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OPULENCE & SPLENDOUR

Luxury and the artsFrom houses to cars and from Hockney to van Dyck, a profile of the best and the worst

Why pay less?

Living life to the full Donald G. Abbey style

 

“Why pay less when you can pay more?” is a mantra that some strangely choose to live by. In my time, I have encountered a couple with a different Ferrari for each day of the week, someone who proudly declared their home had a window for each day of the year and an heiress who insists upon the local baker feeding her dog daily with a freshly baked caviar pie.

 

When I discovered a house in California priced at $78,000,000, I didn’t expect to subsequently find out that the same vendor is also selling another of his homes in Montana at the very same price. Having done a little research into Donald G. Abbey, the commercial real estate tycoon who owns both The Bradbury Estate and Shelter Island, I discovered that here indeed is another personality whose excess knows no bounds.

 

I suppose when people sell homes of this worth, the asking price they set is quite irrelevant. “What,” I’m sure they ask, “is $5 million between friends?” Equally, when it comes to developing such properties, characters of this nature do not show any reserve. Bling is most definitely the order of the day and the larger and flashier one can build, I guess, the better.

 

An aerial shot of The Bradbury Estate, 172 Bliss Canyon Road, Bradbury, California, CA 91008, USA
The front elevation of the main house
The owner and his guests need not get wet on arrival in their limousines

 

Abbey’s Bradbury Estate is a case in point. This vast property consists of a 33,000 square foot main house with 7 bedrooms and 10 bathrooms. It is almost entirely made of French limestone and includes a chef’s kitchen with a pizza oven, a 2,000 bottle wine cellar, an oak paneled elevator and a leather paneled poker room. Bedrooms include domes with hand painted frescos and in addition there is a detached 6,700 square foot guest house above a 10 car garage and a 5,700 square foot pool house with a catering kitchen, gym, massage room and a subterranean EPA certified 25 yard rifle shooting range complete with a gun storage room and 2 large safes.

 

The hall of the main residence comes complete with a gallery and bar
A vast library provides the perfect space to enjoy a good book
The library’s glazed ceiling
Another palatial reception room
The house features a rather impressive kitchen
Mr Abbey’s copper bath tub comes complete with a mat displaying his initials in front of it

 

Within the 8 acre grounds there is a cross shaped infinity-edged pool – perhaps Mr Abbey is religious – that is “just a few feet short of Olympic length.” It requires 350,000 gallons of water if it is to be filled to capacity. Adjoining this is something even more ludicrous: a 1,000,000 gallon, temperature-controlled rainbow trout pond that cost some $8,000,000 to construct. The pond is said to be “adorned with perennials,” is heated by a custom gravity separator with UV filters and is “chilled for the trout by a 300-tonne central cooling plant.” At Bradbury, thoughts of water crisis in Sudan and Ethiopia come way behind the needs of Abbey’s rainbows.

 

The rear of the house viewed from above The Bradbury Estate’s $8,000,000 trout pond
The estate’s 350,000 gallon near Olympic length cross shaped infinity edged swimming pool
The property’s EPA certified 25 yard rifle range

 

For those wanting to avoid California’s UV rays, Bradbury also boasts an acre of porches, decks, loggia and walkways. A 600ft blue stone driveway completes this “once in a lifetime trophy property” that “belongs in the portfolio of the most astute collector” and it has space for “60 foot truck access or multiple limousines.”

 

When Mr Abbey has tired of California, he is able to retreat to his own island in Montana. The 24 acre Shelter Island on Flathead Lake includes 7,000 feet of frontage to the water, a world class sporting clay course and 3 computer controlled tracks and docking systems that allow boats to be landed in the dry dock without riders ever leaving the craft or handling a line. The island is powered via an underground armoured utility cable that carry 12,000 amps to it along with CAT-5 computer cable and phonelines and the main entertaining space features a mammoth television of some 120-inches in size.

 

An aerial view of Donald G. Abbey’s Shelter Island
Mr Abbey’s passion for copper continues with a conservatory made out of the metal on the lakeside elevation of the main residence on Shelter Island
The Great Room of the main residence on Shelter Island
Mr Abbey’s passion for fine wines is displayed in a bar and tasting room in the property
The owner and his guests can access their boats without having to go anywhere near the water

 

Abbey has built over 44,000 square foot of accommodation on his island. The main house has 5 bedrooms and 8 bathrooms. His “Great Room” features ceilings of some 45 foot in height and in addition to yet another indoor shooting range, there is a kitchen that woudn’t look out of place in The Savoy hotel.

 

In the UK, the property most similar to anything Abbey has built has to be Updown Court at Windlesham in Surrey. Developed by a former bricklayer named Leslie Allen-Vercoe, the house was described by him as being: “The most important residence to be built in England since the 19th century.” Architectural critics did not agree and some went as far as to say that it looked like: “A cross between a Tesco superstore and Center Parcs.”

 

Allen-Vercoe’s behemoth of a house is gargantuan in size. With 103 rooms it includes 24 bedrooms, 5 swimming pools, a 2-lane bowling alley, a squash court, a floodlit tennis court, a 50-seat cinema and a panic room. The heated driveway that led to the house is entirely made of marble and cost some £2.5 million to construct but plainly none of this appealed to the market as it languished for sale at a price of £70,000,000 from 2006 to 2011 before being repossessed by the Irish National Asset Management Agency (NAMA). Updown Court was sold for half the original asking price to a foreign buyer in October 2011 and is, I believe, due to undergo extensive remodeling.

 

Updown Court, Chertsey Road, Windlesham, Surrey, GU20 6HY, UK

 

Allen Vercoe once stated: “If Elton John were a house, he’d be Updown Court.” Equally, I imagine if Mr Abbey’s residences were to be compared to any celebrities they’d be the vulgar car crash that is Donatella Versace and the ludicrous money obsessed singer with a dollar sign in her name, Ke$ha.

 

Updown Court, Shelter Island and The Bradbury Estate all illustrate that money cannot buy you good taste. I suppose, though, that those who ultimately come to live in them will have plenty of space to choose how and where to enjoy their own form of misery.

 

For more information about Donald G. Abbey, go to: http://www.theabbeyco.com

 

For information on both The Bradbury Estate and Shelter Island, contact Bob Hurwitz of the Hurwitz James Company on +1 310-477-8865. Website: http://www.hurwitzjamesco.com

 

A website devoted to The Bradbury Estate can be viewed at: http://www.bradburyestate.com

 

A video of Shelter Island can be watched at: http://vimeo.com/11404637

 

For more details on Updown Court, go to: http://www.updowncourt.com/

 

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