Questions have been asked as to who is likely to get Bill and Melinda Gates’ 6 100² lakeside mansion in Washington State once their divorce is settled.
But it would seem Melinda doesn’t really want it. In a profile in Fortune magazine published in 2008, she said when she arrived in Gates’ life the house caused her to have “a mini sort of personal crisis”.
It was partly built when she married Gates in 1994. She described it as “a bachelor’s dream and a bride’s nightmare… with enough software and hi-tech displays to make a newlywed feel as though she were living inside a video game”.
So with the help of interior designer Thierry Despont – who has worked on the Palm Court of New York’s Plaza Hotel, and the Ritz in Paris – she helped create a home for a family.
Even then she wasn’t entirely happy. She told the New York Times in 2019: “We won’t have that house forever. I’m actually really looking forward to the day that Bill and I live in a 140m² house.”
So what is the house like? An article in the NY Times, this time printed in 1995 – a year after the couple married – said the house is built as several pavilions into the side of a hill in the super-rich area of Medina, where Jeff Bizos also lives.
It had a 20m indoor/outdoor pool with its underwater sound system, a 230m² gym panelled with stone from a mountain in the Pacific Northwest, a trampoline room, an art decor cinema, and each room apparently has touch-pad controlled lighting, music and climate control.
Oddly for such an enormous home, it has a relatively modest seven bedrooms, but an eye-widening 23 – or 24 – bathrooms, depending on which source you believe. Outside there is a beach with sand imported, according to different reports, from either the Caribbean or Hawaii and a stream for salmon and trout.
It was dubbed Xanadu 2.0 by Gates’ biographers, after the home of the tycoon in the film Citizen Kane. And that, in turn, was a reference to the Coleridge poem that begins: “In Xanadu did Kubla Khan/ a stately pleasure-dome decree…”
Fittingly, Gates’ Xanadu library has a dome, as well as two secret bookcases, one of which opens to reveal a hidden bar. And a 20-car garage has been built into the hillside. There are six kitchens.
The whole pile is valued at upward of $131 million. In 2009 property taxes were reported to be $1.063m. The details of the home – which opens on to Lake Washington – have been kept private by the Gates family, although in 2009 a tour of the property went for $35 000 at a charity auction, according to TechCrunch.
It is clad in Douglas fir and was designed by the architects James Cutler and Peter Bohlin. And the piece de resistance? A 40-year-old maple tree close to the driveway is one of Gates’ big loves. It is monitored by computer, and if at any point it becomes too dry, water is automatically pumped into it. Now that is something some of us could make good use of.