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A Dragon (but No Dungeons) in Australia

April 15th, 2014 admin

  • Price: $9,400,000
  • Location: Australia

This period home in Melbourne has detailed plasterwork, antique furnishings and a 19th-century French terra-cotta dragon on the roof.–Andre Cooray

Historic Mediterranean in Florida

April 15th, 2014 admin

  • Price: $4,995,000
  • Location: Stuart, FL

Built for a member of the Carnegie family, this 1920s waterfront home features many of its original architectural details. —Stefanos Chen

A Wine-Induced House Hunt

April 15th, 2014 admin

Rita Moreno in her Berkeley, Calif., home that was built into the side of a hill.
Chloe Aftel for The Wall Street Journal


Rita Moreno,

82, is one of only 11 performers to win an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony. She is author of ”

Rita Moreno

: A Memoir” (Celebra) and her voice appears in “Rio 2,” an animated film. She spoke with reporter Marc Myers.

Several glasses of white wine are partly responsible for where I live now—in a contemporary house overlooking San Francisco Bay in the Berkeley Hills. In the 1990s, my husband,

Leonard Gordon,

and I lived in a lovely house in the Pacific Palisades area of Los Angeles. My late husband was an internist and liked the city, but I didn’t care much for it. Too much show business.

Numerous awards on display in the home
Chloe Aftel for The Wall Street Journal

One day my daughter Fernanda and her husband, David, invited us to spend the weekend at their home in Berkeley. When Leonard and I arrived, they took us wine tasting in the Napa Valley. I didn’t have breakfast that day, and I thought spitting wine into a cup was disgusting. By the afternoon, I was sloshed. My daughter tells me I said, slurring, “You know, this is a very nice life. Let’s move up here.”

When Fernanda quoted me the next day, I realized it wasn’t just the wine talking. I really did love it, and so did Leonard. I told Fernanda to start looking around, and she found nine homes she knew we’d like. We picked one a couple of blocks from her house and moved up there in 1996. Soon we wanted to fix up the place, but Leonard wisely pointed out that for the same money we could build a house designed to suit our tastes. Made sense to me.

The courtyard, which reflects the owner’s eclectic tastes
Chloe Aftel for The Wall Street Journal

We found an amazing piece of property in the hills overlooking the bay with views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Mount Tam. My husband’s only request was a contemporary design. Me? I’m tribal and chintz and wicker—I love more natural and organic things. But I also love elegance. We saw a wood-and-glass house nearby that turned out to be my dentist’s home. He gave us the name of his architect—

Regan Bice

—and we hired him.

Our house took two years to build. It’s 5,300 square feet and perched about halfway up a hill that rolls down a few miles to the bay. The house is built into the slope and scared me at first. But it has more piers than it could ever need so I feel safe. When you pull up to the curb, you see a solid wall. Once you’re through the gate, the front wall of my house is floor-to-ceiling glass—except for the front door. You can see all the way through the house to our other windows facing the bay. The entry space—what we used to call a foyer in New York—is 25 feet long.

At the end of the entryway, there’s a stairway on the right that descends to the lower level, where there are three guest bedrooms, an office and a billiards room. The master bedroom is on the upper level. All of our rooms have full glass windows and face the bay. Most of the upper level is completely open. I told Regan I wanted as few walls as possible, which turned out to be frustrating since it’s difficult to hang art. To the left of the entryway are two steps leading down to a vast kitchen, where there’s a fireplace made of wheat-colored brick. The living room is four steps down from the kitchen.

The kitchen has 14-foot-tall French doors that lead to an expansive 40-by-30-foot enclosed courtyard. One wall is cobalt blue, two are white and the fourth is a bright red. I love color. A fountain was installed with four spouts—two higher than the other so the flow can be controlled. The sound of water is so sensual.

The living room with views of San Francisco Bay
Chloe Aftel for The Wall Street Journal

My dining room is on the left side of my home, which is only about 10 feet from our next-door neighbor. So we had a large etched-glass window installed for privacy. Bamboo was planted outside, just behind the glass, so you always see it swaying in the breeze from the dining room. Out the windows facing the bay, I see hawks flying below, baby deer grazing, wild turkeys and one insane peacock. In 2002, we bought the three-quarter-acre lot on the other side of our house. It’s not landscaped, but we did put in an asphalt basketball court for our two grandchildren.

The house faces west so sunsets here are pretty spectacular. They’re always orange and pink thanks to volcanic ash from the Pacific Rim. I never tire of them. At this stage in my life, I don’t take anything for granted. I guess deep down I still can’t believe a 5-year-old girl from Puerto Rico who came to New York in 1936 with her mother and just two shopping bags is living this way today. At which point I usually pour myself a glass of wine.

Buying a Condo: Who’s Running The Show? – Bethesda, MD Short Sales

April 14th, 2014 admin

Buying a Condo: Who’s Running The Show? – Bethesda, MD Short Sales

When buying a condo, we are all enticed by the decorations, the atmosphere, the perspective, and other visible results, when we should really be verifying something else that is not visual!

The Home Owners Association (HOA) often performs a very nondescript element in the whole procedure of selecting a condo, – especially for first-time condo customers. However, the HOA can perform a very huge number in using up your financial scenario if you hit an unfortunate scenario after shifting in.

In buying, to prevent a shock, ask a few relevant concerns about the HOA. One of the key elements would be ‘who is running the show?’ In a very little apartment complicated it may be run by citizens, but an experienced control organization is more suitable, especially in a condo of any dimension.

Professional control organizations do cost for their solutions, but they can often preserve this fee by acquiring reduced quotations for servicing, because they will use the same organization many periods. There is also less possibility of the organization using their impact on citizen ballots, so they may be considered as more reasonable. Lastly, it is a company to them, and it the HOA will be run as such, instead of as a part-time hurry before each conference is due!

Always ask to see the guidelines of the HOA, the economical review, the by-laws and the moments of the last several conferences. The circumstances, covenants and limitations will impact your way of life, so make sure they ‘fit in’ with it.

The economical review will tell you if there are any big improvements in the charges arriving up, or if there are any ‘emergency’ charges due soon. This improves the query, what will occur if there is a big emergency? How is it compensated and how much cash is in the HOA?

Another element that the HOA controls is the quantity of lease models permitted. Under 20% is acceptable, but any more and the re-sale of the apartments becomes dangerous. Tenants often do not have the same regard for residence or others who live nearby, so they reduce desirability. Also mortgage loan organizations are conscious of this and are hesitant to provide out loans to high-rental buildings.

Once you have ironed out all these concerns, you can consider whether you would like to get an experienced examination done. These examinations consist of the typical places as well as the condo you are looking for. Once all these safety measures are in position, you will experience more protected to go forward and create an offer.

Bethesda, MD short sale specialists’ shares some guidelines about purchasing a condo unit. Bethesda, MD short sale experts provide various real estate services in areas of Virginia, Maryland, and Washington DC.

Bauhaus Flair by the Water

April 11th, 2014 admin

  • Price: $2,895,000
  • Location: Gloucester, MA

This modernist home in Massachusetts boasts expansive water views and notable historical connections.—Stefanos Chen

A Man Between Two Gardens

April 11th, 2014 admin

It is a job that is the envy of many top gardeners: looking after the exquisite terraced gardens on two islands in the middle of Italy’s Lake Maggiore. They are the highlights of Isola Bella and Isola Madre, owned by the Borromeo family—one of Italy’s most prominent noble families—since the 1630s, but open to the public. They attract about half a million visitors each year.

For his work on the landscape over the past 36 years, head gardener

Gianfranco Giustina

was given a lifetime-achievement award by the Royal Horticultural Society in London on Thursday.

Slideshow: Island Beauty

A marble statue of Venus by Vincenzo Monti in the basement grottoes, which used to be where the family and guests cooled off during the summer months.
Stefano Scatà for The Wall Street Journal

The logistics of managing the sprawling gardens on the tiny islands are considerable. Plants have to be brought over by helicopter. Large digging equipment can’t be transported, so holes have to be dug by hand. Scaffolding and dirt must be brought by barge. Plants and flowers must be found that stand up to the cold winters, meet the tough standards of the local preservation official and complement the setting of the historic Borromeo palaces.

This spring, Mr. Giustina will search for a replacement for a row of yew trees on Isola Bella, the smaller of the two islands, that have been dying due to gradually warming winters. The yews, which are evergreens, have to be replaced by a plant of the same shape and size because the landmark status of the island means the layout of the formal garden can’t be changed. Even the size of the pots on the various balustrades can’t be altered. The plants must fit perfectly into the arrangement of 10 cascading terraces.

“The challenge with these gardens is that you can’t live in the past,” says Mr. Giustina, 59 years old, a tall, blue-eyed man with a perpetual tan. “You have to keep renewing them, but without disrupting the spirit.”

The challenge with these gardens is that you can’t live in the past.

—Head Gardener Gianfranco Giustina

The garden on Isola Madre is easier because it has an English garden format that tends to be wilder and less bound to a rigid architectural format. That gives Mr. Giustina a freer hand. He is currently creating a cactus garden along the water’s edge with water-resistant cactuses from high in the Andes, and a terrace dedicated to protea, a primitive-looking flowering plant from South Africa.

At the height of the tourist season, Mr. Giustina supervises 18 gardeners, 10 for Isola Madre and eight for Isola Bella. His boss, Count

Vitaliano Borromeo,

oversees an annual budget of about €I million, or $1.4 million, for maintaining the family’s two palaces and the gardens. Mr. Giustina spends about $200,000 on plants each year; his shopping list typically includes 20,000 violets, 10,000 tulips and 3,000 hyacinths. Admission fees pay for the entire upkeep.

Count Borromeo’s great-grandfather was one of Italy’s first aristocrats to open his palace doors to the public in the 1920s. The family still spends time at the Palazzo Borromeo during the summer months. The count runs the estate from an office located next to the ticket booth.

On Isola Bella, Mr. Giustina carefully chooses colors. Vivid red is too strong against the blue of the lake; a pale red is better. Orange works well because it sets off the gray statues that line the terraces. A combination of red and yellow is “never good” nor is pink and yellow, says Mr. Giustina; they are too strong.

The island’s terrain isn’t easy. Visitors walk through a wide lawn and up a series of steps to a giant patio overlooking the lake across to the snow-capped Alps. On the back side, the 10 terraces lead to the water. Irrigation is difficult, given the thin covering of dirt on Isola Bella, which originally was just a rock. “We have to look at the weather forecast ahead of time and constantly adjust the irrigation,” says Mr. Giustina.

Mr. Giustina grew up in a small town near Stresa, the Belle Epoque resort opposite the islands. He says he inherited his love of plants and gardening from his family. After studying gardening at the Istituto Cavallini at Solcio di Lesa, he went to a university for a few years until he decided to answer a want ad when he was 24 for a gardener at the islands. He was promoted to chief gardener at Isola Madre two years later. “They cast a spell over me,” he says. “I’ve been here ever since.”

Buy, Sell and Start Over

April 11th, 2014 admin

David Johnson

broke his neck in a swimming-pool accident when he was 28 and was told he would be permanently paralyzed. Within a year he was walking again—and he hasn’t stopped moving since.

The high-end resort developer has moved in and out of 11 homes in the past 19 years in Bay Harbor, Mich., a development he masterminded that fronts Lake Michigan. His next planned move there is into a 7,000-square-foot house on the lake that is undergoing a $2 million renovation. For an occasional retreat, he heads to nearby South Fox Island, where he owns two-thirds of the land and possesses its only residence, a 5,000-square-foot house built for $1.5 million.

Slideshow: David Johnson’s Portfolio

In December Mr. Johnson moved into this 5,300-square-foot beachfront home on a peninsula in the British Virgin Islands. A pool with a floating golf game on the property.
Josè Jimènez-Tirado for The Wall Street Journal

In December Mr. Johnson, 64, moved into his new winter home—a $6 million, 5,300-square-foot beachfront five-bedroom on a peninsula in the British Virgin Islands called Oil Nut Bay. He found this area after traveling to 13 countries seeking the right spot, living for months at a time on his 130-foot-long yacht called “Resolute.”

It is also a suitable name for a developer whose grand plans have, at times, run into opposition. “I am relentless and cannot be defeated or overwhelmed,” Mr. Johnson says. “There is always a solution that creates a win-win outcome.”

Raised in Detroit, Mr. Johnson began his career leasing and operating gas stations in college, hiring his fraternity brothers from Michigan State University to pump gas, and moved on to mass housing developments. After his swimming-pool accident, he shifted to higher-end, lower-density resorts.

In 1989 Mr. Johnson bought all the private land on South Fox Island, a 2,100-acre remote island in the northern part of the state. His idea was to create the “Nantucket of the West.” Then things got complicated: He bought neighboring North Fox Island to stop another developer there and eventually sold it to the state. He then swapped land on South Fox Island with the state to get a contiguous parcel—a deal that went through but was controversial among environmentalists and an American Indian tribe that laid claims to some of the land (those claims were later dismissed by a judge). In the end, he decided to turn South Fox into a private retreat

I am relentless and cannot be defeated or overwhelmed. There is always a solution that creates a win-win outcome.

—David Johnson, high-end resort developer

In 2001, he built a 5,500-foot runway that could handle a Gulfstream V and a $1.5 million home on the water’s edge. Just as construction was nearing the end, a chunk of the island broke off, leaving the house 12 feet away from the lake. Mr. Johnson spent an additional $1 million putting the 388,000-pound house on top of a platform with 99 wheels to roll it farther up the coast.

The five-bedroom, five-bathroom home looks a little like a park lodge from the 1930s. It has walnut floors, a mahogany-paneled office, a yoga room and a master bedroom with sweeping views of the lake. Mr. Johnson and his wife, Pam, keep 19 horses in stables on the property and get around on ATVs.

As the South Fox Island drama was unfolding, in 1994 Mr. Johnson moved on to developing the site of an abandoned cement plant and limestone quarries on 5 miles of shoreline on Lake Michigan. Called Bay Harbor, the 800-home resort has 32 neighborhoods (essentially subdivisions) and golf courses, an equestrian center and a yacht club.

Over the years that followed, he built or bought 11 homes in Bay Harbor—he and his wife and two daughters would stay in one for a few years, and then sell and move to another. “My wife jokes I’m going to sell her next. But that’s not an option. Not her or the dog,” he says.

The strategy helped the development weather hard times (the economic downturn, a lawsuit over water pollution that was later settled). “He created a confidence by living there,” says

Jaime Turnbull,

former vice president at Mr. Johnson’s company, who lives in a home in The Parks at Stonewood, a development Mr. Johnson built in Clarkston, Mich.—and where he still owns a four-bedroom, seven-bath estate and equestrian facility.

Mr. Johnson’s present home in Bay Harbor is a four-bedroom “cottage” that he bought in September 2010. His next home, being remodeled for $2 million, has the lake on one side and a marina on the other. There is a chef’s kitchen (for a chef who travels with the couple) and a regular kitchen. He also owns a penthouse that he stays in occasionally.

While he was home-hopping in Bay Harbor, Mr. Johnson built a 130-foot yacht and lived on it for months at a time during a 10-year period beginning in 2000. He visited 13 countries with the goal of finding the perfect warm-weather spot to start a new development—one with natural beauty, good water for boating, minimal corruption and crime, government stability and, most important, an exit value that would make the investment worthwhile.

The winner was the British Virgin Islands, where he bought two properties in Virgin Gorda’s North Sound: a resort hotel called Biras Creek Resort in 2006 and Oil Nut Bay in 2008.

The process was anything but smooth, involving complications with regulations and a partnership with a local family that went sour.

Mr. Johnson is now proceeding with plans to further develop 400-acre Oil Nut Bay, which has homes and lots for sale ranging from $2 million to $30 million. His house here has arched wood roofs and a front door that is 10 feet high and 30 feet wide. There are five bedrooms, including one for their chef, who has his own commercial kitchen. The interior is mostly white and the bedrooms’ sliding doors open the walls to the outside.

Like most serial movers, Mr. Johnson always has an exit strategy. This house is on the market for $10.95 million and his architect has just finished designing his next house in a different neighborhood.

Write to Nancy Keates at

Fashion Magnate Fred Segal Buys in Cabo

April 11th, 2014 admin

Fred Segal,

the retailer who helped launch brands like Kate Spade and Juicy Couture and made his eponymous Los Angeles stores a go-to destination for trend seekers, has a weakness for La-Z-Boy recliners.

Slideshow: Private Properties

The Cabo San Lucas condo of fashion magnate Fred Segal and his wife Tina.
Geno Perches

So says real-estate broker

Marco Ehrenberg,

who recently sold Mr. Segal a condo at Hacienda Beach Club & Residences, a private residence club of 109 units in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. “I said, ‘look, if you buy something here, I’ll buy you a La-Z-Boy,’ ” Mr. Ehrenberg recalled. Now that Mr. Segal and his wife, Tina, have closed on the unit, Mr. Ehrenberg said an ivory leather La-Z-Boy rocker recliner is on its way.

The couple purchased a three-bedroom, 3½ bathroom condo listed for $1.795 million. Located on the ground floor, the unit, which is over 2,000 square feet, has its own infinity-edge swimming pool and Jacuzzi, an outdoor bar and barbecue, and lush landscaping, including an outdoor fountain, according to

Renee Fleming,

a sales executive and closing coordinator at Hacienda who handled the sale. Properties at the complex go up to $5.5 million, she said, but Mr. Segal preferred this particular unit because of its privacy. In addition, he liked this unit because “it’s very lush and tropical,” she said.

Mr. Segal, now in his 80s, has been vacationing in Cabo for years and owns other homes there, Mr. Ehrenberg said, including a unit at the Esperanza resort, which opened in 2002. “Everyone knows Fred here in Cabo,” Mr. Ehrenberg said.

Mr. Segal declined to comment.

—Candace Taylor

A Historic Los Angeles Home Previously Owned by a ‘Friend,’ Now by a Director, Goes on the Market for $11.8 Million

A historic Los Angeles home once owned by “Friends” star

David Schwimmer

will list for $11.8 million.

The Hancock Park home is now owned by director and producer

Breck Eisner,

the son of former Walt Disney CEO

Michael Eisner,

according to listing agent

David Mossler

of Teles Properties Beverly Hills.

The director bought the home from Mr. Schwimmer in 2012 for $8.865 million, according to public records. Mr. Schwimmer, who directed the 2010 movie “Trust” with

Clive Owen


Catherine Keener,

had purchased it in 2001 for $5.5 million.

According to Mr. Mossler, Mr. Eisner is selling because he is leaving the state to direct two movies back to back: “The Karate Kid 2″ and “The Last Witch Hunter,” starring Vin Diesel.

The roughly 11,000-square-foot house has eight bedrooms (plus several sitting rooms that could also be used as bedrooms) and 6½ bathrooms, Mr. Mossler said. The 1920s home was designed by the architectural firm Koerner & Gage, which also designed Beverly Hills’ City Hall.

Mr. Eisner remodeled the home after purchasing it, Mr. Mossler said.

The gated estate has a wood-paneled library, a screening room and four wood-burning fireplaces. On the grounds, there is a pool with a tile fountain, a tennis court with a shaded pavilion, and gardens. There is a guest apartment above a three-car garage, Mr. Mossler said. Mr. Eisner declined to comment.

Florida Mansion Cuts Its Price to $24.9 Million

A beachfront mansion in Coral Gables, Fla., has lowered its asking price and is now listed for $24.9 million.

Saddy Delgado

of One Sotheby’s International Realty has the listing for the home on Tahiti Beach Island Road. The home first went on the market last year with Coldwell Banker for $30 million, then had its price cut to $25 million.

Completed in 2009, the home has 10 bedrooms, 10 full bathrooms and two half bathrooms, said Ms. Delgado. It is roughly 21,000 square feet, she said, and the home has expansive covered porches with an outdoor catering kitchen. The home has a 15-seat home theater, an elevator and a wine cellar. There is also a meditation room that could be used as a gym or another bedroom, said the owner

Wendell Pfeffer,

an entrepreneur, who has worked in the technology and food industries in Latin America.

Outside, an infinity pool fronts the beach. While all beaches in the state are technically public, this beach can’t be accessed except through Mr. Pfeffer’s property, Ms. Delgado said, adding that the 1½-acre lot is one of the few properties in the Miami area with private beach access.

Ms. Delgado said in the Miami real-estate market, “the last year has picked up a lot,” especially for homes in the $20 million price range. Now that the Tahiti Beach home is “well-priced,” Ms. Delgado said, she feels confident that it will sell.

Mr. Pfeffer, who purchased the land in 2002, said he is selling because the family is leaving the South Florida area.

—Candace Taylor

Michael Bay

Sells For $11.45 Million

Michael Bay

Filmmaker Michael Bay has sold his Los Angeles home to New York City developer

Zach Vella

for $11.45 million, according to

James Harris


David Parnes

of the Agency, who represented Mr. Vella. Located in Bel Air, the home had been listed for $13.5 million with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices. The four-bedroom, six-bathroom home has nearly 8,000 square feet of living space, with a pool, a wine cellar and a home theater, plus views of downtown Los Angeles to the ocean, Mr. Parnes said. Mr. Bay is the director of “Transformers: Age of Extinction,” slated to be released in June. The news was previously reported by the Hollywood Reporter.

Screenwriter Loeb Lists for $1.999 Million


Allan Loeb

has thrown numerous parties and written scripts for films like “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” and “Just Go With It” at his Los Angeles bachelor pad, a 2,300-square-foot, three-bedroom, 2½ bathroom home in the Hollywood Hills.

But the writer said he is looking for a mellower lifestyle near the beach. The home will go on the market next week for $1.999 million. “I’m getting a little older and feeling like I have to calm down my lifestyle,” said the 44-year-old, who is single and recently bought a home in Venice, Calif. “I’m not going to say there was a lot of debauchery there but I will say we all had fun.”

Mr. Loeb paid $2.03 million for the property in 2008, and said he has spent about $500,000 on upgrades and remodeling, much of it to the outdoor living area. He added an outdoor screening room with a canvas roof, where he frequently hosts movie nights and watches “Game of Thrones” with friends. He also added an outdoor shower, fire pit, bar and hot tub. The home has a swimming pool surrounded by water features.

Along with his listing agents

Jacqueline Gunn


F. Ron Smith,

of Partners Trust, Mr. Loeb enlisted home stager

Meridith Baer

to help tone down the bachelor-pad vibe, including staging one of the rooms as a child’s bedroom.

“As we say in the film business, we wanted to open this picture up to all four quadrants,” said Mr. Loeb. “We didn’t want to just test really well with young men.”

— Candace Jackson

Kaufman Studios Sets Stage for Astoria Action

April 11th, 2014 admin

Once used to make Marx Brothers films and later to produce Army propaganda and training movies, the Kaufman Astoria Studios in Queens have become a magnet for restaurants, bars and other venues frequented by a young, hip crowd.

The 500,000-square-foot studio complex, which will have 1,500 people working there by July when all its current productions will be filming, has helped catalyze a new wave of economic activity in Astoria.

Luxury Auction in Park City

April 10th, 2014 admin

  • Price: $12,900,000
  • Location: Park City, UT

This 15,000-square-foot ski home listed for $12.9 million is headed to auction without a reserve price.—Stefanos Chen