Downtown View B and B and Their Castle

October 3, 2013
By

We’ve had quite a few weeks in which we have endured Syrian atrocities, a gunman at the Washington Navy Yard, terrorists at a Nairobi shopping mall, and a city election in Boston. It’s time to think about something frivolous.

I suggest Tom Brady. I’m not talking about his throwing arm or his age. Let’s focus on his house—his new, stone Los Angeles house, of which his wife, Gisele Bündchen, is apparently a co-owner. It is the cover feature in the October issue of Architectural Digest.

The article describes B and B as “eco-conscious,” a dubious claim if you’re using up enough materials to build 14,000 square feet, which is the size of the place. But the couple makes a good case for thinking a little bit green. The article describes solar panels and a gray water irrigation system that significantly reduce energy use and water consumption. L.A. is, after all, in a desert.

The house is full of recycled materials: antique Tunisian tile, old marble fireplace surrounds, reclaimed cobblestones for a parking area, antique chandeliers, antique wood flooring and doors, and, my favorite, a reclaimed brick ceiling, laid in narrow, repeating barrel vaulting in the kitchen and breakfast room. Unusual. Expensive.

The house is fun. Fruits and vegetables can be picked in the garden. Swims can be enjoyed in a pool that surrounds the house, in some places at its foundation and in other places, overlooking L.A. and the Pacific beyond. Tom has his exercise room and Gisele has a closet with an antique chandelier.

It is not only the barrel vaulted ceiling that is expensive. What is described as “hand-poured glass tile” lines the pool. The house itself is built of hand-treated limestone, the roof of slate, the gutters of zinc, and many curtains line the tall windows. (Curtains, to the uninitiated, are always a shockingly expensive item, to most everyone’s surprise.)

The place will also be expensive to maintain, even if B and B achieve their goal of the solar panels providing all of their electricity. All those light fixtures to dust. All those windows to be washed. The landscaping itself I’d estimate will cost thousands per week to keep weeded and trimmed. The article would have been more interesting if it had described how much staff such a house requires. For example, two or three kids live with them, but someone had picked up the toys for the photo shoot. And what was the bill for the architect, interior designer, landscaper and builder? The web said $20 million, but since 10 years ago we renovated our own 1,800 square feet in downtown Boston, and I know how much that cost,  I’m thinking at least $40 million, but what do I know about Los Angeles prices.

Tom and Gisele were both quoted, but it was Gisele who got pictures of herself in the article. In one, she is sitting on the wall of the vegetable garden with their son Benjamin, whose back is to the camera. Several photos of Benjamin have been published but all of those I’ve seen have featured his back, not his face. Perhaps the parents have an agreement with photographers that they must avoid taking photos of his face to keep a bit of privacy in his young life.

What is surprising is that the house is actually pleasing, at least to this writer. It looks a bit old fashioned, without the soaring windows and clashing rooflines of so many McMansions. It’s orderly and sort of French. The rooms look well proportioned even though they are large. The furniture looks like furniture anyone would like to use, even if most people wouldn’t need so much of it.

While trickle-down economics has its major limits, this is one place it works—when mega-rich people actually spend their money on hiring lesser mortals, and B and B must have provided employment to several hundred individuals to get their castle built.

And apparently they’re going to do it again. Rumors have been spreading that they’ve bought a plot of land in Brookline near Robert Kraft himself and plan to build another house to live in when Tom is based in Boston.

If you’re an antiques dealer, an architect, an interior designer, a cabinet maker, a roofer or a stonemason, you might want to get in line.

Karen Cord Taylor is a newspaperwoman who now works from her home. Past columns are posted on www.bostoncolumn.com. You can reach Karen at karen@bostoncolumn.com