Dubliner designs $500m LA mega mansion

Palatial pad will be world’s most expensive house when completed, writes John Breslin

Dubliner and DIT graduate Paul McClean is the designer behind the 104,000 sq ft mansion in Los Angeles.

An Irishman, who admits he is not a licenced architect in the US, has been revealed as the designer of a mega mansion the developer wants to sell for a staggering $500m (€448m).

Dubliner Paul McClean is the designer behind the 104,000 sq ft mansion in Los Angeles that, if the developer reaches even close to his asking price, will make it by far the most expensive house in the world.

McClean, who graduated from the Dublin Institute of Technology before moving to Los Angeles, is now the go-to designer of mega mansions in the city.

Yet McClean admitted to a LA newspaper he is not yet an architect in the United States, postponing the last of six tests needed to be granted a licence because he is so busy.

He has a licensed architect on the staff of his firm, McClean Design.

McClean’s rise has been meteoric — just four years ago he was working out of his garage.

He can thank, in part, the developer Paddy McKillen and his family for helping to catapult him to the top of his profession in the city.

McKillen hired McClean to design seven houses in the city, including five for members of the McKillen family.

And son Drew McKillen was the developer of a McClean-designed home sold last year for $25m (€22.4m), to fashion designer Calvin Klein. His brother Tyrone McKillen, an agent with high-end real estate brokers, Hilton & Hyland, brokered the deal.

And Hilton & Hyland are also the brokers for the $500m Bel Air mansion, now half built but with a planned 2017 completion date. “The asking price will be $500m,” mansion developer Nile Niami told Bloomberg News last spring.

Niami, an independent film producer turned developer, hired McClean to design six houses prior to approaching him about a project dubbed simply ‘The One’, a mansion twice the size of the White House on a four-acre plot in Bel Air.

It will have a 5,000 sq ft master bedroom, five swimming pools, a casino, a nightclub with a VIP area, a 30-car garage, a room with jellyfish tanks instead of walls and ceilings, and another set aside entirely for flowers.

Niama told Details magazine: “We have a very specific client in mind. Someone who already has a $100m yacht and has seven houses all over the world.”

Some LA real estate experts have expressed scepticism the asking price will be met.

McClean, who was not available for an interview this week, told the Orange County Register newspaper that he did not set out to produce southern California’s biggest and ritziest mansion.

But, while growing up in Dublin, he always wanted to be a designer. As soon as he graduated from DIT in 1994, McClean set off for California.

“It’s just great to design homes in such a fantastic climate and to take advantage of the ocean and city views,” McClean told the Orange County Register, “I got off the bus in California, and the first thing that struck me was the light. Our houses are all about light. Light and water.”

He worked several jobs before becoming a design assistant with an architectural firm in Laguna Beach, south of Los Angeles.

McClean struck out on his own in 2000, designing houses in Laguna Beach. He designed two for McKillen in the area. But it was not until 2008 that McClean’s business began its meteoric rise. It was his first job in LA and the house sold for $10m.

Since then he has specialised in designing multi-million dollar mansions, including one that sold for $39m.

In a candid interview with the Hollywood Reporter, given before he was hired to build ‘The One’, McClean expressed some disbelief at the trend in LA for unique, so-called “spec”, mansions.

“These are buyers who just aren’t going to be spending much time in these homes,” McClean said.

“They start with a house in London, then in New York, then they realise the weather is crap in both, so they get a home here. But it’s more about collecting homes, not living in them.”

“I’ve never designed on this scale before,” he said of of his five projects at the time, ranging from 20,000 sq to 60,000 sq ft.

“No matter what we build, there’s only one complaint: They’re too small.”

Niama, the developer, said the asking price, which if met will be $200m more than the current priciest mansion in the world, a French chateau, is only $5,000 per sq ft. That’s half what billionaires have paid for Manhattan penthouses, he said.

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