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The Luxury Edition: Regal Residences

From Vienna to Bermuda and Washington, DC, we take a look inside three regal residences from The Luxury Edition, a collection of the world’s finest properties

Three landmark estates, all featured in the latest issue of The Luxury Edition, are notable for their magnificent architecture and unique provenance, and stand among the finest properties in the world today.

A Vienna landmark, Villa Lieblein was built in 1924 as a private residence and later used as an embassy; it is distinguished as the only private home to claim heritage status in the city’s exclusive Cottage Quarter. Chelston, a grand waterfront compound near Hamilton, Bermuda, is bestowed with a unique diplomatic provenance. The official Bermuda residence of the US Consul General from 1964-1999, the estate has played host to a veritable who’s who of guests including presidents, international dignitaries, and movie stars. Our last property is also fit for a president. One of Washington, DC’s great estates, Fessenden House is a Neoclassical monument that pays tribute to illustrious 18th-century architects Robert and James Adam.

Villa Lieblein in Vienna, Austria

Encompassing the hills above the city of Vienna, and flanked by woods to the north and the River Danube to the east, the district of Döbling is truly picturesque. Take a walk here and you’ll be captivated by elegant 19th-century architecture at every turn – it’s easy to imagine the lives of the philosophers, composers, politicians, and revolutionaries who once lived here.

There’s one property in particular that commands attention: Villa Lieblein. Built as a private home in 1924 and later used as an embassy, the historic site is recognized as a heritage building – evidenced by a white enamel sign on its façade. Over the past three years, it has undergone significant renovations, carried out by Vienna-based architectural firm Grankova, to restore the house to its original 1920s splendor – and also to meet the demands of modern-day life.

“As it’s a protected building, we made the renovations imperceptible,” says architect Emilija Grankova, who led the project. “The fixtures and fittings are new but in keeping with the property’s original features.” Such features recall a time when Art Deco design was the height of fashion, and the importance of stylistic details and rich materials could never be overstated.

In keeping with this aesthetic, hand-painted silk wallpaper adorns rooms in a subtle palette and the glass windows feature ornate floral etchings. Every design element has been carefully considered, right down to the beautifully crafted door handles.

Grankova also took care to consider the comfort, functionality, and harmony of the furnishings and the space as a whole. The sofas and chairs are all originals produced by Wiener Werkstätte, a company that evolved from a progressive collective of artists, established in 1903 by well-known Austrian architect and designer Josef Hoffmann. Classic in form, they exude timeless elegance.

Venture out of the double wooden front doors and down the grand entranceway steps, and your eyes meet a circular stone pond. “I suggested the water feature on the front lawn to create a balance in the grounds between the trees, the earth, the house,” she explains. “All in all,” says Grankova, “Villa Lieblein is a unique property that offers a really beautiful living environment.” An environment that you could certainly call home.

Photography by Mads Mogensen

Chelston in Bermuda

The writer Mark Twain is quoted as saying, “You go to heaven if you want, I’d rather stay in Bermuda.” It’s a sentiment that still holds true for many today, with Bermuda a select vacation and second-home choice for celebrities and Fortune 500 executives alike. Surrounded by turquoise waters and thriving coral reefs, the archipelago occupies a unique position in the North Atlantic, enjoying a balmy subtropical climate only two hours’ flight from the US East Coast.

If Bermuda is the “jewel of the Atlantic,” Chelston is one of its finest facets. Oil baron Carbon P Dubbs renovated and enlarged this beachfront property from 1939 to 1941, before gifting it to the US government in 1964, when it went on to act as the official Bermuda residence of the US Consul General for more than 30 years. “In its time, Chelston has hosted a lengthy list of eminent visitors,” says John Sinclair of Sinclair Realty Limited, an affiliate of Christie’s International Real Estate. “President George Bush, Senator John Kerry, newspaper columnist Ann Landers, and actor Michael Douglas are just a few names of note.

After passing into private ownership in 1999, the property was meticulously renovated. “While honoring and retaining the elegant proportions of the original public rooms, the 10,000-square-foot main house is now more open and embracing of its stunning setting,”says Sinclair.

On an island of only 21 square miles, an estate of this size, heritage, and aspect is a rare find, especially within five minutes’ drive of the capital, Hamilton. “There is a breathtaking moment when you approach the main house, poised on the crest of a hill 200 feet above sea level,” continues Sinclair. “The estate spills out before you with 14 verdant acres leading down to the beach. Everything you see belongs to Chelston.”

Chelston’s landscaped grounds, studded with palms, are ideal for taking in the expansive Atlantic views, whether relaxing at the beach pavilion or exploring the rolling lawns. At night, Hamilton’s city lights are a dazzling addition to the ambience. If you can tear yourself away from Chelston’s comforts and the shimmering waters of Grape Bay, nearby adventures include diving, golfing, and yachting.

With private jet connections just 25 minutes away, “Chelston would appeal to someone with interests on both sides of the Atlantic,” concludes Sinclair. “It makes a wonderful family or corporate compound.”

The Fessenden House in Washington, DC

Located just four miles from Capitol Hill, this monumental residence exudes more than a hint of presidential grandeur. Set among an acre of delightfully landscaped gardens and parkland in the affluent neighborhood of Forest Hills, Fessenden House has an impressive seven bedrooms and nine bathrooms, as well as a temperature-controlled wine cellar, a tasting room, and a billiards room among its numerous highlights. 

Enveloped in formal and informal English-style gardens, and surrounded by parkland, the gated Fessenden House is a green oasis in the city.

Fessenden House is unsurpassed in residential design and construction in the Washington metropolitan area. From the custom brick and Indiana limestone facade to the oversized custom windows and doors and decorative exterior elements, attention to authentic detail is apparent throughout.

The property has a lighter touch than many heritage buildings; it’s refined, bright, and an elegant backdrop for entertaining. The grand staircase is a spectacular addition to the hall, which is lit by tall Palladian windows.

Built in 1994, it is a Neoclassical masterpiece, with the look and feel of a period English country home. The designers were inspired by the refined style of 18th-century architects Robert and James Adam, whose famed works include Kenwood House in London and Dumfries House in Scotland. Washington, DC’s political standing is also recognized with influences from the turn-of-the-century French-inspired embassies of Luxembourg and Belgium.

Stone pathways, terraces, and a loggia provide verdant views, while a handsome classical swimming pool and pool house are particularly alluring, especially when lit up at night. Most impressive of all is the house itself, beautifully symmetrical with a double entrance – complete with lion’s head door knockers – typical of the Adams style it imitates. “In terms of quality and materials, it is the best home in DC, crafted from the highest grade limestone usually reserved for use in art galleries,” explains Nancy Itteilag of Long and Foster Real Estate, Inc., an affiliate of Christie’s International Real Estate.

At 19,830 square feet, it is spacious and noble yet effortlessly warm and inviting. “The proportions of the rooms are beautiful, with high ceilings and gas fires in each allowing for entertaining and relaxing,” Itteilag says. Just 15 minutes to downtown, this house offers an escape from a city infamous for its hardworking ethos. Plus, Itteilag says, “the best-designed master suite in the world, which occupies the entire back of the property, with bedroom, sitting room, and his-and-hers bathrooms and dressing rooms.”

The interiors flow seamlessly from one living area to the next. Neoclassical columns, inlaid rift- and quarter-sawn white-oak floors, and Italian marble enhance the grand formal rooms.

The property is currently a fitting home for a selection of 18th-century art, furniture, and curiosities, thanks to owner and philanthropist Samuel Lehrman curating one of the world’s finest such collections. Immersed in the design and building of Fessenden House from the outset, Lehrman has set a standard for refined luxury. The property is, as Itteilag says, “perfection.”

Inspired by historic English country homes, this elegant Washington, DC, property offers unrivaled space and comfort in the heart of the city.

A grand and elegant estate, the property was designed by Washington, DC, architect Leon Chatelain in collaboration with interior designer Antony Childs.

Grand formal rooms welcome residents and guests with tall sunlit windows during the day and the glow of gas fireplaces in the evening.

[ Excerpt from Christie’s International Real Estate’s 2015 Luxury Edition — A curated collection of the world’s finest properties. Explore more properties here ]

Photography by Michael Wells