September 22, 2017 / Property Spotlight

The Imitation Game: Architecturally Inspired Homes

Luxury Defined tours five distinctive homes created in homage to great architectural treasures


A rare passion inspired the homes in this Luxury Defined showcase: Timeless themes and styles of world-heritage architecture that were emulated, or in some instances, devotedly replicated by creators intent on living in their own private Alhambra—or Alamo. Contemplate the serene Alhambra-inspired Islamic arches and meditation pool of the Villa Marrakesh, or the elegant symmetries of George Washington’s Mount Vernon (proudly built to scale in the Parisian suburbs for the 1931 Colonial Exposition!). Or relax in the 21st-century’s luxurious take on the Governor’s Palace in Colonial Williamsburg. These are not “copies” or the mere flattery of imitation. Here, scholarship, craftsmanship, style, and wit combined to create things beautiful and new.

Ranchito Mi Sueño (San Miguel de Allende, Mexico)
The Inspiration: The Alamo (San Antonio, Texas)
<b><em>Left</em>: <a href=""target="_blank">Ranchito Mi Sueño</a></br></b>This scaled replica of the Alamo of San Antonio forms the centerpiece of Ranchito Mi Sueño, a 2.4-acre working ranch and Wild West-themed compound near the historic city of San Miguel de Allende.</br></br><b><em>Right</em>: The Alamo</br></b>Texas’s most visited historic landmark, the 18th-century Mission San Antonio de Valero was the site of the Battle of the Alamo, a 13-day siege fought Feb. 23-March 6, 1836, during the Texas Revolution.Creating Ranchito Mi Sueño was the realization of a dream for its current owner, a consummate horseman with deep Texan roots. An architectural achievement of monumental scale, the 7,100-square-foot main house pays tribute to the Alamo in both its size and attention to detail. The façade is crafted in stone, tile and brick; Inside, a replica of the Alamo’s canyon-vaulted ceiling crowns the three-story great hall. Spanish colonial-style architectural details dominate the sumptuous living spaces: bold arches, massive columns, carved fireplaces, and stone fountains. The appointments are equally unique: a Wild West-themed cantina and 42-seat dining room, media room, gym, owner’s retreat with spa, organic gardens, a barn, stables, and rodeo arenas.

Villa Marrakesh (Marrakesh, Morocco)
The Inspiration: The Alhambra (Granada, Spain)<b><em>Left</em>: <a href=""target="_blank">Villa Marrakesh</a></br></b>This palatial villa in Marrakesh, Morocco, was built as an ode to one of Spain’s historic architectural treasures, the Alhambra. The pavilion and reflecting pool echo the design of the Alhambra’s Torre de las Damas (Ladies’ Tower).</br></br><b><em>Right</em>: The Alhambra</br></b> The vast fortress and palace complex was built between the 9th and the 14th centuries. Its name, which means “the red one” in Arabic, is thought to be derived from the reddish color of the gravel and clay bricks which form the outer ramparts.This magnificent home in Marrakech is an ode to the Alhambrathe vast medieval fortress and palace complex in the Andalusian city of Granada. This home was conceived after the current owners discovered the blueprints to the Alhambra in an antiquarian bookshop in London and fell in love with the design. They bought an 11-acre plot in Marrakech’s palm grove, La Palmeraie, and set out over the next three years to recreate the famous Andalusian monument. At nearly 60,000 square feet, the house perpetuates the richness and treasures of Moorish craftsmanship: evident in the museum-quality zellige mosaics and carved-wood ceilings that grace the interior. The spectacular grounds were crafted with the same loving care—an oasis of serenity where rose gardens, citrus groves, and palm tree-lined paths converge with ornamental lakes and marble fountains.

<b><em>Left</em>: <a href=""target="_blank">Villa Marrakesh</a></br></b>It took 1,300 artisans three years to complete Villa Marrakesh’s 59,632-square-foot interior and Moorish-inspired gardens.</br></br><b><em>Right</em>: The Alhambra</br></b>Originally built as a fortress in 889, the Alhambra palace was constructed from the 13th to the 14th century during the reign of the Emirate of Granada. It was deemed a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1984.

Longhirst Hall (Northumberland, England)
The Inspiration: The Pantheon (Rome, Italy)
<b><em>Left</em>: <a href=""target="_blank">Longhirst Hall</a></br></b>Built in 1824 by neoclassical architect John Dobson, England’s Longhirst Hall takes its inspiration from the Pantheon, the domed masterpiece built by Emperor Hadrian in 126 AD. </br></br><b><em>Right</em>: The Pantheon</br></b>The best preserved of Rome’s ancient monuments, the Pantheon has stood for nearly two millennia. At its center is the dome. An engineering marvel, its diameter is 142 feet—the exact distance to the floor below; its oculus, the only source of light.Longhirst Hall, an elegant, Grade II listed country house in the Northumberland countryside, was the first of John Dobson’s great country houses. Today, Longhirst Hall been meticulously restored and reimagined as four luxurious residences. The signature home, Unit I, boasts the original main entrance—a monumental pedimented portico supported on giant Corinthian columns—which opens into an imposing ashlar-faced central hall with Ionic columns and a sweeping imperial staircase graced with a wrought-iron balustrade and ceramic palmette frieze. Above it is a spectacular replica of the Pantheon’s famous dome. Farther along are several reception rooms, wonderfully proportioned for grand-scale entertaining. Adding to the grandeur a library and study, wine cellar, eight stately bedrooms, and breathtaking views over the estate’s Capability Brown-style gardens.

House Vaucresson (Hauts-de-Seine, France)
The Inspiration: Mount Vernon (Fairfax County, Virginia)
<b><em>Left</em>: <a href=""target="_blank">House Vaucresson</a></br></b>Approved by the United States government for the Paris Colonial Exposition in 1931, this French manor house is a full-scale reproduction of George Washington’s iconic 18th-century estate, Mount Vernon.</br></br><b><em>Right</em>: George Washington’s Mount Vernon</br></b>One of America’s most important historical landmarks, Mount Vernon was the country residence of the first President of the United States from 1754 to 1799.George Washington’s ancestral home, the iconic Mount Vernon, has stood on the banks of the Potomac River in Fairfax County, Virginia, since 1778. This remarkable full-scale near-replica, built as the United States’ pavilion for the 1931 Colonial Exposition, stands between Paris and Versailles. Nearly every detail of the historic Virginia mansion was reproduced, including the eight-columned portico and octagonal cupola tower. Today, the colonial-style estate offers 10,763 square feet of living space on 1.6 acres of parkland, rare for a property so close to Paris. The house has been fully renovated, the interiors repainted in an elegant neutral palette of gray, beige, cream, and off-white. The interiors are comfortable and luxurious, and include a master suite, five guest bedrooms, a gourmet kitchen, grandly scaled reception rooms, and the original Mount Vernon-inspired staircase.

<b><em>Left</em>: <a href=""target="_blank">House Vaucresson</a></br></b>Nearly every detail of the George Washington residence was reproduced. Its most distinctive features are the oculus window at the front, the eight-columned portico at the rear, and the magnificent octagonal cupola tower that graces the roof.</br></br><b><em>Right</em>: George Washington’s Mount Vernon</br></b>The original Mount Vernon residence was constructed by George Washington’s father in 1735. Washington acquired the estate in 1754 and spent the next four decades converting the main residence into the stately plantation-style mansion that stands today.

Colonial-Inspired Mansion (Mclean, Virginia)
The Inspiration: The Governor’s Palace, Colonial Williamsburg
<b><em>Left</em>: <a href=""target="_blank">Colonial Revival Mansion</a></br></b>This elegant mansion in the Washington, D.C., suburb of McLean is modeled after the reconstructed Governor’s Palace in Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia.</br></br><b><em>Right</em>: Governor’s Palace</br></b>A symbol of royal authority, the Governor's Palace in Williamsburg, Virginia, began serving as the official residence of the Virginia colony’s seven royal governors in 1714, and housed Virginia governors Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson until 1780. Colonial Williamsburg’s reconstruction opened to the public in 1934.<br/><i>Image credit: Colonial Williamsburg.</i>This Georgian-inspired mansion in the prestigious Ballantrae Farm neighborhood of McLean is modeled after the Governor’s Palace in Williamsburg, Virginia, which served as the official residence of the seven royal governors of the Colony of Virginia and the state’s first post-colonial governors, Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson, from 1714 to 1780, and was reconstructed by Colonial Williamsburg in 1934. The three-story house bares a remarkable resemblance to the original, yet with a luxurious 21st-century twist. The Georgian-inspired architecture is evident in the Flemish-bond brickwork, colonnades, dormer windows, and cupola tower; inside, mahogany-paneled walls, ornate fireplaces, and towering Palladian windows lend to the grandeur. The Old World details blend harmoniously with contemporary appointments, such as the expansive master suite, custom kitchen, and breakfast room. On the second-level, screened porches and a balcony overlook a swimming pool, terrace, gazebo and cabana.

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Lucy Carsen
Christie's International Real Estate