The new mansion that developer Bruce Makowsky is selling for $250 million comes with 150 pieces of original artwork, $30 million worth of classic cars (his estimate), a dozen high-performance motorcycles, and a deactivated helicopter.
Understatement clearly isn’t on the agenda. But in a saturated spec-home market that gives the super-rich some super-sized options, even the appearance of getting bang for one’s many bucks is a selling point.
The Bel Air mansion offers 38,000 feet of interior space, including 12 bedrooms, 21 baths, a 40-seat home theatre, and a four-lane bowling alley. That works out to more than $6,500 per square foot. By comparison, one lavish Los Angeles spec house changed hands last year for $100 million, or about $3,300 per square foot.
Makowsky maintains that the house is worth it.
“It just reeks of quality and looks absolutely spectacular,” he said. “It gives you the feeling you can only get if you go to heaven.”
Makowsky came to this business via fashion and cable television. He spent three decades designing women’s shoes and handbags along with his wife, Kathy Van Zeeland, hawking them on TV infomercials. In 2008, the couple sold the business to Hong Kong-based Li & Fung for a reported $330 million, and Makowsky started ploughing his money into Los Angeles spec homes. His biggest hit so far: a 22,300-square-foot Beverly Hills mansion he sold for $70 million to Markus Persson, creator of the video game Minecraft.
He isn’t the only one playing the spec-house game.
In 2014, developer Jeff Greene listed a 25-acre Beverly Hills estate with 53,000 square feet of living space for $195 million. In 2015, movie producer Nile Niami said he had broken ground on a 74,000-square-foot mansion, equipped with “almost every amenity available in the world,” with a plan to sell it for $500 million. And last year, houses were listed for more than $100 million in California, Florida, New York, and Nevada—part of a super-luxury market defined by sellers boldly asking for sums that would have seemed outrageous a few years earlier.
At such levels, a listing price doesn’t always give an accurate estimate of the price a property will command. Hugh Hefner sold his infamous Playboy mansion in Holmby Hills. Calif., last year for $100 million—half what he’d originally listed it for. And the house Makowsky sold to Persson was originally listed for $85 million.
“I just believe that if you build the very best, there will be a buyer,” Makowsky said, adding that his spec homes are filling a void in the Los Angeles market.
The super-wealthy, he argued, are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on yachts and aircraft, which they might use for only a few weeks a year. “And yet these super-wealthy people are living in $20 or $30 million homes,” he added. “It’s because no one has built homes for billionaires.”
Judging from the sort of art and toys Makowsky has used to fill his new house, those underserved billionaires may be in the market for shiny surfaces, tasteful nudes, and wall-mounted candy dispensers. Among the objets d’art sprinkled judiciously across the home’s four floors are jewel-encrusted guitars, giant black-and-white photographs of Cher, and an onyx stone sculpture of an Hermès Birkin handbag.
At times, the house appears more homage to the wealthy than a place in which they’d live. Photographs provided by the developer show one seating area roped off by a velvet cordon and adorned with blown-up images of Brad Pitt, Jack Nicholson, and Angelina Jolie. In one master bedroom, a glass-encased cashmere Hermès blanket is mounted on a wall. In another room, a modified chainsaw, its blade replaced with Rolls Royce hood ornaments, sits atop a pedestal; behind it is a giant photograph of a model seated in an orange-upholstered car, wielding that same saw.
These are not, in other words, works of art that will be appearing anytime soon at Christie’s.
Makowsky, for his part, remains confident that the home’s combination of location, design, and art curation will help him land an extravagant buyer. “I understand how rich people want to live, because I’m very wealthy,” he said. “The right person is going to walk into this house and lose their mind.”
You can see a few of the home’s more outlandish pieces below.
Oversized Leica camera sculpture
Designed by the artist Yibai Liao, the sculpture is made of polished stainless steel.
Helicopter from the TV series Airwolf
This deactivated Bell 222A helicopter was used on the television series Airwolf, which ran for three years in the 1980s.
Hermès blanket encased in glass
This Hermès Equateur blanket is made with cashmere and embroidered with beads and pearls—though its texture doesn’t matter, given its “Starfire” glass panelling.
Champagne pinball machine
Described by the developer’s prospectus as a “whimsical art piece,” it’s unclear whether the installation includes genuine Champagne and pinball.
Custom electric guitars
Rock Royalty Guitars is a “luxury design house” that builds “the finest and most opulent custom guitars in the world,” according to the prospectus. The guitars featured above are in spinning display cases.
Vintage copper-and-gold gas cans
They date from 1892 and are described as having a “rich history.”
Chrome-plated machine gun sculpture
The piece, by sculptor Gale Hart, is one of numerous gun- and bullet-themed sculptures around the house.