This is the house that Leo built.
It's called Villa Imperiali and has two bidets, 11 bathrooms, 16,000 square feet, five acres and a view to kill. And it's on the auction block.
Jan Bendis, a partner in Land Auction Unlimited, the company conducting the auction, contends that the 8-year-old Cowan Heights mansion is the biggest single-family home ever to be auctioned in Southern California.
Bendis' claims are difficult to substantiate. For instance, one Beverly Hills realtor currently lists for sale a 23,000-square-foot home complete with indoor racquetball court. Realtors say, however, that ultra-large houses are usually sold through private listings rather than at auction.
The house is the largest currently listed with Merrill Lynch Realty's Orange County fine homes division.
Which means that some shopper with several million dollars to spare and a little free time Saturday morning can walk away--so to speak--with tile magnate Leo Imperiali's dream home, a Spanish-style, walled estate on five hilltop acres in the gated community of Rocking Horse Ridge Estates.
Flanked by two carpeted, four-car garages and built around a 40-foot-tall, circular atrium with its own self-cleaning skylight, Villa Imperiali rests somewhere on the Liberace end of the lavish scale. The central atrium boasts Italian marble floors and a horseshoe-shaped staircase that curves around a 12-foot-tall crystal chandelier--one of nearly 20 that hang in the homestead.
Bendis sounds like a Robin Leach stand-in on television's "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" when he conducts Villa Imperiali tours: "The game room has a professional bar, with your ice maker, trash compactor and dishwasher," he intones. "Here's your craps table, your billiards table, your nine one-armed bandits from Las Vegas."
"The elaborate security system has monitors, sirens, outside speakers, cameras, microphones, direct connections to police, fire, ambulance and doctor, and sensors in each room that tell what door is open or light is on and tell where people are standing at all times," he says.
But why would anyone want to sell such a home and everything in it, from the Oriental rosewood screen inlaid with mother-of-pearl, down to the collection of 100 gold-plated coins, each depicting a reproduction of one of the 100 "Great Masterpieces of the World"?
The Imperialis aren't talking, but their chain of Tile World stores has shrunk from at least seven branches in 1981 to three stores and a showroom today. The house has been on the market for at least two years. It is listed with Merrill Lynch Realty at $5.5 million, and Sharron Stockman, Bendis' partner in Land Auction Unlimited, estimates its worth at $6.88 million.
Says Bendis: "They (the Imperiali family) would like to move to a different area and start over again. . . . This (auction) . . . is the quickest way to sell real estate."
The public is invited to tour the villa on Friday and then attend the auction at 10:30 a.m. Saturday. An estimated 300 are expected, he said, including several corporate bidders.