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2018’s Five Most Expensive Gifts in Real Estate – And Affordable House Plan Alternatives

Check Out Our Annual List of Amazing Homes . . . And Intriguing Options That Aren’t Budget-Busters


With the days of 2018 dwindling to a precious few, the ultra-rich – who at times fly under the radar – are seriously examining their portfolios for properties that are ready for the sale block. On top of the list is the spectacular Lonsdaleite Estate in the ski resort of St. Moritz, followed by the Wallingford Estate in Beverly Hills, a royal palace in Turkey, a mansion perched on a popular beach in Vancouver’s Billionaires’ Row, and an elegant 18th-century house hidden inside a secluded Irish valley.

So prepare yourself for a magical trip as we zigzag the globe searching for these fanciful Christmas gifts in real estate, from snow-capped mountains in St. Moritz to a promontory in Beverly Hills, the banks of the Bosphorus, the Vancouver waterfront, and the lush landscape of the Irish countryside. And while that’s fun, we also scoured our luxury house plans to find some homes that approximate these gems in a floor plan that you can afford to buy – and build if you’re interested in realizing your dream home at long last.


#1 Lonsdaleite Estate – St. Moritz, Switzerland

      $185 Million

The rather unimposing exterior façade of Lonsdaleite Estate may throw you off. But don’t be fooled. Nestled in the mountains of St. Moritz, it is Switzerland’s priciest property – and is on the market for $185 million (a “bargain” compared with 2017’s Chartwell Estate, which hit the market at $350 million). The home is a show-stopping wonder with all the comfort and luxury of a palatial residence.

Lonsdaleite Estate – sometimes referred to as a Swiss chalet, villa and castle – is a 43,000-square-foot seven-level jaw-dropping retreat of unequalled and intriguing architectural features. There are six bedrooms and 6+ bathrooms – a modest number but staggering in the amenities within those spaces.

What else makes Lonsdaleite a dazzling wonder of a property? How about an amazing central foyer with a six-sided floating staircase that leads down to five ensuite bedrooms; an elevator that takes you to a private level to the master suite with a huge white-onyx bathroom with a 360-degree glass shower; a two-story great room, formal dining room, gourmet kitchen, and breakfast room with 24-karat-gold-leaf walls; a grand entertainment room with 178 floating Swarovski candles; and a world-class Penthouse level where automatic drapes unveil a $1,800,000 sculpture?

Going Up

Let’s start with the huge glass staircase, which anchors the home. Walk into the foyer, and catch a glimpse of the luxurious and intriguing six-sided staircase. This stunning engineering wonder shows no visible support beams and seems to float in the air.

Meet and Greet

The dramatic staircase opens into a Grand Reception Area – where on one side are two towering fireplaces framed by 35-foot floor-to-ceiling glass windows that provide panoramic views of the magnificent Swiss Alps, and opposite the fireplaces is a wall covered with mink.

Relaxing Read

On the other side of the grand reception room is another whimsical feature of Lonsdaleite – a crushed-red-velvet-encased library. Press a button, and the scarlet walls open into a secret home office.


How’s this for luxurious innovation? The breakfast nook – shaped like a cracked egg – is adorned with a 24-karat gold-leaf wall. Completing the out-of-this-world look is a custom-made hanging egg sculpture priced at $145,000.

Other show-stopping features are a six-car garage, private chairlift to the ski slopes, wine cellar, $1.3 million state-of-the-art home theater, spa with a pink Himalayan salt room, sauna, subzero ice chamber, and private massage area, subterranean pool, and Jacuzzi. (For a closer look at all the astounding architectural elements of Lonsdaleite, check out CNBC’s “Secret Lives of the Super Rich - The Lonsdaleite Premiere.”)


Budget-Friendly Alternative

Only a multi-millionaire or a billionaire can snap up Lonsdaleite Estate. But you don’t need that kind of money to call the gorgeous two-story Mediterranean style home with spectacular views – below – your very own. Spread over 7,805 square feet, the home has four bedrooms, five bathrooms, three half-baths, four garage bays, and an intriguing entrance tower into the large courtyard and through the front porch.

Mediterranean style home with a beautifully landscaped courtyard

Glass tower shows high ceilings and exposed beams, chandelier, a staircase with its elaborately designed railing, and one of the bedrooms in the basement

Top: This stately Mediterranean style home with a beautifully landscaped courtyard, symmetrical columns, and a stone façade features an architecturally fascinating entrance tower surrounded by huge panoramic windows. Bottom: Through the tower’s panel of windows, peak into the home’s high ceilings and exposed beams, chandelier, a staircase with its elaborately designed railing, and one of the bedrooms in the basement (Plan #161-1034).


The master suite on the main floor comes with a sitting area, a master bath with his-and-her sinks, and a walk-in closet that opens onto a private patio. Also on the first level is a study, a laundry room, a formal dining room, and a spacious kitchen with an island, peninsula, and butler’s pantry. From the kitchen, you can walk into a casual dining room and a Great Room that has a fireplace and half bath. The Great Room opens into the rear veranda.

Floor plan of house plan #161-1034

The main level illustrates the location of living and social spaces as well as the dining and kitchen areas, butler’s pantry, mud room, and study (Plan #161-1034).


In the basement are a huge recreation room with a billiards space and media area, a second fireplace, bar, wine cellar, home theater, and locker room. The other two bedrooms are also located in the basement. One suite has a sitting area, access to a veranda, and a split ensuite bathroom; the second has a private bath with access to a veranda and patio. There is also unfinished storage space in the basement.

Recreation area in house plan #161-1034

Enjoy the amenities in the well-equipped basement of this Mediterranean home! Sit at the bar, enjoy a glass of wine, play billiards, or watch a movie or a sporting event  (Plan #161-1034).


#2 Wallingford Estate – Beverly Hills, California 

     $135 Million

From the Swiss Alps, we travel to a promontory in Beverly Hills where the French-style two-story Wallingford Estate sits in all its glory on a five-acre site. Going for $135 million, the estate consists of a 31,000-square-foot primary house plus 15,000 square feet for other structures on the property. It is fully fenced and has entrance and exit gates from two different private streets and plenty of space for 90 vehicles.

There are seven bedrooms in the main residence – including four family suites on the second floor, two service suites in the basement, and a 5,300-square-foot master suite. But in total, the estate has 12 bedrooms, 24 baths, 15 fireplaces, and two fire pits.

Originally built in 2000 to resemble “Le Petit Trianon” – Marie Antoinette’s private chateau in Versailles, the newly renovated and expanded Wallingford Estate is being marketed fully furnished.

Change of Hands

After the property was on and off the market for some years, healthcare entrepreneur Jeoung Lee bought Wallingford Estates in 2005, then put it back on the market for $37.5 million in 2015. In 2016 it was purchased for $22 million by real estate mogul Gala Asher, who proceeded to update the mansion and add more buildings – with the main objective of reselling it. (It’s worth noting that Asher has successfully developed and sold luxury homes to high-profile and ultra-wealthy clients like Forbes 400 hedge fund manager Steve Cohen and Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores.)

While Asher never resided in Wallingford Estates, he commissioned major updates, including a more contemporary interior design and high-tech touches: home automation, state-of-the-art lighting and entertainment systems, a backup generator, and an advanced security system.

Let’s Play

Among Wallingford’s other attractions are a 2,500-square-foot covered and heated patio, home theater, wine room, whiskey lounge, spa with hair and nail salon, sauna, stylist, and massage area. The “out” buildings include a 5,000-square-foot guest penthouse with two master suites, an 800-square-foot cabana with an outdoor kitchen and bath, a two-bedroom guard house, and a caretaker’s home.

Finally, there’s the very high-end indoor recreational space. Imagine a sports lounge with TVs, a bar, and a 20-foot video wall that overlooks a facility for basketball, pickleball, and paddle tennis. Add two private tennis courts, a cardio gym, a boxing ring, weights, and the infinity pool to complete the picture.


Down-to-Earth French Country Home

If you fancy Wallingford Estate’s French touches, take a close look below at this charming and extraordinary 1.5-story French-style home with country influences. Not as huge at 4,629 square feet, with four bedrooms and 4.5 baths plus a four-bay garage, this delightful home has its own appeal and attractions.

French-style home with plants, tall trees, and red flowers

There are no double gates, but the entrance to this stunning French-style home is a sight for sore eyes. There are plants, tall trees, and red flowers on each side of the entryway; arches, sconces, and potted plants lead to the front door (Plan #120-2539).


The master suite with master bath occupies one wing of the main level and comes with walk-in closets and large windows that look into the pool. Another bedroom is on the opposite end of the main level. The other two bedrooms are on the upper level.

There is a study and a huge kitchen with a breakfast nook, kitchen island, walk-in pantry, and butler’s pantry. Other amenities include a main floor laundry, a two-story family room, two fireplaces, a game room, a home office, covered front and rear porches, a gorgeous courtyard, and a pool.

Family room furnished with a mix of period and modern pieces

Cozy breakfast nook and kitchen island

Study in French-style home is also a library and home office

Rear yard with pool, open archways, arched glass windows

Top: The family room is furnished with a mix of period and modern pieces to give it a country and “Old World” feel. Large sofas and a fireplace ensure the family’s comfort and warmth in the space. Upper Center: Enjoy a casual meal in the cozy breakfast nook of the kitchen, or perch yourself on a chair at the kitchen island. Lower Center: The study in the French-style home is also a library and home office. After a hard day’s work, you can sit on one of the chairs, put your feet up, and relax. Bottom: From any room in the house – whether through open archways, by the pool, or through the arched glass windows – family and guests can bask in the sunlight or moonlight (Plan #120-2539).


#3 Ottoman Castle on the Bosphorus – Istanbul, Turkey

     $95 Million

If royalty and antiques fascinate you – and you have $95 million – there’s a historic five-story brick-and-mortar 23-bedroom castle that sits on a lush private garden on the bank of the Bosphorus Strait in Turkey waiting for you. With 360 ft. fronting the Bosphorus, the mansion – located on the European side of the city – is one of the biggest estates on the Istanbul waterfront.

On the market for five years now, the 26,900-square-foot Istanbul mansion goes back to the late 19th century during the last days of the Ottoman Empire. One of the sultan’s ministers commissioned the French architect Alexandre Vallaury to design the five-story residence, which had manicured gardens, a ground-floor Turkish bath, and huge windows overlooking the Bosphorus.

When the minister went into exile, the house was left empty until it was deeded to the youngest daughter of the last Ottoman sultan. After the sultanate was abolished in 1922, the princess and her family fled to southern France – leaving the house empty until it was purchased by the Bastimar tobacco family.

From Home to Storage – to Home

In the beginning, the Bastimar family used the mansion as a tobacco storage space and lived in a nearby palatial home. When the Bastimars eventually moved into the Ottoman mansion, they kept it for 85 years.

Since then, four generations of the family have resided in the home and preserved its intricate interior decoration and original furnishings. There are chairs owned by Louis XIV, Murano chandeliers, windows, marble, and ceilings that date back to the Ottomans.

The mansion has 23 bedrooms, four living rooms, and eight bathrooms, as well as four large foyers. Each floor has a grand reception room facing the water and rooms on either side have views of the Bosphorus.

An elevator serves all the floors in addition to two staircases. Among the other features are a waterfront with a private pier, an observatory on the roof, and an enclosed garage for four cars. The castle’s “folklore” includes stories about a large marble sink in one of the reception rooms being turned on during important meetings to dissuade curious family and staff from eavesdropping.

Currently, the house is occupied by the family matriarch, her daughter-in-law, and her granddaughter. The women live on separate floors with separate staff.

If you are intrigued by this historic landmark, have the money, and can get over living under a massive suspension bridge, with eight lanes of traffic above, you can definitely start bidding for the property.


More-Affordable Castle

You don’t have to travel to Istanbul to find a castle-like home – on a more affordable scale. What about a luxury European-style two-story, six-bedroom, five-bath home spread over 7,236 square feet of space as your very own Ottoman castle?

Majestic castle-like 2-story European-style home

This majestic castle-like 2-story European-style home with a brick/stone exterior façade and an impressive entry can be your dream palace (Plan #106-1031).


The residence has a two-story foyer, an incredible grand salon with doors that lead out to a veranda. The main floor master is furnished with his and her walk-in closets, a sitting room, and a nice master bathroom. Also on the main level are a kitchen with keeping and morning rooms, dining room, walk-in and butler’s pantries, a laundry room, and a library. In addition, there is an amazing theater room – great for movie and game nights with friends and family – a game room, and a wine cellar.

There are manicured lawns, a courtyard, a private garden, fountains, a pool, and outdoor dining and entertaining space. 

 Kiosk-style structure houses the outdoor kitchen/dining and entertaining space

Fountains and waterworks are attractive and appealing

Elegant two-story foyer featuring a stunning chandelier

Top: This kiosk-style structure houses the outdoor kitchen/dining and entertaining space. A round table with chairs is ready for those who prefer to dine really alfresco and stay close to the pool and the gorgeous manicured grounds Middle: It’s not the Bosphorus, but the fountains and waterworks are attractive and appealing. Bottom: Inside the home is this elegant two-story foyer featuring a stunning chandelier, a marble fireplace, and an intricately finished second-story railing (Plan #106-1171).

 Modern kitchen with exposed beams and an island with two sinks

Dining room with large glass windows

Fully stocked wine cellar for special occasions and family nights

Top: This modern kitchen with exposed beams has an island with two sinks, plenty of counter space for prep, and built-ins for storage space. The eat-in kitchen island is perfect for informal meals or snacks. Middle: You can also have sit-down dinners in this formal dining room as you watch the sun go down through the large glass windows. Bottom: No castle – or luxury home – is complete without a wine cellar. This European-style home comes with a fully-stocked one for special occasions and family nights (Plan #106-1171).


#4 Waterfront Mansion – Vancouver, British Columbia

      $47 Million

For almost half of the price of the Turkish castle, you can buy another large waterfront property – this one in Vancouver’s Billionaires’ Row. The asking price of $48 million is for a manor atop a popular beach with panoramic views of downtown Vancouver, and the snow-capped North Shore Mountains across the bay.

According to Sotheby’s International Realty Canada, the price tag for the mansion – owned by self-made billionaire Joe Segal and his wife Rosalie – is the highest-ever for a single-family residential home listed in the Vancouver area.

For the curious, Segal left school at age 14 and joined the Canadian Army during World War II. After the war, he started buying military surplus goods, and selling them to farmers. The business empire he has built since those early days cover retail manufacturing and real estate, including Fields Stores Ltd., a popular no-frills chain across western Canada.

Now, 92 years old, Segal has decided to put the spectacular estate on the market – but is willing to wait for someone “who will respect and treasure it.”

And there’s a lot to treasure about the home. The French gardens inspired by Versailles are a veritable private park containing 12,000 tulips, daffodils and hyacinths, magnolias, lilacs, and rhododendrons.

Luxury and History

Among the many distinct features of the five-bedroom, 12-bath Segal mansion are the double height foyer lit with a huge chandelier and lined with priceless works of art, a carpeted winding staircase with an ornately finished railing, an elevator, and a six-car garage. Then there is the indoor pool surrounded by wide arches. There are two main gallery halls that can accommodate up to 100 guests for private concerts.

By the way, the chandelier is included in the sale price. This collector’s item originally came from a French chateau which fell into the possession of Benito Mussolini during World War II. It was eventually returned to its owners – and subsequently sold. If you’re ready to love and care for this estate – and have $48 million – you can negotiate with Sotheby’s and Joe Segal.

Budget-Friendly Mansion

With panoramic vistas of the ocean, natural landscapes and clear blue skies, this two-story Shingle-style home - with 4,580 square feet of living space, five bedrooms and five baths and an attached three-car garage - has enough unique elements to make you rethink the Vancouver waterfront mansion.

2-story, 5-bedroom Shingle-style home

Rear exterior view of Shingle style home with trimmed lawns and the natural surroundings

Top: A courtyard entry, a delightful wrap-around porch and dormers add to the charm of this 2-story, 5-bedroom Shingle-style home. Bottom: The rear exterior view of the home highlights the trimmed lawns and the natural surroundings (Plan #168-1132).


The home has a courtyard entry, a wrap-around porch, covered rear porch, fireplace, kitchen, a kitchen island, peninsula/eating bar, walk-in pantry, first and second floor laundry rooms, a home office, family room and guest room.

All the bedrooms are on the second level including the master suite with a master bath and walk-in closet.

Potted plants and flowers line the entry and steps leading to the front door

Covered rear porch of Shingle style home

Top: Colorful potted plants and flowers lining the entry and steps leading to the front door and a pair of tall white columns enhance its curb appeal. Bottom: And now for the views to feast your eyes on! The covered rear porch is the spot for hours of taking in the serene and calm atmosphere – if you’re lucky enough to be able to find a similar lot (Plan #168-1132).


#5 Luggala Estate – Roundwood, Dublin, Ireland

      $30 Million

If you want to stay in the European countryside, a fairy-tale property in Ireland may be your cup of tea. Luggala Estate, located about 28 miles southwest of Dublin, is now on the market for $30 million. The breathtaking site overlooks the scenic Lough Tay and the Djouce Mountain in the heart of the Wicklow Mountains.

The magical 5,000-acre estate – which has been in the Guinness brewing family for 80 years – has enchanted filmmakers throughout the years and has been used for movies such as Excalibur, King Arthur, Braveheart, Becoming Jane, P.S. I Love You, and television series including Camelot, The Tudors and Vikings.

Rich History

But before the Guinness family ownership, we go back to 1796 for the first known account of Luggala from the Irish historian John Ferrar who wrote about the beauty and wonder of the place. His description of the rivers, mountains, and rocks around the piece of land attracted visitors, including a wealthy Irish banker named Peter La Touche who bought the lands in the late 1700s.

In 1937 – after renting Luggala for 25 years, the Honorable Arthur Ernest Guinness, who was now at the helm of the family brewery in Dublin – bought the estate as a wedding present for his youngest daughter Oonagh. In 1996, Oonagh’s son embarked on a four-year renovation of Luggala that included the recreation of the original arched windows, and the restoration of chimneys and battlements to their correct height and scale.

The center of the property is a Gothic-style white castle called Luggala Lodge. Built by La Touche in 1787, the lodge has decorative battlements, arched windows, and quatrefoil designs. Outside, 18th-century landscape gardens, twisted Irish oak trees, and majestic cliffs surround the residences.

Like a fairy-tale home, the historic Luggala Lodge is nestled in virtual seclusion in the sprawling property. Within the 7,438-square-foot castle-like residence are seven bedrooms, four bathrooms, and three living rooms. Enhancing the storybook atmosphere of Luggala Lodge’s interiors are arched windows, Irish paintings, period-specific furniture, antique fireplaces, and ornate chandeliers.

Also within the estate is a two-story Georgian residence called Cloghoge House. This guest house comes with four bedrooms, four bathrooms, and two living rooms. There are also seven additional lodges and cottages scattered across the estate.

Love the Irish? Here’s your opportunity to own the majestic Luggala Estate – as long as you have $30 million to spare.


You Wont Need a Pot of Gold . . .

It’s not exactly Ireland and Luggala Estate. But this stately 5,258-square-foot, two-story Colonial home with a courtyard entry, three bedrooms and four baths situated on a huge property is something to think about.

2-story Colonial-style home with white columns that frame the front doo

Aerial shot focuses on the massive lush grounds and natural landscape around house plan #106-1189

Top: Old World elegance and symmetry defines this amazing 2-story Colonial-style home – starting with the white columns that frame the front door, the small-paned glass windows and the shrubbery that surrounds its exterior. Bottom: Is this a small-scale Luggala? An aerial shot of the home focuses on the massive lush grounds and natural landscape that surrounds it (Plan #106-1189).


The luxury Colonial plan has a main floor master bedroom with a master bath, sitting room and two walk-in closets.  Bow windows line the living room to allow wonderful views of the natural environment. On the first floor next to the master suite is a library, dining room, family room, and kitchen with an island, peninsula/eating bar, and walk-in pantry, plus a laundry room.

Other features include a fireplace, balcony, patio, upper foyer, grand salon, and three-car garage.

Floor plan of house plan #161-1189

The first floor plan of the home illustrates the locations of the master suite, Great Room (dining/living/kitchen areas), morning room, and family room, which leads to the veranda (Plan 106-1189).


As you can see, there are a lot of amazing luxury house plans around that are as unique and intriguing as the super-expensive estates of the ultra-wealthy – and, most importantly, they are affordable!


Footnote: The lead image in this article is the fabulous Wallingford Estate in the exclusive section of Los Angeles’ Beverly Hills. For more details on the property, click here.

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