Villa de LeonJan 16th, 2013 | By Lindsay | Category: This and That
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.
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).
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.
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!
Thankfully, unlike most Los Angeles-area mega-mansions, this one is quite visible from the road.
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.
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.
Until next time, Happy Stalking!
Stalk It: Villa de Leon is located at 17948 Porto Marina Way in Pacific Palisades.