I was at an open house recently for some sprawling Palisades mansion with six or seven or eight bedrooms, and a family room, a living room, a sitting room, and a great room, and as I walked down yet another endless hallway, I thought, “this must be the biggest house in DC. Also, they should give us Segways for these house tours.” Turns out, it wasn’t even close to being the biggest house in DC.
The biggest house in DC is owned by the richest person who kinda sorta lives in DC, who also happens to be the richest person on the planet – Jeff “At Least I’m Less Evil Than Zuckerberg” Bezos. He purchased the Kalorama home last year, which formerly housed the Textile Museum, for $23 million in cash. (The Washington Post described the purchase as an “East Coast pied-a-terre – allowing him to avoid hotel bills,” which is just ludicrous. Even if he was splashing out for a $3000-a-night suite, it would still be eight thousand nights, at three grand a pop, before a $23 million house started to save you money. The home spans 27,000 square feet and consists of two historic mansions designed by the same architect who built the Jefferson Memorial.
But you could argue that the Bezos house is actually the second-biggest house in DC. The other contender happens to be occupied by someone who would probably claim to be richer than Jeff Bezos – most likely in an early-morning tweet with mystifyingly random capitalization – but is not. Yes, if you consider the White House a house and not a government building, then it gets the crown – at 55,000 square feet, it’s more than twice as big as the Bezos house. But even at that gargantuan size, it’s still only the 34th largest house in the United States, which gives you some idea of some of the elephantine McMansions out there.
The largest home in the America, the Biltmore Estate, is in Asheville, NC, of all places. (The vast majority of the 50 largest houses in the US are in New York, California, or Florida.) At just over 180,000 square feet, it’s over three times larger than the White House, and seven times larger than the Bezos house. Built by the Vanderbilt family in the late 19th century, the house is so large that on first approach it looks like a small village. It took a thousand workers seven years to build, from 1889 to 1896, and its construction was so laborious that the family just built a woodworking factory and a 32,000-bricks-a-day kiln right on the grounds, to speed the process.
The house has 250 rooms, including 35 bedrooms, 43 baths, 65 fireplaces, and three kitchens; the largest room in the house, the Banquet Hall, is 72 feet long and has a 70 foot ceiling. It’s an incredible house, but like most homes of a certain size, it was ruinously expensive to maintain, even for a Vanderbilt – experts believe the upkeep squandered almost the entire inheritance of the youngest Vanderbilt. Strangely, it’s assessed at a relative paltry $157 million, probably because of its location – if it was in Los Angeles, it might be worth a cool billion.
But as monstrously large as the Biltmore Estate is, it’s not the largest home in the world. Not even close. The largest home in the world is in Mumbai, India, and at 400,000 square feet is almost three times bigger than the insanely big Biltmore Estate. Antilia, as it’s called, is a $2 billion, 27-story skyscraper built by Mukesh Ambani, an Indian businessman worth $30 billion. Though the house – building? – is as tall as a standard 60-story building, it only has 27 floors due to the extra-high ceilings on each floor, and has a 168-car garage spread over six floors, a 50-person theater, an ice cream parlor, and, because it gets hot in India, a “snow room.”
Antilia also requires a staff of 600 to maintain; the staff lives on site and works around the clock, in shifts. (Just you and 600 servants – sounds like a relaxing lifestyle!) To avoid repetition of architectural elements – and because why not, he’s worth $30 billion – Ambani ordered that each of the 27 floors be built in a totally different style, using totally different materials. (That doesn’t sound tacky at all, does it.) It’s only the second-most valuable residential property in the world, behind Buckingham Palace, but definitely the biggest in the world, and almost certainly the most ludicrous. (A snow room?!)