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When it comes to living an impeccably-designed life, the Golden State’s innovative architects, designers and developers are setting industry standards worldwide. Here, we present the most exciting properties, players and neighborhoods dominating California’s white-hot real estate market.  

Above Beverly Hills, a luxuriously appointed spec house is surrounded by a moat, eliminating the need for barriers that would limit views. 

Decadent is the word for this Beverly Hills home from developer Richard Papalian, architect Marc Whipple and designer Michael Palumbo, who created the interiors based on a white chocolate, dark chocolate theme. A custom, 14-foot pivoting door sets the tone for the impeccable six-bedroom, 10-bath compound, which offers over 11,000 square feet of indoor living space. Throughout the home and its adjacent guest house (set atop a five-car museum) are luxury materials like Hera limestone quarried in the Sinai Peninsula, exotic woods, state-of-the-art Schüco windows, Renlita doors and custom cabinetry from Italy. The interiors are lavish, with a Miele kitchen and furnishings from Minotti and B&B Italia’s Maxalto. This property is not a staged house but a designed house. And nowhere is the luxury lifestyle more on display than in the master suite, which occupies the upper floor. Its platform bed overlooks a private 2,200-square-foot deck with a Jacuzzi and lounging area, while the marble-clad bathroom boasts sculptural sinks and a freestanding tub from Antonio Lupi. The home also features a fully integrated automation system, a wine cellar, a theater and a PGA-inspired putting green. Further adding to the estate’s drama is a moat-like water channel that surrounds the .83-acre promontory with views from DTLA to Catalina Island. $38,000,000, 424.230.3701 

This February, one of the most recognizable properties in Laguna Beach sold for a record-breaking $45 million. Known as Twin Points, the 2.3-acre estate boasts two grassy, palm-lined headlands that project out into the sea, creating a private beach and lagoon between them. Situated between Shaw’s Cove and Crescent Bay, it’s arguably one of the Golden State’s most dramatic coastal properties—and it’s now the most expensive house ever sold in Orange County. (The previous record was $35.5 million.) Seven other nearby homes have sold for $30 million or more in the past eight years.

With a number of high-profile Hollywood projects in the works, the stretch of Sunset Boulevard just east of the famed strip is quickly becoming the neighborhood for L.A.’s hip creative set. Anchoring the area is Columbia Square, a $450 million mixed-use campus on the historic site of the former CBS studios. In addition to the buzzy private club, NeueHouse, and headquarters for Viacom and Fender, the 4.7-acre site is home to Hollywood Proper Residences (from $3,500 per month unfurnished, from $7,000 per month furnished, 1550 N. El Centro Ave., L.A., 323.465.7767), a 23-story tower containing 200 suites and penthouses with interiors by Kelly Wearstler. “Hollywood is experiencing a renaissance with more and more culture, retail, media and creative workspaces in demand by the growing number of resources and talent attracted to the neighborhood,” she says. Meanwhile, a few blocks away, The Camden (from $2,100 per month, 1540 Vine St., Hollywood, 323.469.4663), is a $140 million apartment complex with 287 units by New York-based Mark Zeff Design that boasts amenities like a heated saltwater pool, artist studios, a dog park and on-site Equinox Health Club. Additionally, residents have access to a private concierge with exclusive benefits at nearby SBE properties, such as Katsuya and The Redbury. Next up are the Palladium Residences (from $1,200 per month), a two-tower, 28-story development that will include the restoration of the legendary Hollywood Palladium music venue. And then there is the most ambitious project of all: iconic architect Frank Gehry’s proposal for a groundbreaking residential, hotel and shopping development, which—if built—will transform L.A.’s skyline at the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Crescent Heights.

Out & About
NeueHouse Hollywood Occupying the historic CBS Radio Building, this 75,000-square-foot members-only workspace boasts chic interiors by renowned New York firm Rockwell Group. 6121 Sunset Blvd., L.A., 323.337.1420
Paley This dynamic 150-seat resto opened in May, serving fresh California cuisine from chef Greg Bernhardt, formerly of Church & State. 6115 Sunset Blvd., L.A., 323.544.9430
Mama Shelter The popular French hotel features a rooftop cocktail lounge and stylish decor by Parisian designer Thierry Gaugain. 6500 Selma Ave., L.A., 323.785.6666

The open-air residence on tony Balboa Avenue in Old Del Mar puts a contemporary spin on the California beach house. The home is built for entertaining, with indoor areas leading directly out to the terrace. 

“Silicon Valley—and now Silicon Beach—are regularly minting new multimillionaires who are flourishing in everything California has to offer. This new breed is inspiring innovative, cutting-edge design, technology and amenities in both the L.A. and Bay Area housing worlds, and is serving as a beacon to those across the country wanting to relocate to the Golden State.”
Billy Rose, Co-Founder & President, The Agency

A 1920s penthouse co-op in San Francisco’s historic Pacific Heights neighborhood sold for $5,500 per square foot last year, shattering the city’s already staggering highs. “In the last year, young people from the tech industry have discovered the incredible architectural beauty of Nob Hill, Russian Hill and Pacific Heights,” says luxury real estate expert Joel Goodrich. “Major hotels in the area are hosting conferences that bring new people to the old neighborhoods, and young people are discovering ‘the real San Francisco.’ It’s a great quality of life here—great views, tree-lined streets, but you’re just a few minutes away from theaters and restaurants.”

When Del Mar boutique developer Bill Davidson set out to create a new community on the 20-acre site of a storied San Juan Capistrano equestrian center long owned by Joan Irvine Smith (granddaughter of legendary California pioneer James Irvine), he wanted to honor the land’s legacy while creating homes authentic to their surroundings. What’s emerged at The Oaks Farms is a gated collection of 32 single and two-story luxury homes (modern farmhouse or adobe ranch style, designed by San Clemente architect R. Douglas Mansfield) conveniently situated right off Ortega Highway and the 5 Freeway and close to popular attractions like Mission San Juan Capistrano as well as Dana Point via the San Juan Creek Trail. Nestled among heritage oaks rose bushes, the development features an updated equestrian facility, which includes a new 2,250-square-foot social area complete with massive stone fireplace and barbecue facilities. “We knew we had a unique opportunity to enhance a spectacular environment, and we believe our architecture and interior styling have captured that vision,” says Davidson. Rich in detail and luxurious amenities, homes go up to 4,408 square feet, five bedrooms and 5 ½ baths. Interiors include dramatic open floor plans with courtyards or covered loggias, many of which overlook the equestrian center. From $1.4 million, 949.391.0920

For a waterfront home in scenic Old Del Mar just north of San Diego, L.A.-based KAA Design Group created a strikingly modernist yet warm and inviting six-bedroom, six-bath design. The 8,000-square-foot house sits on .51 acres and includes an infinity-edge pool, expansive outdoor entertaining and cooking areas, bocce ball and sport courts, and a 10-car garage, all the while offering ocean, lagoon and mountain views. The house, which is constructed of glass, concrete and mahogany, virtually eliminates inside-outside boundaries thanks to retractable glass walls and an open flow that provide immediate access to the lawn or the terraces. The main floor includes the primary living spaces, as well as an executive office, guest rooms, a media room and a chef’s kitchen that is fitted with top-notch appliances, book-matched cabinetry and marble countertops. A walnut staircase leads to the upper floor, which is occupied by the master suite and its expansive deck with an outdoor shower. The home’s lower level offers additional guest accommodation and a gym that leads directly to the sports court. A separate guest suite with a private entry is also on the property. $24,995,000, Eric Iantorno & Associates/Pacific Sotheby’s International Realty, 858.334.3577

1. TEN50
This ultramodern 25-story residential building in DTLA is packed with perks like a drone landing pad, a yoga deck, a resort-style pool and private screening and dining rooms. From $500,000, L.A., 213.861.1050

2. The Grand Monarch
With immediate access to the Monarch Beach Resort, residents of this luxury gated community can soak in ocean and golf-course views while taking advantage of private beach service—with butlers—and the award winning Miraval Spa. From $3 million, Dana Point, 949.218.1855

3. Pacific Gate
Set to open in 2017, the newest San Diego waterfront luxury high-rise includes benefits like chef concierge services, an extensive luxury car fleet and a private boat share. From $1.1 million, San Diego, 619.795.3612

4. The Harrison
With interiors by acclaimed designer Ken Fulk, this classic luxury high-rise offers impeccable service for its residents with a 24-hour valet and a concierge who will stock your fridge with groceries upon request. From $800,000, San Francisco, 415.721.7788

5. Ten Thousand
Century City’s newest tower boasts amenities like a tricked-out lounge, multiple fitness studios, an outdoor chef’s kitchen, poolside cabanas, movie theaters and a tranquil private park. From $8,500 per month, L.A., 310.556.0001

The sale of high-rise residences rose 21 percent last year with a 42nd-floor penthouse in Century City listed with Coldwell Banker selling for a record-setting $22.5 million. L.A. has long offered distinctive residential neighborhoods with everything from charming bungalows to expansive compounds but only now has the desire for tower living really taken hold. Luxury condos and their over-the-top penthouses are fast becoming the hallmark of success. New sky-high units offer dynamic city views and all the amenities of a five-star hotel—perfect for on-the-go professionals who don’t want the burden of home maintenance.

Bransten House, a Georgian townhome in Pacific Heights, was designed by architect Herman Barth and built in 1904 as part of a group of landmark houses belonging to the Haas family, famous importers of distilled spirits. Fully modernized yet retaining myriad original features, the seven-bedroom, 4 ½-bath house includes a large living room with crown moldings, a wood-paneled dining room overlooking the garden, an eat-in chef’s kitchen that opens to the patio, a library, two offices, a den with a bay window, a top floor entertainment room, a four-car garage and an elevator. The house is close to all the amenities of Upper Fillmore and Polk streets, scenic Lafayette Park and cultural institutions like the opera and ballet. It’s also within easy freeway access to Silicon Valley and San Francisco International Airport, making one of the city’s most classic neighborhoods a very modern option. $7,998,000, Coldwell Banker Previews International, 415.308.8184

With his latest spec home, a 100,000-square-foot, $500 million masterpiece in Bel Air, OC-based architect Paul McClean is pushing the boundaries of luxury development.

Even as a child growing up in Dublin, Paul McClean was inspired by the architecture and lifestyle of SoCal. “Southern California was the place you went to be contemporary and experimental, and the weather is so perfect,” he says. Fast-forward to today, and McClean—now an Orange County resident—heads up his namesake design firm, recognized for creating some of the most awe-inspiring trophy mansions in the area. And his current undertaking is the most high profile and high wattage yet: a spec home that spans approximately 100,000 square feet in beautiful Bel Air. The anticipated asking price: a whopping $500 million. When the groundbreaking estate enters the market after completion next year, it will be in the running for the most expensive home in the world. The 4-acre hilltop property will feature a 74,000-square-foot main dwelling, a guest house, staff quarters, four swimming pools, a tennis court, a nightclub, a wellness spa, a bowling alley—and even a relaxation lounge surrounded by jellyfish tanks. Some might question whether this palatial abode is a bit over the top, but McClean would disagree. “The neighborhood is renowned for large homes,” he says. “It’s always about the relationship of the house to the site,” he says. At the end of the day, creating a residence of this stature and significance is both a challenge and an honor.” McClean Design, 190 S. Glassell St., #203, Orange, 714.505.0556