It’s most often called the Spy House or the Floating Glass Home. Perhaps the Bat Cave would make a better comparison. Access to 32013 Point Place in Laguna Beach, Calif., is an elaborate, secretive affair that starts with a garage door opener.
The $10 million compound, pictured here, sits completely hidden from the street below it. The only sign that you have arrived at the Floating Glass Home is a wooden garage door quietly nestled off the side of a private road. When the door opens, you drive your car into the space and onto a hydraulic auto lift. The lift then drops you underground into the entryway of a guesthouse. Leave the car parked there (on display, if you will), and then meander down the winding subterranean path to the main house. Perched on a cliff with 180 degree views of the coastline, the main house is comprised of glass curtain walls and cantilevered floors that jut out over the ocean below, giving the impression of home “floating” above the beach below it.
“This is perfect for a buyer who doesn’t want people to know they are home,” says Donna Pfanner, the Coldwell Banker Previews International agent representing the $10 million property. “It’s like living in a piece of artwork or a sculpture.” Or a safe house crafted for a superhero like Bruce Wayne.
While you’ll have to wait a few more days for the latest Batman film, "The Dark Knight Rises," you can take your pick of real-life lairs sure to inspire a comic book fantasy. We culled through striking and unusual properties both on the market and off capable of making a would-be supervillain or superhero salivate. With help from the folks at Realtor.com, Coldwell Banker Previews International, Sotheby’s International Realty and others, we unearthed properties from around the world touting architectural designs, outrageous security features, exclusive locations and high-tech gadgetry one would surely demand if looking to rule to world.
Tukal, Beaulieu, Hampshire, U.K.
List price: £12 million, or about $19 million
Listed with: Knight Frank
In Hampshire, England, Tukal has been occupying the banks of the Beaulieau River since the 1960s. When architect Seymour Harris built the massive roundhouse in the 1960s, he reportedly designed it so that he could drive his Aston Martin up a ramp and into a first-floor parking bay and turning circle. While the current owner has since removed that feature, the £12 million estate still offers privacy from its 10 acres of gardens and an alternative means of getaway thanks to a 60-foot mooring dock for boats.
“It’s a great playground,” says Andrew Rome, head of the Winchester office at Knight Frank, a British realty firm. It’s the second time Rome has sold the home, which boasts five bedrooms, a circular ballroom and an indoor pool sitting under an oculus.
As is the case with many villain-worthy homes, Rome says interest has been quiet. Unique, quirky properties can have a polarizing effect on the prospective buyer pool, taking longer to market and sell. “It’s like marmite: you either love it or hate it,” he chuckles. “I think it’s fantastic.” Goldfinger might agree.
The Elrod House, Palm Springs, CA
Currently off the market
Listed for sale July 2011: $13.89 million
Listing removed November 2011
The John Lautner-designed Elrod House, with its circular living room and retractable glass curtain walls, actually served as the villain’s headquarters in the James Bond movie "Diamonds Are Forever."
The Island, Newquay, Cornwall, U.K.
List price: £995,000, or about $1.5 million
Listed with: Lillicrap Chilcott
Sitting atop a rock outcropping that high tide completely surrounds with water, this oceanfront three-bedroom house is accessible solely by way of a private 100-foot-long suspension bridge that must be crossed on foot.
Castle of Palatine Hills, Rincon, Puerto Rico
List price: $4.8 million
Listed with: Exit Realty Select
This 10,000-square-foot Caribbean fortress inhabits its own private mountain on Puerto Rico's west coast. Taking "off the grid" to new heights, it's powered almost entirely by alternative energy methods like solar panels and a wind turbine. And there's a private helicopter pad for easy arrival and departure.
Chulo Canyon Cave House, Bisbee, AZ
List price: $1.5 million
Listed with: Bisbee Realty
This man-made home carved from the side of a boulder comes with 37 acres of secluded desert land, natural pools and potable water that seeps from a natural spring. In addition to the cave house, there are five buildings including a guest house with a subterranean level. The standalone library building also doubles as a safe house, with a back room accessible through a roll-down metal security door hidden behind a sliding glass door. It's equipped with a Murphy bed, an air conditioner, an antique vault and a climate-controlled gun safe -- in case there's ever a need to hide out.
Waterwood Estate, Vermilion, OH
List price: $16.9 million
Listed with: Sotheby's International Realty
Comprising a series of interconnected glass pods, this 160-acre estate is the epitome of privacy with landscaping designed to keep the home invisible from the road. In addition to the two-story mansion with its two elevators, indoor pool, and five kitchens, the 38,000-square-foot home has an underground level with amenities like a barber shop; a subterranean wine grotto with open lift that elevates up to a rooftop oculus; and an indoor heliport. There's also gated dog runs that can release guard dogs to scout the grounds for intruders.
Fire Brigade Margreid, Margreid, Italy
Designed by Bergmeister Wolf Architekten Construction, completed in 2010
Located in the Italian Alps, the town of Margreid sought to minimize use of land when building its volunteer fire department. The result: a naturally energy-efficient facility excavated from the base of a 300-foot cliff, in which three caverns finished in wood, steel and exposed granite give the appearance of a secret lair.
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