Parisian Hôtel Particulier Revamped Into Dream Home
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Parisian Hôtel Particulier Revamped Into Dream Home

Alexandre de Betak and his wife are focusing on their most personal project yet.

By Jay Cheshes / Photography by François Halard for WSJ. Magazine
Tue, Jun 1, 2021 10:59amGrey Clock 13 min

Alexandre de Betak, the 52-year-old designer behind some of the most viral fashion shows of the past 25 years, has staged runway spectacles in audacious locales. Through his Bureau Betak creative agency, he’s conceptualised shows from Dior runways in Moscow’s Red Square and under an 18-metre mountain of blue delphiniums custom built in the courtyard of the Louvre to a blue diamond catwalk inserted for Tiffany into Beijing’s Forbidden City.

After a day at the office conjuring another rapidly vanishing show for a client, de Betak wants nothing more than to design space for his family’s personal use. “I’ve spent my life designing for others,” he says, “so in a way designing for us and designing permanent homes is incredibly relaxing, just by the nature of being the same yet the opposite of what I do every day.”

Alexandre, Sofía and Sakura de Betak in a Pierre Augustin Rose chair in their Paris home.

By the time he finished his last home design project in 2016, a playful loft in downtown New York with a stripper pole in a hidden party room, he was already at work on a new place to live, a fixer-upper across the Atlantic on the Left Bank of the Seine.

Four years ago, he began to shift his centre

\of gravity to Paris, returning to the city he grew up in after more than two decades based primarily in New York. (Bureau Betak has offices in both cities, along with Shanghai and Los Angeles.) Alex arrived with his partner in life, his pregnant wife, Sofía, the 36-year-old Argentine creative director, graphic designer and boho-chic style influencer known to her friends and 350,000-plus Instagram followers as Chufy (a childhood nickname). They spent their first 18 months in the city glamping indoors, squatting, essentially, in the beautiful ruin that would become their new home, former offices stripped to the bone—four separate units on three floors of a 17th-century hôtel particulier. “We were sleeping with six hot-water bottles,” says Sofía. “We would get pieces of ceiling just falling on us, holes in the wall.” Adds Alex: “We were cooking in the fireplace, heating by the fireplace. It was very, very fun.”

The basement nightclub space, which Alex calls Betak Clandestino, with a cherry moon on the night-sky mural, inspired both by his daughter’s name and by the soundtrack to the Prince film.

While inhabiting the space, Alex mapped out plans for what it might soon become, imagining the sculptural staircase, in white gesso, that would wind down through three floors, the secret party room—all of his homes have one—he’d excavate in the basement. “I have to say it was great to design it from the inside,” he says. After Airbnb-hopping during the two years of construction, early last year, Alex, Sofía and their toddler daughter, Sakura, finally moved into the finished space.

Though Alex and Sofía were on the road constantly pre-pandemic, individually and as a unit, they filled their free time—there was rarely much of it—travelling for pleasure, too. Sofía grew up travelling—her mother ran a high-end travel agency in Buenos Aires. The couple named Sakura for the cherry blossoms that were blooming on a trip to Kyoto when they found out they were expecting a girl.

They were just back from a family vacation in Myanmar, and recently moved into their new home, when the first pandemic lockdowns started in autumn of last year. Alex was bedridden in those first uncertain weeks. He thinks it was Covid-19, though reliable tests were hard to come by back then. “I mean, we were lucky—we were in luxury confinement,” says Sofía, “but most people had it really, really tough.”

After spring Fashion Week in Paris wrapped on March 4, Bureau Betak saw its planned roster of shows heading into the summer vanish overnight. “Everything got cancelled,” says Alex.

The open custom kitchen and a spiral staircase in white gesso plaster that passes through three floors.

Sofía launched Chufy, her eponymous line of travel-themed women’s clothing, in 2017, each collection inspired by a new destination, from the Pampas of Argentina to the savannas of Kenya. At the start of the pandemic, her business also came to a halt as the factory in India producing her flouncy blouses and flowy dresses shuttered.

Feeling restless stuck at home, she organized a charity auction online for Doctors Without Borders in April of last year, enlisting her friends to donate objects, expertise and experiences: a private polo class from Nacho Figueras, an online consulting session with Colette founder Sarah Andelman, a signed tennis racket from Maria Sharapova. Getting the auction going “kind of helped me get out of the darker cloud,” she says.

Alex is often dubbed the Fellini of fashion. In a good year, when his business hasn’t been crippled by a global pandemic, Bureau Betak might stage as many as 100 productions, working with young designers and veterans, avant-garde and legacy brands, on blowout presentations and smaller, more cerebral shows. “He’s always thinking about how to make it feel special; it doesn’t always mean it has to be the biggest and the brashest…not just the big extravaganza, although he is great at doing that; you could also have an intimate show,” says Michael Kors, one of Alex’s earliest clients, going back to the mid-’90s when he first set up shop in New York.

A Roman-inspired marble antique bathtub and hanging light from the Paul Bert Serpette flea market and grey marble wall.

In spring of last year, as his health and the weather in Paris both improved, Alex got back to work from a laptop by a window with a view of the Seine. He began to devise a path forward for clients eager to start showing again. “After a couple of months you realize it’s going to be there for a while,” Alex says of the pandemic. “That’s when we started to really rethink the calendars and the format and everything.”

He had plenty of tools in his arsenal ready to go, having launched a creative agency, Bureau Future, a few years earlier, focused on the digital future of the live fashion show. “I believed for a long time that in order to give those great, live, in-person shows a reason to continue to exist, we needed to augment them digitally better, to film them better, to design them with the filming in mind and to transmit that better when we stream them,” he says. “And then, obviously, with Covid we accelerated the process quite drastically.”

Though many designers decided not to show at all last year, a few signed on for virtual shows, filmed with no audience. In July, French label Jacquemus, taking advantage of a moment of relaxed restrictions, opted to invite spectators to its live show outside Paris, shuttling 110 socially distanced VIPs to the winding catwalk Bureau Betak cut through a wheat field. “We bet together that we could do a show with a live audience,” says Alex. “We were very lucky. We caught a very small window.”

Double windows that open out onto the courtyard garden.

Filmed or live-streamed shows with no editors or influencers in attendance followed for Dior in Puglia, for Fendi in Milan and for Gabriela Hearst in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. As France began to open back up last summer, Sofía also got her business going again. From her home office in the apartment’s sun-drenched winter garden, with ivy climbing up lattice walls, she began sketching ideas for a new Chufy collection, inspired by her paternal grandparents’ Romanian heritage. “I just wanted to go through memories, old things from my grandparents; I travelled introspectively,” she says.

Evenings were spent at home, the family gathered around a custom-built kitchen island, Alex at the stove working through his rotation of pastas (“variations of vongole, bottarga and pesto,” as Sofía describes them). His two sons, Amaël, 20, and Aidyn, 17, from an earlier relationship with actress and model Audrey Marnay, would drop in from their mom’s place for a week at a time. At lunch there were picnics outside in the courtyard garden, chatting, socially distanced, with new neighbours in the hôtel particulier.

There were plenty of reminders, throughout the apartment, of Alex and Sofía’s old travelling life, mismatched accents—a pair of Moroccan candelabras here, a black lacquered Burmese pot there—brought home in suitcases or picked up online in hotel rooms in bleary-eyed bidding sprees.

“I can be in Shanghai or Tokyo and I’m jet-lagged and I’m online at an auction that’s in Italy or Eastern Europe and I’ll buy a piece from Japan,” says Alex. “I kind of see no boundaries.”

The winter garden, where Sofía set up her home office during the pandemic.

The building’s last tenants, offices of the museum of the Paris hospital system, stripped it of its historic character. As he planned his gut renovation, Alex imagined the space as it might have been when aristocrats lived there. He laid down new flooring to bring the place back in time, installing black-and-white pierre de Bourgogne stone on the ground floor, wooden parquet de Versailles upstairs above that. A golden hall of mirrors en route to his daughter’s bedroom brought a more theatrical 17th-century touch.

He filled the place with an eclectic mix of contemporary furniture and flea market antiques, pieces of Mario Bellini’s modular Camaleonda sofa across from a leopard-print chair from the 1940s. The seats in the living room, including his favourite Minotaure armchair from Pierre Augustin Rose by the window, were all reupholstered in the same rough-textured white fabric. Next to the master bedroom, antique panels on a Japanese theme, picked up at the Paul Bert Serpette market on the edge of Paris, became the closet doors inside a new dressing room. Much of the contents—mostly in monochrome black and white—were acquired with the new place in mind, after Alex auctioned off almost everything from his last Paris apartment back in 2018: 188 lots of kinetic art, toy robots and Star Wars memorabilia, among other collecting obsessions. “It was a brand-new time in our life,” he says. “I wanted to start from scratch.”

Though there’s some gravitas to the new space—“I wanted to do something very feminine and very romantic in a way and a lot softer than what I used to have,” says Alex—there’s still plenty of his signature whimsy throughout.

The basement nightclub space, hidden behind a mirror, features a night-sky mural inspired by 17th-century star maps with each family member’s zodiac constellation. (They’ve been watching movies there during the pandemic.) Upstairs, an archangel painting in the master bedroom opens into a projection TV screen. A bookcase in the library opens to reveal a secret passage down to the street. “We always have secret doors and secret escapes in every place we design,” he says. “Don’t ask me why.”

Alex lined the walls in his daughter’s bedroom in a classic Japanese motif, a collage of his own creation featuring bamboo, cherry blossom trees and kimono-clad figures that, upon close inspection, turn out to be miniature versions of her parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and siblings. The French fabric firm Pierre Frey has added the design to their 2022 wallpaper collection, launching in January.

Sakura’s bedroom features a collection of plush toys by Japanese artist Takashi Murakami and walls covered in an original photomontage created by Alex.

By midsummer of last year, the de Betaks had traded the city for their vacation home by the sea, a villa on Mallorca, which was built and completed by Alex in 2010. And they spent a few weeks of their summer holiday visiting friends on the island of Panarea, north of Sicily. Over an alfresco meal there, Sofía came up with an idea for another Chufy collection, a collaboration with André Saraiva, the graffiti artist known as Mr. A, who sat beside her sketching doodles inspired by their time together in the Aeolian Islands. “I [drew] a little volcano, a pasta—Alex is the king of the pasta with bottarga, so I did a pasta with bottarga—did all those little things we enjoyed during our summer,” says Saraiva, who was one of three best men at Alex and Sofía’s weeklong wedding in Patagonia in 2014. This summer Chufy debuts a capsule collection of caftan dresses featuring those Mr. A sketches on Sofía’s Italian island–inspired prints.

Saraiva, one of Alex’s oldest friends, says he has been to every home he’s designed. “I’m an expert on Betak design,” he says. “[Alex] has got a great sense of décor and space that designers have, but he has something that I really appreciate…there are always details that come from playing around, not everything is serious. He’s a big fan of Star Wars. There’s always little details that remind me of the Star Wars saga—in the new place, the blacks, the whites, the round stairs.”

Mismatched curiosities from around the world, including a Swedish red vase, a couple of brass Italian vases and an African mask.

Alex, who has no formal design training, was just 17 and still finishing high school when he fell into fashion in 1986. That year, on a family trip to Spain, he met a young clothing designer named Sybilla Sorondo who’d been building a cult following from her atelier in Madrid. Taken by her edgy work and the freewheeling scene around her, and by the creative spirit of La Movida that gripped Madrid in the post-Franco years, he found himself drawn to the city and into Sorondo’s orbit.

“At that time my workshop was a place where people would hang out; there was lots of movement,” recalls Sorondo. “All of a sudden [Alex] was the kid who was always there—‘Oh, he’s still here.’ ”

Eventually, Alex got a few fashion editors in Paris to take a look at Sorondo’s pleated frocks. “And that’s how my international expansion started,” she says. He became her official press agent and art director while still studying for his baccalaureate exam. They travelled to Tokyo and Milan together. And after graduation he launched Bureau Betak, still ill-defined as an enterprise, out of a home office, with Sorondo’s eponymous line, Sybilla, as its first official client. He added a Japanese modelling agency, L’Homme et La Femme, to his roster, scouting talent for them in Paris and also hunting for classic cars for the agency’s owner. “There was no name to a lot of what I was doing back then,” he says. The big bash Alex organized for the launch of Sorondo’s Paris boutique in 1991, featuring jugglers, acrobats and a live orchestra along with models showcasing the clothes, set the stage for his future fashion show work.

The wall heading down to the basement features a collage of family snapshots, capturing travel memories.

Shortly afterward Sorondo took a long break from the fashion world to focus on raising a family. Alex decided to move to New York.

With his first clients there, he started to challenge the status quo. In an early show under the tents at Bryant Park he suspended designer John Bartlett in a hammock above the catwalk, instead of dangling the brand logo as everyone else did. “Many creative decisions came to me spontaneously like that,” says Alex.

Very quickly he began to organize shows in offbeat locales, ramping up the spectacle in the process. His first collaboration with Kors, staged in a cavernous loft space in SoHo, featured a travel theme. “We had a train that took models through the Swiss Alps, we had a helicopter landing,” recalls Kors. “It was a really interesting way to present it, to get the feeling behind the collection, rather than doing the traditional fashion show.”

“I mean, nothing is impossible,” says Laura Mulleavy of Rodarte, who staged her first show with Bureau Betak just as her and her sister Kate’s label took off in 2007, of de Betak’s approach. “You can have an idea and then you translate it into a live theatrical experience.”

Many of Alex’s working relationships with designers have endured for decades, following the careers of John Galliano, Raf Simons and Kors, among others. In April Kors unveiled his 40th-anniversary show online, a filmed tribute to Broadway, directed by Alex, in New York’s theatre district. “I try to always have very long and deep relationships,” he says.

In Alex and Sofía’s bedroom, 17th-century Italian wood panels from Pierre Bénard surround an oak fireplace from the same period.

In the late ’90s, as Alex’s career was taking off in New York, in Buenos Aires his future wife, Sofía Sanchez Barrenechea, was getting an early start in the fashion world. In 1999, when she was 14 years old, Sofía was approached by a modelling scout while in church for her confirmation. Cast in a national campaign for John L. Cook, a big Argentine clothing brand, she was soon on billboards and shopping bags across the country.

“My picture was everywhere,” she says. “It was quite a shock—I mean, an ego boost but also very hard to handle.”

Sofía went on to study graphic design at the University of Palermo in Buenos Aires before moving to New York on an IMG Models visa in 2008. In between the occasional shoot, she pursued a career in design, working with beauty clients at branding agency Lloyd & Co. Sofía was back in Buenos Aires for the winter holidays in 2009 when Alex showed up at her family home—invited by her older sister, Lucia, a fashion journalist he knew from Paris. Though Alex’s estranged father, whom he didn’t grow up with, is from Argentina, this was his first time in the country.

“He spent Christmas with my family even before we started dating,” says Sofía. “I think first he liked the family and there was only one sister single, and it was lucky me.” They began seeing each other back in New York and were married five years later, surrounded by fashion royalty, the bride in Valentino couture, custom-embroidered in crystal and pearls.

Lacquered panels, dating from the 1920s, that Alex transformed into custom closet doors.

This past March, as Paris prepared to go on lockdown again, Alex got his first AstraZeneca shot. Despite the slow vaccine rollout and surging virus cases in Europe, tentative plans were underway for bringing live audiences back to runway shows.

“Until the last minute everything I’m designing and everything I’m thinking of now has a plan B, with no audience, of course,” he says.

Even when the world finally opens back up, Alex would prefer that fashion didn’t fully return to its pre-pandemic ways. Early last year, just weeks before international borders began closing, Bureau Betak announced a new sustainability pledge, “Ten Commandments” intended to transform the business from the inside, vowing to reuse materials, sort and recycle, reduce nonessential flying and minimize fossil-fuel use.

“I’ve dedicated most of my life to ephemeral events that spend a lot of energy, a lot of carbon and a lot of money for a very short time and for, I hate to say, a useless topic, which is helping luxury brands sell more product,” says Alex. “So, considering all of this, it’s been forever that I’ve wanted to try to use what I can, which is basically the influence we have over our clients and their brands…to create a strong sustainability program within Bureau Betak and use it as a platform.”

And after a year mostly confined to his new Paris apartment, Alex is already thinking about his family’s next permanent home-design project—maybe a country house outside the city or a vacation spot in Patagonia. “I already have a design in mind for Patagonia,” he says.

 

Reprinted by permission of WSJ. Magazine. Copyright 2021 Dow Jones & Company. Inc. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Original date of publication: May 29, 2021



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Kristina Morrison’s journey to a parallel universe started on a bus that navigated hot, dusty, desert roads, crossed through a gated community with drab cookie-cutter houses and stopped in front of an enormous, white Mediterranean-style mansion.

She walked through an archway dripping with silver beads that revealed a crystal clear blue swimming pool lined with palm trees, bright red flowers and large rocks. Beautiful people played putt-putt, danced to live DJs and drank lime-green margaritas on a vast green lawn decorated with stacks of pink and silver balls.

“Everything was so chic and elegant,” says Morrison, a model, actress and influencer, about the Clinique-hosted event that took place last April in Indio, Calif., during the first weekend of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.

The party was at an 8,900-square-foot custom-designed estate called Zenda, which rents for around $300,000 an event during the festival. Its owner, Miles Warner, who lives 140 miles away in Santa Monica, was initially going to buy a smaller place to rent out as an Airbnb when he wasn’t there golfing, but when he saw the prices Coachella events, which include parties and overnight guests, were commanding, he bought the nine-acre property in February 2022 for $5.8 million. He then invested around $700,000 to add bedrooms and convert a barn into a party space.

One Coachella weekend event can cover the estate’s expenses for a year, he says. “I’m just lucky it’s working. If it stopped working, it would get expensive quickly,” he says.

There has been a bloom of such rental mansions in Southern California’s Coachella Valley over the past few years. The annual festival, which will take place over the weekends of April 12-14 and April 19-21, brings roughly 120,000 people, most of them to an area that covers nine cities, including Palm Springs, Desert Hot Springs, Indio, Indian Wells, La Quinta, Coachella, Palm Desert, Rancho Mirage and Cathedral City, as well as unincorporated communities in Riverside County like Thermal and Bermuda Dunes.

But this year, rentals of these mansions are slowing down, causing some to reduce prices, according Kaylee Ricciardi, an LA-based luxury rental real-estate agent with AKG | Christie’s who represents a number of mansions. Current demand for all short-term rentals in the Coachella Valley is down 12% year over year for the first concert weekend, the most popular time span. Last year, 75% of demand for both weeks of the Coachella festival were already booked at this point, according to AirDNA.

This doesn’t bode well considering all that goes into these weekends. On the festival’s sidelines, companies hold invitation-only parties called “activations” to draw in influencers, some of whom are paid to attend. The goal is to create memorable moments, or “branded experiences” to ensure their products show up on TikTok and Instagram feeds. These swag-laden events take months to plan and involve elaborate sets and celebrity appearances. Mansions with amenities like lazy rivers, pickleball courts and infinity pools make for good backdrops.

As a result, the income brought in by all short-term rentals in the valley during the Coachella festival has grown significantly—up 30% in 2023 compared with 2019, according to an exclusive data analysis by short-term rental-analytics firm AirDNA. In the areas where many of these rental mansions are located, the growth over just the past year has been explosive: up 44% in Coachella and up 38% in Thermal.

The slowdown in bookings, some say, is due to a glut that is coming on the market, as more investors are buying, building and renovating massive properties to rent out. “There’s going to be empty houses this year,” says Zenda’s owner Warner. He says the “secret” (that there’s a lot of money to be made renting large estates for activations during Coachella) is out—and now it’s just a question of supply and demand. Zenda, where the Clinique party took place, finally rented out this year, months later than usual, and for a significantly lower rate since it’s just a group of festival goers and not for an event.

Some owners speculate that companies are cutting back because of the economy, but the production companies that are managing the activations say the festival is important. “It’s absolutely critical for brands,” says Zev Norotsky, whose L.A-based event planning company Enter is managing several parties this year.

Others attribute it to a lacklustre festival lineup, which features Lana Del Rey, the Creator, and Doja Cat. “It’s not Beyoncé,” (who headlined the festival in 2018) says Sean Breuner, the founder and CEO of a luxury-property management company AvantStay, which manages several of the large estates in the area, along with luxury homes across the country. Rumours continue to swirl that Taylor Swift will be there to support Del Rey, a good friend, and that she could even perform.

Breuner bought his own rental mansion, a 5,000-square-foot estate called Buena Vista on 38 acres, with partners for $5.25 million in 2021. He spent over a million dollars renovating it and adding amenities like a tennis court, a large pool and a lake with paddle boats and kayaks. As it did last year during Coachella, Buena Vista will again this year host an event for Kourtney Kardashian’s lifestyle brand Poosh—an adult sleep-away camp and party. The property rents for more than $150,000 for an event at this time, according to rental agents.

Tony Schubert, owner of Event Eleven, an LA-based event-production company, says prices for these rental mansions have become so high that he realised it would be more cost effective to just build his own compound. For the past two years his company rented an 8,500-square-foot Mediterranean-style mansion on 19 acres with a man-made lake, an infinity pool and a 4-acre polo field called Cavallo Ranch, which rents out for around $300,000, where he runs an event called Nylon House, hosted by Nylon Magazine.

A few months ago he bought a 20-acre date farm in Thermal, part of Riverside County close to the festival, with two dilapidated houses for $850,000. He plans to build a 4,000-square-foot house, a lazy river and six A-frame sleeping villas that should be ready for next year’s festival. “I was looking at estates for clients and couldn’t believe how much money they were getting,” he says.

The Madrid, which spans 10,000 square feet, has eight bedrooms, three guest casitas, a poolside bar, an airplane hangar, a tennis court and two pickleball courts, is part of a whole rental mansion gated subdivision, complete with a guard, in Bermuda Dunes, created by Rick Kay, who runs a San Clemente, Calif.-based ball-bearing manufacturing company. Kay initially bought a single 10,000-square-foot home for $1.6 million in a subdivision in 2006, but when he ran into an issue renting short term, he decided to buy up the other 10 lots and build individual 10,000-square-foot houses, at a cost of $5 million to $8 million each. “Everyone has vacation rentals but no one else has a vacation village,” says Kay.

These side events held during Coachella are crucial to the local economy, particularly in the more remote areas like Thermal, which doesn’t have many hotels and restaurants to reap the benefits from the festival, says Mark Tadros,. He rents out the packhouse, traditionally where the dates are packed, on the property of his date farm, Aziz Farms, for as high as $150,000 per event during Coachella.

Last year an event called Oasis in partnership with Liquid I.V. (an El Segundo, Calif.-based hydration drink company) took place at the packhouse, but this year, the packhouse isn’t rented. “We are taking a different approach,” says Kyle Nolan, the executive producer at Sturdy, a L.A.-based design studio and creative agency that runs the Oasis event and says he isn’t doing any events off the festival grounds this year.

“I certainly hope this isn’t the new normal. I just think it’s an off year,” says Tadros, who also sits on a community council in Riverside County that approves or denies permits for special events in parts of the unincorporated areas. He says the permitting process has become much stricter in recent years.

This year Indio “clarified” its definition of a “large event,” requiring a permit for any party with over 40 attendees held at an estate with overnight guests because some property owners weren’t compliant, says Indio marketing and public information officer Jessica Mediano. Indio also doesn’t allow properties within 1,000 feet of the festival grounds during a major music festival event (i.e. Coachella) to hold events.

One of the more renowned events, sponsored by online fashion retailer Revolve , is also cutting back this year, holding its party on just one day instead of two and opting for a Palm Springs hotel instead of a private mansion as in previous years. A Revolve spokesperson says it will “still host the same amount of guests, we have just simply changed the format to keep things fresh, exciting and elevated.”

Last year the Revolve affair was held at the Emerson Estate, an over 8,000-square-foot mansion on 20 acres in Indio that rents for $30,000 for weddings and goes up to the six figure range for events. Emerson Estate owner Diana Lazzarini says she put a lot of money into her property getting ready for the Revolve party, such as putting in gates and an area for VIP parking, in hopes that they would return. She says she had a few lowball offers, but her estate isn’t booked for the first weekend of Coachella this year because it wasn’t worth accepting the lower prices people were offering. “It’s a lot of liability, headache and risk,” she says.

The Madrid House, advertised by its owner Rick Kay as “the house that never sleeps,” is also changing course. Instead of big parties on Friday and Saturday nights, there will be private daytime events run by Enter around the pool featuring pickleball and fitness classes with partners like Paper Magazine, True Religion, Saint James Iced Tea and LaCroix. Kay says he thinks he could charge as much as $200,000 for big events, but he prefers the smaller sized parties, which pay around $40,000 for the Madrid, because they are less of a hassle. The lower price played a role in why he chose the Madrid, says Enter’s Norotsky.

Instead of building one big estate on multiple acres for big events, some investors are now building multiple individual ultraluxury homes where headliner musicians can stay and companies can host influencers at smaller parties that don’t require permits.

David Corso, whose Corso Marketing Group manages a Coachella event estate called Zenyara, just finished building his own rental mansion property he named Villa Rosa. Designed by the CEO of RH, Gary Friedman (a friend), the very modern, polished concrete and balsa wood house will host Coachella musicians and guests in a quieter, more intimate environment for $10,000 to $30,000 a night, depending on the season he says.

Claudio Bravo is taking a similar path. The luxury mansion rental company magnate just finished building a $50 million project with 16 short-term rental mansions. Each spans 6,500 square feet. They are right next to each other in a gated community on a 10-acre property in Indio, near the festival site, called Bravo Collection in Indio. This year 13 of the homes, which rent for around $100,000 apiece for a week during Coachella, will be rented by Guess Inc.

Jen and Chris Baldivid’s Folsom, Calif.-based Walker Land Company owns the Old Polo Estate, a former date farm on five acres they bought in 2017 for $925,000 and added a pool, pond, volleyball and pickleball courts and a two-hole golf course. They rent it out for $50,000-$400,000 for events that attract as many as 3,000 attendees during Coachella’s first weekend. Last year’s activation was sponsored by clothing company Darc Sport and included a 40-foot long tunnel with plastic skulls embedded into foam walls. It’s not rented for the first weekend of Coachella this year.

Starting this year, the Balvadids have a different sort of mansion that is almost fully booked until summer, including during Coachella, with smaller events, like dinners, and guests staying over. It’s well known in the architectural community because it was designed in 1959 by Midcentury Modernist Walter S. White. The structure of the house, including the metal parabolic roof that floats over the angular white structure, is untouched, but they knocked down a wall to make it more open, added three sleeping casitas, put in a pool that mimics the shape of the house and turned a carport into an outdoor entertainment area.

While demand for short-term rentals has slowed for the first weekend of the Coachella festival, it is higher this year for what’s called Stagecoach—the country music festival held the weekend after the two Coachella festival weekends, this year April 26-28. Demand is up 39% year-over-year, according to AirDNA. That is giving mansion owners hope that there will be expanding opportunities for event rentals beyond Coachella.

There are still more event mansions on the horizon. Drew MacLurg owns the Stallion Estate, a 7,000 square foot home on 5 acres he bought for $4 million in March 2022. He charges around $200,000 for an event for the first weekend of Coachella, but he didn’t get any interest for that this year so he is renting it to a private group for three nights for around $18,000, he says.

MacLurg put in about $1.6 million adding a 60-foot long pool with a waterslide, a decked-out game barn, a pickleball court and a nine-hole mini golf course. He is currently building a 7,000-square-foot house nearby that will have a lazy river and a bowling alley for event use.

Another is the Pond Estate, a 12,700-square-foot Hacienda-style mansion with indoor and outdoor swimming pools and two guesthouses (4,000 square feet and 2,000 square feet) on over 12 acres in South Palm Springs. Tom Ryan, the president and CEO of streaming at Paramount, bought the property, near a house he owned, for $8.38 million in June 2021 after stumbling on it with his wife. He says he was blown away by the beauty and history and is putting in a couple million dollars renovating and redecorating it, including creating a game room and entertaining spaces out of former garages, each 3,000 square feet. He plans to rent it out for weddings, private parties and during Coachella for events.

Ryan says he didn’t buy it as an investment to make as much profit as possible—he sees the event business more as helping offset costs for a property his family will own for generations. “It felt like a once in a lifetime opportunity,” says Ryan.