I have the remarkable opportunity to see so many fabulous homes that I’m frequently asked, which ones are your favorites? Right up there on my top ten list has to be the remarkable Hacienda de La Paz in Rolling Hills on the Palos Verdes Peninsula. This 7.72 acre estate on prime land with overlooking the Pacific Ocean has a subterranean secret: 80 percent of the 50,000 square foot residence is underground.
Why, you may ask? The area has an ordinance that all buildings must be single story, so no one’s view is blocked. Seafood tycoon John Z. Blazevich, chief executive of the Viva Food Group, spent 17 years excavating and constructing five stories underground. One of the most extraordinary stories holds a 10,000-sqaure-foot Moroccan-style Turkish bath, or hammam, with a cobalt-blue lap pool at its center, accented with 24-karat gold tiles, fountains and imported columns and corbels.
Another room of note is the massive ballroom that doubles as a USTA regulation tennis court and emergency shelter. Five stories high and capable of seating 350 guests, the vast room is decorated with floor-to-ceiling trompe l’oeil murals. But if you’d rather play tennis in a more natural setting you can also use the red-clay tennis court built to French Open specifications.
In total there are nine bedrooms and 25 bathrooms with Moroccan hand-cut tile floors in Hacienda de la Paz. One is a women’s powder room with a confessional-style window between the two stalls so the ladies can chat. The large number of bathrooms can be attributed to the ballroom and tennis court needing to accommodate the private needs of hundreds of people over one time period. The house was built for grand entertaining.
The home was designed by the architect to European royalty, Rafael Manzano Martos, renowned curator for King Juan Carlos of Spain. Hacienda de la Paz is the only home in the Americas to have been designed by Manzano. Many of the materials he used were imported from Spain, Portugal and Italy, and the workers and craftsmen who painted the murals and frescoes, inlaid the tile and installed elaborate ceilings, fireplaces, floors and carpets, also came from European countries to guarantee authenticity and craftsmanship.
If the inside of the home is staggering, so is the outside. The property is lush with orchards and Mediterranean herbs trees and flowers that grow in traditional Moorish gardens, inspired by an early 1900’s Andalusian country estate. There are also stables that have been reconfigured as guest quarters, and a private chapel. Buildings have custom-forged door and window fixtures, as well as tile roofing created by the same artisans who have restored the roofs of the California missions. There are also orchards, an olive grove that produces fruit for pressing into oil, and an above-ground pool.
A number of people have asked me, “who needs a 50,000 square foot home? Isn’t that an exercise in excess?” Well, I suppose it is, but a house that size is an industry unto itself, providing hundreds of people with jobs in the building of it, and many more in its maintenance. The owners host countless fundraisers there, and contribute vast amounts to charity. It’s certainly an investment in the Southern California economy. So who am I to judge? I’m just here to enjoy, and share the wealth with you.