In an edition of Vogue UK a few years ago, Tom Ford gave 15 tips for the upstanding modern man. Since then, the list has been circulating around the internet, as a sort of style breviary. One of the tips was to throw away all your socks and underwear every six months and buy fresh ones. The Texan designer appears to have a similar philosophy when it comes to real estate.
In recent years, Ford has gotten rid of his Victorian house in the London neighborhood of Chelsea, a ranch in Santa Fe, New Mexico – commissioned from Pritzker Prize winner Tadao Ando in the 2000s – and an iconic house designed by legendary architect Richard Neutra in Bel Air, Los Angeles. In exchange, he just bought an exclusive winter retreat in Florida, in addition to other luxurious properties such as a majestic villa in Los Angeles and an emblematic house in Manhattan, formerly owned by designer Roy Halston.
In mid-November of last year, Estée Lauder announced the purchase of the Tom Ford brand for over $2.8 billion. A few weeks later – just before Christmas – an 11,000 square-foot house on a one-acre lot was sold in Palm Beach for the tidy sum of $51 million. A few days ago, the name of the buyer came to light: Tom Ford, who celebrated the lucrative sale of his firm by treating himself to a real estate whim in Florida’s most exclusive enclave.
The property is located at 241 Jungle Road, two blocks from the site of Jeffrey Epstein’s house of horrors and a four-minute drive from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort. Behind a thick, vigorous screen hedge and surrounded by slender native palm trees stands a large, white, rectilinear, single-story concrete mansion. On his Instagram account, the architect, Daniel Kahan, describes it as an example of “classical modernism.” Kahan is one of the many local professionals trained in satisfying and shaping the dreams and whims of the wealthy Palm Beach residents. “It doesn’t scream at you, as some modern architecture does,” he said in 2019, when his project received an award for excellence from the Preservation Foundation of Palm Beach.
With large windows on all sides, bleached oak floors and ceilings that reach 15 feet high, the newly minted villa is awash in space and light. The visitor who walks through the frosted glass of the main entrance can see the pool area, all the way on the opposite side of the house, while passing through the large central courtyard, which has glass walls. The interior patio is flanked by the library and the dinning room.
Near the back of the house, a large living area opens up to a breakfast area and kitchen. There is also an office, a music room and three bedrooms (as well as an extra two in the guest annex). The layout of the residence is simple: it has conventional good taste and obsessive symmetry. While it only has a single chimney, from the outside, it cannot be distinguished from three other false ones built to balance the aesthetic. On the roof, 230 solar panels – surrounded by beds of grass – produce an amount of energy that is equivalent to what the house consumes.
The purchase figure may seem dizzying to the average person, but $51 million is well within the common price range in Palm Beach, one of the most sought-after areas to live in the United States. For years now, the most important properties located on this narrow island an hour and a quarter north of Miami, which extends almost 20 miles (30 kilometers) parallel to the mainland, have gone for $100 million. Last June, billionaire and eccentric Oracle founder Larry Ellison bought a large property in nearby Manalapan for $173 million, a year after paying $80 million for a large Italian-style mansion on a three-acre oceanfront estate.
These types of top-priced assets are located on the oceanfront, or on the shores of the calmer and more navigable waters of Lake Worth: the inland lagoon that separates the island from the mainland. This is where you can find the mansions that have their own jetties, as seen in Hollywood films. But Tom Ford’s new house has neither one nor the other. It is, in fact, the non-waterfront property – to use local real estate jargon – that has fetched the highest price to date.
In 2021, financier Rob Heyvaert paid $35.8 million for it to its original owners, who had purchased it in 2014 for $7.9 million. In just a little over a year, Heyvaert has made a profit of more than $15 million.
Since the pandemic, the luxury market in Palm Beach is experiencing a boom, fueled by large fortunes. There is an enormous demand and a dwindling supply on this island of just four square miles. While prices are cooling in the rest of the most exclusive spots in the United States, the very rich continue to take up residence in this enclave of South Florida, paying whatever they can, especially for houses that are move-in ready.
In an interview with Bloomberg, Gary Pohrer – the director of sales for one of the largest real estate companies in Palm Beach – said that, for many wealthy people, “time is more valuable than money. There isn’t much to choose from [in Palm Beach]. Whoever wants to have a house for the winter season knows that they’ll have to pay for it.”
Without a doubt, Ford, already immensely rich before the deal with Estée Lauder, is one of the few with enough financial muscle to pay $51 million for a warm winter. He also has the added assurance that he is making a good investment.
The Palm Beach mansion is perhaps the most conventional of Ford’s known properties. In 2019, he sold his Brown-Sidney house, designed by the Austrian modernist Richard Neutra, for $20 million. Ford bought it in 1997, when he was in charge of Gucci, for just over $2 million. In November 2022, it was reported that Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi – two other big real estate aficionados – had gotten hold of it for $29 million.
But even after he sold that mid-century Neutra jewel, Ford was not left without a home in California. In 2016, he acquired a mansion from the socialite Betsy Bloomingdale, who died that same year: a magnificent Italian-inspired villa, built in the 1920s in the Holmby Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles. It was adapted in the style of the Hollywood Regency by Bloomingdale in the 1950s with the help of Billy Haines, the renowned interior designer to the biggest Hollywood stars.
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