A $22 million Versailles-inspired Atherton mansion sells in 11 days

Custom estate built by the founder of Mervyn’s department store has 9,000 square feet on more than an acre in the nation’s most expensive zip code

San Francisco /
Jan.January 24, 2022 03:29 PM
A $22 Million Versailles-Inspired Mansion Owned by Mervyn’s Department Store Founder Sells in 11 Days (Private Atherton Estate)

Even by Bay Area standards, the whiplash-fast sale of a Versailles-inspired mansion in the country’s most expensive zip code is incroyable.

Listed just 11 days ago for $22 million, the 2003 Atherton home went into contract on Monday, according to Redfin. Given the quick sale, the property may have sold for more than the asking price.

Mervin Morris, founder of Mervyn’s department stores, bought the property, on a bit more than one acre, in 2000 for $6.5 million, according to public records. Since he planned to tear down the home built in 1964 by Joseph Eichler to build his new French chateau-style home, he offered previous owner, interior designer Sue Olson, not just $1 million above her asking price, but also any materials she wanted to salvage.

The redwood siding was set aside for an Eichler home on the Stanford campus, she told the Almanac News at the time, and she planned to recycle as much as she could.

Morris bulldozed the rest and hired architect Andrew Skurman, who has offices in San Francisco and Paris, to create a bespoke home “inspired by Ile-de-France in Versailles,” according to the listing notes.

Parquet wood floors and intricate millwork are among the French-country features, as well as the mansard roof with arched dormers. In the center of the U-shaped home’s limestone entry courtyard sits a statue of an escargot.

The main level has more than 7,000 square feet and includes a great hall with a wet bar hidden in an armoire, an 18th-century French fireplace mantel and 13-foot-high vaulted ceilings accented by a lantern-style fixture that Morris’s wife, Rosyln, bought on a trip to Paris with Skurman, the architect said in a video tour of the home. Typical ceiling heights on the ground floor in Atherton are only 10 feet high, he said.

Referring to the hallways as “galleries,” and pointing out the “voluptuous” door mouldings and several octagonal rooms, he also acknowledged areas where his design could be updated. The new owner could remove a small wall between the kitchen and the formal dining room, which has upholstered walls and a customized closet for silver serving pieces, to make one big living-dining area, he said.

(Private Atherton Estate)

The main floor also has four en suite rooms, three of which are set up as bedrooms and one as an office, and a powder room with a separate “primping area.” The second floor has an 800-square-foot guest/staff quarters with an en suite bedroom and separate living area.

The largely one-floor layout makes sense, given that Morris was 80 when he bought the home. He died at 101 last summer. His wife of more than 60 years died in 2016 and public records show the home has remained in family trusts since that time.

It also has a separate four-car garage with an electric vehicle charging station, which Skurman said could be converted to a guest house with a smaller garage, given that the estate has room for more cars on the concentrically patterned cobblestone motor court.

Unlike many homes at this price point in the South Bay, the home lacks a pool. It does have a large recessed spa off its limestone back patio, as well as a sculpture garden, a rose garden and a flower arranging room.

The expansive outdoor space can be accessed throughout the main level via—what else?—French doors.

“This is the house for a Francophile,” Skurman said.





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