Day in the life of: Scott Gillen

Scott Gillen (Photo by Jeff Newton)
Scott Gillen (Photo by Jeff Newton)

If Scott Gillen isn’t Malibu’s most ambitious builder — and he may well be — he’s definitely its most colorful. The cigar-chomping developer is a fixture in town, where you can find him having lunch at Soho House’s Malibu outpost or zipping around to construction sites in one of his 18 classic cars, which he proudly displays on Instagram for his nearly 18,ooo followers. The native Angeleno has built 23 luxury spec homes in the seaside city, designing them with a distinct minimalist style that emphasizes bare woods, modernist lines and ocean views. His firm, Unvarnished, recently broke ground on his largest project to date,“five fucking spectacular mid-century modern homes” in the Case development, Gillen said. The 11,000-square-foot homes will go up on a 24-acre cliffside site that cost a “gross” sum of money. Gillen’s estimate is $50 million — a record price for an undeveloped land purchase in Malibu. He plans to list each residence for $40 to $60 million. But Gillen’s interests extend beyond spec homes and classic cars. He’s also directed a number of car commercials and television shows. A 30-year resident of Malibu, Gillen lives in one of his own builds with his wife, Teri, his teenage daughter, Sophia, and his German shepherd, Fredo. Gillen ran TRD through his typical day, which includes plenty of cigars and yelling. 

5:30 a.m. I don’t know why, but my brain is just set to wake up on the money at 5:30 a.m. I have an alarm on my phone, but I usually beat it by a couple minutes.

5:45 a.m. I let my dog, Fredo, out, and I head down to the gym I have in my house. I’ll ride the bike for 20 or 25 minutes, and then I’ll lift weights after that. Fredo is a German shepherd.

6:15 a.m. I head upstairs to the kitchen and make breakfast. I eat oatmeal every day. I stopped drinking coffee four months ago. I realized I wasn’t really getting anything out of it. I drink orange juice now. That’s when I check my emails.

7:00 a.m. I hop in the shower because I have to be ready to drive my daughter, Sophia, to school. I have a big car collection, but my day-to-day car is a Range Rover.

7:45 a.m. Once I’ve dropped her off, I get to light my first cigar, and I usually head to the Case — that’s my newest project. It’s been in planning for a while, but we broke ground about two and a half months ago. We’re doing five homes there, all at once. Coming out of the ground is the most difficult time, so we’re making sure everything that we think is going into place is actually going into place.

9:00 a.m. I head to the office in Malibu, where I have a meeting with all the department heads. We have an in-house draftsperson, our in-house counsel, I have two design assistants and we have our foreman there, among others. So we go over plans and whatever else is pressing.

11:00 a.m. I head up to the New Castle, another project I’m finishing up right now. I go up to walk the job and make sure everything is coming out just fine. Right now, we’re putting in the staircase and we’re installing a 100-inch Samsung television. It’s the only one in North America. We’re also looking over any problems in the house so they can be rectified.

Sandro Dazzan

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11:45 a.m. At this point, I usually call my real estate agents and yell at them a bunch. Right now, I’m what you call a free agent. I recently left Coldwell Banker and I’m in the middle of negotiating a new contract with The Agency. [Gillen’s exclusive agent, Sandro Dazzan, left Coldwell Banker for The Agency in February and took Gillen’s portfolio with him.] After checking in with them, I head to house number three, the Who, to check in with my project manager.

12:30 p.m. I usually go to Soho House [Little Beach House Malibu] in Malibu for lunch. It’s a private club. I usually have a salad with a side of chicken or a burger. I always get a half-lemonade and half-iced tea, an Arnold Palmer. Sometimes I’ll get a warm chocolate chip cookie. You can’t use your phone in Soho; you can check emails but no calls. I don’t disconnect until late at night.

1:00 p.m. I jump in my car and it’s about time for the second cigar of the day. I smoke mostly Cuban cigars. I can’t tell where I get them because they’re still illegal. I head back to the job sites and check in. I’m usually going to the Case … I’m there five or six times a day. I always make sure my site is clean because I can’t stand a dirty site.

3:45 p.m. I head back to the office and we have an end-of-the-day wrap-up meeting. If my design assistants have questions, they bring them to me. We look at any documents that need to be gone over. Accounting is bringing me checks to sign. That’s always a highlight of my day. And there’s always a fire to put out here or there. I call my agent a couple more times to see what offers I have in, and if they say nothing, I start yelling at them again.

5:00 p.m. I head to my car barn that’s where my day finishes out. I have too many cars, approximately 18. I go there and just light up another cigar. There’s nobody there bothering me, no phone ringing. I just chill out, smoke my last cigar. They’re all my favorite cars, but I have a great 1932 Ford Roadster that I’ve been taking out a lot.

6:15 p.m. I head home and when I get there I usually see my daughter.

7:00 p.m. For dinner, we usually do 50-50 — sometimes my wife will cook, or otherwise we’ll go out to dinner. She cooks a lot of salmon. We like to go eat a lot of sushi. Nobu Malibu and Soho House are our two designated restaurants.


8:30 p.m. We get home and I wind down, maybe watch some TV. I like “Impractical Jokers” and “The First 48.” Both take you away from the day, they take you away from the stresses of the day. I try not to take any business calls after 6:30 p.m., but if there’s a fire to be put out, we’ll take care of it. I try not to bother my staff at night.

11:00 p.m. I try to stay awake because if I go to bed too early, I’ll wake up too early. I’m good on about five hours of sleep.

11:30 p.m. I get on the floor and hang out with my dog for about 10 minutes before I go to bed. Then I get up and do it all over again.