By Martha Groves
(MCT)–Nearing completion after five years of construction in the hills of Bel-Air, Chateau des Fleurs looms like some super-sized Hollywood notion of dynastic France.
From the street, the two-story mansion on three acres — where Stone Canyon and Bellagio roads converge south of the Hotel Bel-Air, across from the fourth fairway of the Bel-Air Country Club — is largely obscured by fences, trees and equipment.
A better view is available from an ungated lawn on nearby Siena Way, where an observer can peer down on the palatial, U-shaped residence with its Versailles-inspired mansard roof and dormer windows and ponder: Just how much house does a family need?
In an era when urban hipsters in New York and Tokyo are embracing 300-square-foot micro living quarters, and regular folks nationwide typically occupy 2,500 square feet, Chateau des Fleurs shows the enduring appeal of behemoth homes for the uber-rich who can afford them — or at least think they can.
The economic downturn put a damper on the ultra-high-end market for a time, but aspirations are once again surging.
“It’s no question (houses are) getting bigger and being used less often, not as primary residences,” says Jeffrey Hyland, a well-known high-end real estate agent.
Hyland says he expects to see 20 houses of 20,000 square feet or more coming on the market in the next year. “They’re all asking over $20 million and were all built by speculators to flip,” he says.
Sumptuous living has been de rigueur in Bel-Air since the 1920s, when founder Alphonzo E. Bell bought and subdivided a sprawling ranch into parcels for prominent Angelenos.
Over time, the neighborhood has attracted VIPs from entertainment and business. Jennifer Aniston has a home in Bel-Air. Billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk paid $17 million for a 20,000-square-foot Bel-Air manse, then bought the former Gene Wilder estate across the street for $6.75 million, perhaps to preserve his view. Media mogul Rupert Murdoch recently paid $28.8 million for a 13-acre winery and mansion.
According to the 2010 U.S. Census, the community has just 8,261 residents in six square miles, making it one of Los Angeles County’s most thinly populated areas.
Chateau des Fleurs (translation: chateau of the flowers), designed by architect William Hefner, has been the subject of much fascination among L.A. real estate watchers. The mansion features a ballroom, three elevators, a pool, a paddle tennis court pavilion, a guardhouse and a guesthouse.
It’s not L.A.’s largest house, but it comes very close.
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