In news that may depress fans of Golden Age Hollywood lore and classic California midcentury homes, Elizabeth Taylor’s legendary Bel Air estate has sold for the second time since her death. Behind gates on a knoll and lording over prime East Gate Bel Air, the property has an ambitious new owner in Ardie Tavangarian, an L.A. real estate developer known for building huge, visually over-the-top mansions on speculation. Tavangarian paid $11 million for the place in an off-market deal, and it seems clear that the house is destined for an upcoming date with the wrecking ball.
Taylor lived at the Nimes Road property for the final 30 years of her life. Built in 1960, the house had once been owned by Frank Sinatra’s ex-wife Nancy. It was gutted, renovated and expanded by a developer in the late ’70s, and the “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” actress bought the place in 1981 for $2 million (nearly $5.7 million in 2021 dollars). She subsequently hired celebrity designer Waldo Fernandez — also a close personal friend — to wave his signature decorative magic wand over the premises.
Despite the glamor associated with Taylor throughout her career, her house was an entirely different, more intimate sort of affair. “Cozy” and “warm” were words frequently used by her friends to describe the house and its decor, which was casually luxe and and distinctly homey, in a way many movie star residences are not. A roomy but unpretentious midcentury ranch, the two-story structure had wall-to-wall carpeting — originally white in color, then deep lavender, then white again. Taylor’s art and knick-knacks, a collection accumulated from a lifetime of traveling the globe, filled every room.
Over the decades, the house’s fame grew. In 2011, the entire property was photographed for Architectural Digest. And shortly before her death, Taylor invited renowned photographer Catherine Opie to shoot the estate; Opie spent six months studying the home and snapping over 3,000 images, culminating in a book — 700 Nimes Road, an intimate, documentary-style look at Taylor’s life and work through photographs of her home and personal belongings.
Taylor died in March 2011; a few months later, the property was sold for $8 million to Rocky Malhotra, an Indian razor blade tycoon who kept the structure intact during his decade of ownership. It’s not clear what the interiors look like today, but the place still sits up a long driveway, behind big gates. There’s still a guardhouse out front, which was manned by Israeli-trained bodyguards during Taylor’s lifetime. The lush grounds, where Taylor would host an annual Easter egg hunt for family members and a few close friends, still survive.
Still, even the ghost of a Hollywood legend can’t change the fact that the house is located in one of the poshest neighborhood pockets of Bel Air. Many of the neighboring properties are the largest and most lavish homes in all of Los Angeles. Indeed, right next door is an extravagant compound long owned by the late King Fahd of Saudi Arabia — with a reported 41 bathrooms! In comparison to those behemoths, Taylor’s house is a hovel.
That’s not to say the house is small — it’s just modest for the neighborhood. The sprawling estate weighs in with more than 7,000 square feet of living space, and there are six bedrooms and six bathrooms. The heavily wooded lot spans an impressive 1.27 acres, plenty of space to accommodate Tavangarian’s next glitzy mega-mansion.
Tavangarian has a history of profiting enormously on big-gamble projects like this one. In 2019, he sold a custom estate elsewhere in Bel Air for $75 million. Last month, he got a record $83 million for a house in Pacific Palisades. Late last year, he paid Elon Musk a total of $62.5 million for four Los Angeles properties, all of them distinctly separate homes but all located on the same Bel Air hillside. But judging by the lore at his new property, the latest project looks should be an outsized superstar in its own right.