For Sale: Bel Air Estate


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May 07, 2023

For Sale: Bel Air Estate

When oil tycoon and property developer Alphonzo Edward Bell Sr. founded L.A.’s

When oil tycoon and property developer Alphonzo Edward Bell Sr. founded L.A.'s Bel Air neighborhood in the early 1920s, he initially laid out 128 large lots along Bel Air Road and the handful of roads that branch off it. The main entrance to the ultra-exclusive enclave was (and still is) located on Sunset Boulevard, where huge wrought iron gates were hung between massive, finial-topped pillars. The grand portal became known as the neighborhood's east gates, while those built about 1.5 miles to the west are known as—you got it—the west gates.

In 1926, Bell founded the Bel-Air Country Club, one of the most exclusive private golf clubs in the country, and since then the posh neighborhood has spread out over the surrounding mountains and today extends all the way up to Mulholland Drive and all the way over to the 405 Freeway. Just up the hedge-lined street from the East gate entrance, in what's now known by the old guard as Old Bel Air, a 100-year-old white-brick Georgian Colonial mansion was recently taken down to the studs and rebuilt to honor its architectural pedigree and provide occupants with all the bells and whistles required for an ultra-affluent southern California lifestyle. The estate, dubbed The Willows, is up for sale with a $46 million asking price.

A few clicks and clacks on the abacus show that a potential buyer would need to net about $3.6 million a year just to pay the mortgage, estimated taxes, and homeowner's insurance. That's using a standard 20% down payment and a 7% interest rate, though it's highly unlikely any buyer would use a traditional mortgage to buy the estate. Even in a tightening ultra-luxury market, an all-cash buyer is much more likely. (P.S. Those costs do not include monthly staff expenses, landscaping costs, window washing, electricity and water charges, etc., which could easily run to several tens of thousands more per month.)

In addition to the roughly 15,000-square-foot main house, which was originally designed by the architectural firm Allison & Allison — they were known primarily for building churches and schools, including two of the four original buildings at UCLA — with a later addition by vaunted architect Paul R. Williams, the nearly one-acre spread also includes a detached screening room and an 1,800-square-foot poolside guesthouse.

Along with the restored and re-created original wood detail, the premium finishes and fine materials found throughout the property include a mix of white oak and stone flooring, solid-wood paneling, and custom interior molding and panel doors. The mansion's numerous fireplaces include mantels carved with London Blue and Calacatta Viola marbles and both pale beige and Petite Granite limestone.

Beyond the double-gated drive, a sculptural plaster staircase adds sensual curves to the double-height foyer; banks of windows in the vast step-down living room fold open to the gardens; the top-of-the-line eat-in kitchen is grounded with black and white marble checkerboard tile flooring; and the family room is cozied up with a ceiling clad in strips of blond wood. Each of the main house's guest bedrooms has access to a luxury bath, while the primary suite has dual bathrooms, both with a radiant-heated floor. A finished third-floor attic space features a wall of windows that fold open to a 600-square-foot balcony, and the detached screening room is stocked with state-of-the-art equipment, a kitchenette, and a bathroom.

There are three ways to access the 65-foot-long swimming pool and the two-bedroom, two-bath poolside guesthouse, which are nestled into a lush glade below the house. There's a meandering staircase, a swooping ramp, and, the most novel way, a tunnel that runs from the main house to the guesthouse. The park-like grounds also include mature shade trees, flowering gardens, and a pint-sized vineyard carved into the hillside above the pool.

Other notable features include staff quarters with a separate entrance, a gated dog run, driveway parking more than a dozen cars, plus a two-car garage with electric chargers, a comprehensive home automation system, a high-efficiency multi-zone HVAC system, automated window shades, an elevator, a fire suppression sprinkler system, and two laundry rooms, one with a laundry chute from the closet in the primary suite.

Ready for its next 100 years, the The Willows is listed with James Harris and Mary Hellmund of The Agency.

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