Minimalists, look away now. With its magnificent 20ft-high ornately plastered ceilings, lashings of gold leaf, bookcases topped by busts of Alexander the Great, Caesar Augustus and Marcus Aurelius – and its role as the global HQ of one of the world’s most glamorous fashion empires – this 14,000 sq ft Mayfair mansion is in need of an owner with a budget as big as their lust for luxe.
For sale with a price tag of £55 million, through beauchampestates.com, the palatial Grade I listed Neoclassical Grafton Street house was built over seven storeys between 1769 and 1772 to a design by architect Sir Robert Taylor, whose pupils included John Nash. While it has more recently served as the main base of Italian fashion house Gucci, close to its flagship Bond Street store, it started out as the London home of a banker or two, before passing into the ownership of British statesman Henry Peter Brougham, the Lord High Chancellor who played a key role in passing the 1832 Reform Act and the Slavery Abolition Act a year later.
Between 1840 and 1868 Lord Brougham entertained on grand scale here, with guests including Queen Victoria and former Prime Minister the 1stDuke of Wellington. With a keen eye for lavish properties, Brougham is remembered more, however, for the Mediterranean retreat he built in the South of France in the 1830s, the Villa Eleonore-Louise. It kickstarted the fad for London’s mega rich to holiday in the once tiny fishing village of Cannes, helping transform it into the glamorous billionaires’ playground we know today.
When we’re talking fashion stakes, however, the Grafton Street mansion’s legacy will always be indelibly linked with designer label Gucci and its tragedy-studded history – recently sensationally dramatised in Ridley Scott’s film, House of Gucci, starring Lady Gaga, Adam Driver and Al Pacino. In March 1995, Maurizio Gucci, grandson of the fashion house’s founder, was shot dead on the red granite steps of his office in Milan, for which his ex-wife, Patrizia Reggiani Gucci, was convicted. In need of a fresh corporate start, in 1998 the brand moved its base to London, setting up extravagant offices in the mansion on Grafton Street, from which creative director Tom Ford and CEO Domenico De Sole worked.
As you’d expect, it wasn’t your run of the mill commercial space. A 24-month refurb project saw the mansion dressed in Gucci custom-designed furniture – think desks and cabinetry in chocolate-coloured veneers and black calfskin sofas and chairs – set against the backdrop of vast full-height windows, intricate Joseph Rose plasterwork, parquet flooring and Georgian fireplaces. Just the right balance of classic and contemporary, then, for meetings with rag trade titans such as Vogue editor Anna Wintour and avant-garde designer Alexander McQueen.
In 2001, French billionaire François Pinault took control of the Gucci Group, and in 2010 the global HQ was moved to Switzerland – meaning another metamorphosis for the house. This time the redesign of the building back into a palatial W1 home was by RIBA award-winning architects Donald Insall Associates – hired by the Royal Household to restore Windsor Castle and the Hinduja family to redevelop Churchill’s Old War Office.
The architecture firm won’t comment on the makeover, and the home’s present ownership is via an offshore trust – 'protecting the privacy and security of the owner,' says a spokesperson for Beauchamp Estates, 'who is an extremely well-heeled member of the global billionaires' club and, alongside the Gucci palace, has a portfolio of luxury homes in other cities and holiday resorts around the world.'
The anonymous power player has now put it on the sales market for the first time since its overhaul – and is also open to anyone interested in renting the place, for £40,000 a week (furniture is included in the prices). Its new occupants will get eight bedrooms, four grand reception rooms with silk-panelled walls, a state of the art stainless-steel and marble kitchen and plenty of space for staff. On the top floor, there’s a penthouse lounge with sunroom, and elsewhere plenty of the requisite ultra-high net worth perks: a cinema and leisure suite with a swimming pool (watch the waterproof TV while doing laps), a marble-lined plunge pool and mosaic-tiled steam room, private hair salon and a main bathroom with tub inlaid with 24-carat gold. On the top floor, a penthouse lounge with sunroom, passenger lift, gym and garden terrace complete the package.
Oh, and there’s plenty of cupboard space for those Gucci loafers, Jackie bags and floral scarves, too.