germany, the Netherlands, Austria and Switzerland.

Prices depend on the age and circumference of the tree, with one 400-year-old with a trunk of 150-175 centimeters (60-70 inches) in the catalogue for 1,499 euros.

“These are extremely robust trees that do not fear transport,” said Jablonski.

But Nasles said having to take such extreme measures to ensure that the trees stay alive over winter is problematic in itself.

“It’s a bit like if you told me ‘I’m going to move my grandmother to 3,000 kilometers (1,900 miles) from her home’. Your grandmother will not be able to stand this move,” he said.

Nasles went as far as to call it a “scam”, saying there are “some crafty people who make money out of this.”

But Jablonski shrugged off the criticism, saying the trees are well cared for.

“For some of my clients, it’s a real sacred object” that they pamper like a baby, he said.

And to illustrate how close to the heart the trees can get, Jablonski recounted the example of a customer who was separating from his wife.

When she walked out, “she left with the heater in the middle of winter,” said Jablonski.

A Home With an Airplane Part as Décor

Malibu spec home Scott Gillen

A Malibu spec home asking $60 million will come with the fuselage of a vintage airplane hanging above its living room.

Developer and architect Scott Gillen said he was looking for a decorative piece for the living room of the roughly 10,300-square-foot house when he hit upon the idea of the plane. A few days later, he found a vintage warplane and is in the process of restoring it.

Malibu spec home vintage plane

The contemporary five-bedroom home is under construction and is slated to be completed in the summer of 2016 according to the WSJ.

Perched on a bluff with ocean views, the house will be sold fully furnished, with most of the pieces made by Mr. Gillen.

Malibu spec home interior

The great room, where the airplane will be located, will be roughly 120 feet long. The home will also have a gym, a game room, a wine room and a cigar room with ventilation and humidification systems.

Malibu spec home

Outside, the gated estate will also have a pool, a roughly 4,700-square-foot guesthouse and a motor court with a valet stand – a heated sitting area where guests can relax while waiting for their cars.

Malibu spec home swimming pool

Hamptons Classic Home

Hamptons Classic Home Lists for $37.5 Million

Hamptons Classic Home

A stately Southampton mansion once owned by the nephew of industrialist Andrew Carnegie hit the market, asking $37.5 million.

Hamptons Home interior

The shingle-style Southampton home was built around 1898, according to owner Joanne de Guardiola, an interior designer who is married to investment banker Roberto de Guardiola of De Guardiola Advisors.

Hamptons Classic Home interior

The de Guardiolas bought the home in the mid-1990s for an undisclosed sum and did an extensive renovation and restoration, she said.

Hamptons Home bedroom

The three-story house has 10 wood-burning fireplaces and 11 bedrooms, Ms. de Guardiola said, and that is after she removed several bedrooms to add more bathrooms and enlarge hallways.

Hamptons Home pool

The roughly 12,000-square-foot house was one of the original Southampton “summer cottages” at a time when their wealthy owners needed plenty of bedrooms for guests and staff, according to Sally Spanburgh. On roughly 4.6 acres on Coopers Neck Lane, the house is walking distance to the ocean, said listing agent Molly Ferrer of Sotheby’s International Realty.

Southampton mansion

Katie Lee’s Hamptons Home On The Market

Water Mill home

Food Network host Katie Lee has listed her Water Mill home, which she purchased in 2011 after her split from Billy Joel, for $6.5 million.

The six-bedroom house is about 6,300 square feet and sits on nearly 2 acres in Water Mill, New York, north of Montauk Highway.

Water Mill home living room

In an email, Ms. Lee said she’d been looking for almost two years when she found this house, which was newly constructed when she bought it. “The bones were there, and it just needed some personality,” she said.

She worked with Mr. Berkus to design the interiors of the house. She turned the home’s mud room into a butler’s pantry off the kitchen, outfitting it with an extra oven and dishwasher. She also added the outdoor kitchen.

Water Mill home bedroom

A pergola covers the outdoor kitchen and a long outdoor dining table.

There is also a fire pit and a covered porch surrounded by hydrangeas, which overlooks the 42-foot-long gunite pool and spa.

Water Mill home pergola

Ms. Lee said she’s selling because she’s decided to “downsize a bit,” but plans to stay in the area according to the Wall Street Journal.

Water Mill home swimming pool

Chilmark luxury property

Obama’s fav Martha’s Vineyard getaway hits the market

Chilmark luxury property

A Martha’s Vineyard home rented by President Barack Obama and his family in the summer of 2013 is on the market for $22.5 million.

Located on a high ridge overlooking the ocean, the Chilmark property has a private road and is on more than 9 acres according to the WSJ.

The home measures about 7,000 square feet and has four bedrooms, as well as a gym and floor-to-ceiling windows. The master suite has a study with a fireplace, his and hers bathrooms, and a private deck.

On the grounds, there is an infinity-edge pool, a guesthouse, an outdoor kitchen and a basketball court. There are five outdoor showers.

The home is owned by Obama supporters David and Patricia Schulte. Mr. Schulte is the founder of the merchant banking firm Chilmark Partners. They completed construction on the house about 10 years ago.