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The Real Deal Los Angeles

Playboy Mansion will need a full-frontal renovation

“The whole place smells like a urinal"

August 19, 2016 08:30AM
By Cathaleen Chen

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Hefner, Metropoulos and the Playboy Mansion at 10236 Charing Cross Road

Hugh Hefner, Daren Metropoulos and the Playboy Mansion at 10236 Charing Cross Road

UPDATED, 9:40 a.m., Aug. 19: In case you haven’t heard, the Playboy Mansion has a new owner.

His name is Daren Metropoulos. His father is the billionaire investor who currently owns Hostess. He was already Hugh Hefner’s neighbor before coughing up a cool $100 million for the iconic pleasure palace. Got it? Good.

Now, here’s where it gets interesting.

The 33-year-old plans to combine the two Tudor Revival-style estates to create one giant compound, according to his spokesperson. The resulting 7.3-acre residence would emulate the original vision laid out by architect Arthur Roland Kelly in 1929.

In other words, he probably won’t be demolishing the bunny fortress.

But before Metropoulos can take a dip in the grotto, he must restore his new home. Those who know the property said it will be an arduous — and expensive — process. Not to mention, Hefner will remain in the mansion until his death, as stipulated in the deal.

“The property needs a lot of work,” luxury broker Greg Harris of Compass told TRD. “But it’s a great house and can’t be duplicated or rebuilt.”

Renovations, according to interior designer Kenneth Bordewick, could cost as much as the house itself. With his company Beverly Hills Luxury Interiors, Bordewick renovated the Playboy Mansion’s bathrooms about a decade ago.

“It’s in horrible disrepair and the whole place smells like a urinal,” Bordewick said.

Inside the Playboy Mansion (Credit: SF Home Decor)

Inside the Playboy Mansion (Credit: SF Home Decor)

Fellow Beverly Hills interior designer David Phoenix had a lower renovation estimate — $20 million, or what socialite Petra Ecclestone paid to renovate her $85 million Spelling Manor.

But Phoenix added that the process could take four to six years.

“The whole property needs to be gutted,” he said. That means new plumbing, electricity, lighting, flooring and beyond.

If there’s one thing the experts agree on, it’s that the Playboy Mansion, in its current state, is a dire departure from its original grandeur.

The biggest challenge will be preserving its history while updating the structure to modern luxury standards, according to both designers.

No toes in the grotto

Restoring the Playboy Mansion won’t be too novel for its new owner. In 2009, Metropoulos bought the property next door, also built by Kelly, and renovated it extensively.

“I feel fortunate and privileged to now own a one-of-a-kind piece of history and art,” he said in a statement announcing the closing of his latest buy. “I look forward to eventually rejoining the two estates and enjoying this beautiful property as my private residence for years to come.”

Metropoulos also obtained all the statues and arcade games on the property, according to someone close to the deal.

But are they worth keeping?

“I would get rid of 90 percent of the furniture,” Bordewick said, “[It would be] 100 percent, but there’s some historic value.”

The infamous grotto (Credit: Vivomasks)

The infamous grotto (Credit: Vivomasks)

His other ideas for renovations? A his-and-hers extension of the master suite, new security systems, an estate curator, a better theater, a manicure-pedicure salon, a hotel-caliber spa, and a total makeover for the infamous grotto.

“I’d rip it out,” Phoenix agreed. “I don’t know anyone who would want put their toe in that.”

He added that he would optimize the park-like grounds and brighten the decor.

“With this [gothic] style of architecture, it tends to be dark,” Phoenix said. “I would give it light — a town and country look that says, ‘hello.’”

A stately past

Before the Playboy Mansion became the shangri-la of every post-adolescent male in America, it was the stately home of Arthur Letts Jr., the heir of Broadway Department Stores. His father, the elder Letts, was the developer of Holmby Hills in its entirety.
But the British-born magnate died before he could create his own manor in the 400-acre neighborhood, which he named after his childhood village of Holdenby, according to Curbed. And so his son took up the torch and hired Arthur Kelly to design a high-society abode.

“It is to be of the rambling English type,” reported the L.A. Times in 1926. “The work of landscaping the grounds is now under way, rare plants and trees for the estate being furnished by the famous Letts hothouses in Hollywood.”

(Credit: SkyscraperPage.com)

(Credit: SkyscraperPage.com)

When it was complete, the estate had a redwood grove, an aviary and a secret bar. The arboretum, Bordewick said, is still in existence today.

Letts, Jr. lived in the sprawling mansion throughout his three marriages until his death in 1959. Two years later, aerospace inventor Louis Statham and his wife Anne became its new owners. Their renovations took another two years, and by the time they moved in, the mansion had a new playhouse, which would later become a trophy room, game room and meeting room.

Its modern chapter came to be in 1971, when Hefner acquired it for just over $1 million, then the largest real estate transaction in L.A. history. And the rest was, well, also history.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified the brokerage Greg Harris is affiliated with. 

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