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Villa de Leon

Jan 16th, 2013 | By | Category: This and That

Villa de Leon (7 of 17)

Back in September, while doing research on the Glendale Amtrak Station from Bulletproof (which I blogged about here), I came across a fabulous post on the Paradise Leased website about Villa de Leon – a huge Pacific Palisades-area estate that was also designed by architect Kenneth MacDonald Jr.  I quickly became entranced by the ginormous manse, which overlooks the Pacific Ocean, because not only is it an oft-filmed-at locale, but it is also one of the most consistently mis-identified buildings in all of Los Angeles.  In fact, until reading the Paradise Leased post, even yours truly had gotten this one wrong.  I had seen the dwelling countless times in the past whenever driving along the Pacific Coast Highway and had always assumed that it was the Getty Villa – as do most people, even native Angelinos.  It is an easy mistake to make, though.

As you can see in the images below, Villa de Leon is situated directly above a sign for the Getty Villa, confusing tourists and residents alike.  In fact, even The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal have mis-identified the place, so I guess I am in good company.

Villa de Leon (9 of 9)

Villa de Leon (16 of 17)

In actuality, the Getty Villa sits hidden from the road, directly behind and just north of Villa de Leon.  As you can see below, both buildings are also Mediterranean in style and quite significant in size, which only furthers the confusion.


  And while the Getty Villa is, I’m sure, spectacular (I’ve never actually been there), Villa de Leon is a masterpiece in and of itself – easily one of the most stunning properties that I have ever laid eyes upon.  The 35-room Beaux Arts/Mediterranean-style estate was built for a wealthy wool magnate named Leon Kauffman and his wife, Clemence, in 1927.  The three-story structure took over five years to complete and cost a whopping $1 million to construct – about $12 million today.  At the time that the Villa was built, it was the only residence in the area.  In fact, even the Pacific Coast Highway had yet to exist.  Access to the beach from the home was made possible thanks to a funicular (yeah, I had to look that one up, too).

Villa de Leon (8 of 9)

Villa de Leon (5 of 9)

Sadly, Clemence Kauffman passed away in 1933, only five years after the house was completed, and Leon followed soon after in 1935. The Villa remained unoccupied, except for a caretaker, for the next twenty years, until it was finally put up for auction in 1952, where it sold for the unbelievably-low price of $71,000.  The property then went through a succession of different owners and was last purchased in 2007 for $10 million.

Villa de Leon (2 of 17)

Villa de Leon (10 of 17)

The massive Villa de Leon boasts ten bedrooms, ten baths, 10,277 square feet of living space, a one-acre plot of seaside land, a 67-foot tall entry hall, a library with coffered ceilings, a master suite with mahogany-paneled walls, a spiral staircase, a living room with a 35-foot tall hand-stenciled ceiling, a circular-shaped formal dining room with ocean views, a seven-car garage(!) with its own car wash (!), formal gardens (many of which have been destroyed over the years due to landslides), a working elevator, two vaults, a central vacuum system (one of the first to ever be built), and several terraces.  You can check out some fabulous photographs of the mansion’s interior here.  What I wouldn’t give to go inside that place!

Villa de Leon (3 of 17)

Villa de Leon (5 of 17)

Thankfully, unlike most Los Angeles-area mega-mansions, this one is quite visible from the road.

Villa de Leon (4 of 17)

Villa de Leon (11 of 17)

As I mentioned above, Villa de Leon has been featured in countless productions over the years, most notably photo shoots.  I actually dragged the Grim Cheaper out to stalk the location twice as, on our first visit, I was not able to get any faraway photographs.  Amazingly enough, there was something being shot on the premises BOTH times that we were there, as you can see below.

Villa de Leon (7 of 9)

Villa de Leon (6 of 17)

The exterior of Villa de Leon was featured on the cover of Procol Harum’s Grand Hotel album in 1973.


In 2008, Victoria Beckham did a photo shoot for Harper’s Bazaar Indonesia at the mansion.



Villa de Leon was one of two estates used in the music video for Lady Gaga’s 2009 song “Paparazzi”.  While the majority of the video was filmed at 10425 Revuelta Way in Bel Air (which was also the location of this week’s group date on The Bachelor), portions of the Villa were featured, as well, including the back patio area . . .



. . . and parts of the interior.





You can watch the “Paparazzi” video by clicking below.

Also in 2009, the home appeared in Michael Bay’s “A Thousand Fantasies” commercial for Victoria’s Secret.



Villa de Leon was the site of Heidi Klum’s photo shoot for the February 2010 issue of InStyle magazine, although very little of the property can actually be seen in the final spread.  (The stills below came from a behind-the-scenes video of the shoot posted on the InStyle website.)



Robert Pattinson shot the (extremely NSFW) cover story for the March 2010 issue of Details magazine at Villa de Leon.



Angelina Jolie posed for the cover of the December 2010 Vogue there.



Reese Witherspoon’s spread for the October 2011 issue of Marie Claire also took place at the Villa.



The promotional pictures for Britney Spears’ 2011 album Femme Fatale were shot on the premises.



The estate appeared in the music video for Foster the People’s 2011 song “Call It What You Want”.  Both the exterior . . .



. . . and the interior of the house were used extensively in the video.



You can watch the “Call It What You Want” video by clicking below.

Robert Downey Jr. did a photo shoot for the May 2012 issue of Esquire magazine at Villa de Leon.



As did Freida Pinto for the July 2012 issue of Flaunt Magazine.



Rod Stewart’s 2012 Christmas special, Rod Stewart: Merry Christmas, Baby, was also filmed at the estate.



The Kardashians, Maria Menounos, Katy Perry, Ginnifer Goodwin, and Justin Long have also done shoots at the house – all of which you can see photographs of here.

Villa de Leon (12 of 17)

Villa de Leon (13 of 17)

You can find me on Facebook here and on Twitter at @IAMNOTASTALKER.  And be sure to check out my other blog, The Well-Heeled Diabetic.

Villa de Leon (4 of 9)

Until next time, Happy Stalking!  Smile

Stalk It: Villa de Leon is located at 17948 Porto Marina Way in Pacific Palisades.



Leave a comment »

  1. Matt Wolczynski says:

    The Villa de Leon is currently owned by a friend, and I had the pleasure of spending this year’s Thanksgiving holiday there. The interior is completely restored and filled with amazing antiques. The bathrooms still have the original tile and fixtures. My first stay there was about 10 years ago, also around Thanksgiving. A few days later, I was having my moring coffee back in NJ, and watching a John Wayne film, Flame of Barbary Coast. To my surprise, the house is shown in one of the first scenes of the movie, and I thought to myself: “I just slept there!”.

  2. Art Nisson says:

    I own the Robert Morton Pipe organ which was originally installed in the Mansion, Opus 2313. It was a 3/19
    Now in my residence in Modjeska Canyon, Ca and updated to a more modern theatre 3/24 spec. with percussions.
    There was a 4 rank Echo division of this organ which played into the library I believe, through the ceiling. I am not using that portion. The organ was located in the basement and played up through tone chutes into the main room which was quite large.

    • Steve Lawson says:

      I am one of the volunteers who add records and stoplists to the Organ Historical Society Database. Today, I am working through Robert Mortons and the 3/19 in Villa de Leon in Santa Monica. I saw your comment on Can you provide specs for the organ as it was originally? If so, I will post them to the OHS Database. If you do the same for your 3/24 spec, I will add it, too. Thanks so much.

  3. Laurence Almand says:

    Keep in mind that in the late 1940s and early 50s these big old houses were considered white elephants and few people wanted them – hence the low price. The big Heast mansion in Beverly Hills, currently priced at about $90 million, was purchased for $120,000! The big “Beverly Hillbillies” mansion in Bel Air, currently priced at around $40 – 50 million, was purchased in 1945 for $225,000…a high price in those days.

  4. A R says:

    Thanks for this wealth of information! I pass this building every day on my commute and was never able to stop. Recently went to the Getty Villa (an amazing experience in itself) only to discover it was not part of it!

    It seems they completed this not too long after Hearst opened his “castle” a few years earlier.


  5. Ashley says:

    Wow, seriously stunning! Loved all the interior photos too. I totally feel like I recognize it from something you didn’t mention, but I can’t put my finger on it!

  6. Chris says:

    I’d been to the Getty and I assumed that was part of it too, but didn’t even think about it…lol…amazing how many things have been done there…I take it the owners make a fortune just loaning it out for shoots….and Rod Stewart doing a Christmas special inside? Lady Gaga doing a video inside? How do you find out all these factoids? Do you ask the owners? Or just from doing research cause you’re the best at what you do?

  7. Katie says:

    wow, this location is absolutely stunning! I love the variety of different magazines, shoots, videos that have utilised the breathtaking views and decor as well as the features of the place. Great post Linds!

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