The mosaic walls of ancient Romans, with their images of daily life, of gods, beasts, men, and monsters, connect us with those people as if they were alive today. So do the frescoed walls and ceilings of the Renaissance, with scenes of the holy and the pastoral. The cool abstractions of Moorish zelige mosaics invoke the eternal human yearning for order, pattern, symmetry, and design. In this Luxury Defined property showcase, we tour five resplendent residences which bring the fresco, the mural, and the mosaic into the contemporary living space. Art, timeless and immovable, waits on the walls and ceilings of these magnificent homes.
Hacienda San Bernardo
Traditional and contemporary elements converge at Hacienda San Bernardo, a newly restored 19th-century manor house set within idyllic tropical gardens near Merida, on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. Its restoration and expansion by world-renowned Mexican architect Marco Aldaco preserved historical architectural elements, such as murals and sculptures, and finishes carved from tropical woods and limestone. The museum-quality artworks are framed against the home’s resort-like interior spaces, featuring eight en suite bedrooms, stately reception rooms, and a separate building with two guest apartments. The surrounding gardens are graced with statuary, bronze sculptures, reflecting pools, and waterfalls.
Longboat Key, Florida
Sited on the southern end of coveted Longboat Key, Serenissima is a palatial masterwork framed by a luminous panorama of sea, sand, and sky. The drama begins at the marble-clad hall with a glass ceiling dome and endless views of the Gulf of Mexico. A reverence for craftsmanship reveals itself across three living levels, with lyrical Venetian murals, glittering chandeliers, and extraordinary millwork. Intimate family living rooms are balanced with spacious entertainment areas, such as the magnificent grand salon, which can easily accommodate 100 guests; the master chef’s kitchen, and the expansive terraces with incredible views of the infinity pool, beach, and Gulf. Set inside the exclusive Longboat Key Club, its amenities include golf courses, tennis courts, restaurants, a spa, fitness center, and marina.
Riad in the Medina of Marrakesh
This historic riad has a legendary history and location—in the heart of the Medina of Marrakesh—and one of the Old City’s largest, and most beautiful, gardens, with orange and olive groves, jacarandas, cypress trees, and one of its last remaining wells. The sumptuous interiors are resplendent with traditional Moroccan details: exquisite zelige mosaic tiles cover the floors and walls, framed by ornate ceilings, rich fabrics, and decorative Moorish tapestries. There are 15 en suite bedrooms, three reception rooms, and a spectacular pool terrace. Over its two-century history, the riad’s guests have included Queen Victoria, and a who’s who of film and fashion. It has also featured in several films, including Queen of the Desert, starring Nicole Kidman.
Villa in Playetes de Bellver
Oropesa del Mar, Castellón, Spain
This grand Valencian villa commands 360-degree views of the sea and mountains from an elevation in Playetes de Bellver, one of Castellón’s most exclusive private resorts. With 9,687 square feet, with six bedrooms and nine bathrooms, the residence has been crafted with the finest materials and craftsmanship. The entrance makes a grand introduction: a double-height foyer features a marble and wrought-iron floating staircase, its wall graced with a classically inspired mural commissioned by the current owners. Other details include a formal dining room, commercial-grade kitchen, living room, ballroom, a large wine cellar, and garage. The grounds include a swimming pool and an expansive terrace overlooking the sea.
Lucca, Tuscany, Italy
In the Tuscan countryside, near Lucca, this stately Renaissance villa dating from the mid-15th century is characterized by remarkable frescoed walls and ceilings, exquisite antique fireplaces, and imposing columns and statuary. The lower level incorporates two large reception rooms and administrative offices. A double staircase ascends to the ground floor, with its great hall and stately reception rooms. The second level houses eight bedrooms and six bathrooms; the top floor offers three additional bedrooms and two bathrooms. The villa is surrounded by 10 acres of serene parklands, including a Baroque garden and a citrus grove. Enhancing this great estate is an adjoining farmhouse and stables, which were built in the 17th century.