A jewelry designer turns his hand to architecture with an extraordinary $139 million palatial home in the water in Hillsboro's "Millionaire Row."
Born in Italy and raised in France, Joseph Leone has been immersed in the traditions of European high design for as long as he can remember. “My father was a men’s clothing designer, and my mother was on the business side, so I was involved with the world of design since I was a child,” says Leone. Given his penchant for beautiful things, the trajectory of his career is hardly surprising. “I worked as a jewelry designer for the best couture houses in France—Jean Patou, Hermès, Annick Goutal, Lancel,” he says. But it wasn’t until he moved to South Florida that Leone was delivered the ultimate design challenge: create a palatial home along the sea.
Ten years after taking on the project, the result is Palais Royal—a spectacular 60,000-square-foot manse modeled after Versailles. Brimming with old-world luxuries combined with modern technologies and out-of-this-world amenities, the home is slated for completion at the end of this month and is listed for $139 million—making it one of the most expensive properties on the market in the US. Here, Leone gives us an exclusive look inside…
What makes the home a palace? The house is on three levels and close to 60,000 square feet. On the main level, you have the dining room, family room, kitchen, grand salon, office, and a game room. On the upper level, you have a master bedroom suite in the south wing and three guest suites in the north wing. And on the lower level, there are more guest suites, for a total of 11 bedrooms and 14 baths, as well as an Imax theater that seats 18 people. Every room in this house was approached as its own project. The garage is like a showroom with marble on the floor, curved walls, and columns, and fits up to 30 cars.
Hillsboro is so secluded. This is such a special property. Hillsboro Mile is unique because you have the open ocean in front of you, but it’s a private island so [there is] no public access to the beach. Also, you can park your yacht behind the house. One dock can accommodate a yacht up to 225 feet. The other one fits a yacht up to 140 feet.
A view from the pool at Palais Royal, which developer Joseph Leone envisioned as a modern-day Versailles.
What is the materials palette? Most of the houses in America are made with concrete block. But for this house, we used 100 percent poured concrete, which makes it stronger. For the floors, I used a marble from South Africa. It is white with a light vein and some sparkle, so when we adjust the light the floor glitters like little diamonds. All the millwork is mahogany. The plaster moldings were made in a small shop and finished by hand with gold leaf in the old tradition of Europe. It is 22k gold leaf, and it took a year and a half to apply. We have over $7 million in gold leaf all over the house.
One of the highlights is the grand staircase... The main stair at the front of the house took close to three years to build—it had to be made by hand, and we spent close to $3 million on it. It’s spectacular. I wanted this stair to look like a bracelet—it is like a piece of jewelry.
What about entertainment? We’re going to wait for the future client to decide. The spa design would be like a rainforest, like in the Amazon, with trees and a little river inside so when you go in, you feel like you’ve traveled 10,000 miles.
In the kitchen, appliances are hidden behind mahogany millwork, revealed at the touch of a button. below from left: The entrance’s marble grand staircase is intricately finished with 22k gold leaf to resemble jewelry; the custom railing alone took close to three years to build.
Any other special elements? In most kitchens, you see the microwave oven and the refrigerator, but here I hid everything behind mahogany millwork—you push a button and the doors open to show the appliances. The range is from La Cornue—it’s all gold, made by hand.
We hear the water features are out of this world. Along the driveway, we have a 27-foot waterfall and a 29-foot-high gold-leafed fountain. It’s absolutely beautiful. We also have a small putting green where you can play golf, and on the master bedroom balcony, a plunge pool facing the ocean. There’s another 22-foot waterfall that cascades into the pool, and if you swim underneath it, you’ll find a bar in the pool facing the ocean. The pool is 4,300 square feet with a mosaic floor made by hand. Next to it, there’s a Jacuzzi on top of a grotto with a glass bottom that makes it feel like it’s suspended. We have craftspeople from 25 different countries working on this house. For a tour of the home, please contact the developer, Joseph Leone, directly at TANIOUM@aol.com