Real estate mogul Mohamed Hadid has come a long way from his Middle eastern roots to develop some of the most beautiful mansions and first-class resorts in this country.
By Patrice Farameh
Photography by David O. Marlow Portrait by Ashley Noelle
Hadid has successfully developed several hotels around the world, including ownership in Ritz-Carltons in Washington, New York, Houston, and Aspen.
There was a time when a mansion was defined as a stately residence of more than 7,000 square feet. But today, mere size and price are no longer the exclusive factors. As a result of the rapid growth of cookie-cutter homes with palatial proportions built over the past decade, the label “mansion” today demands more than just impressive square footage. It requires mastery of architectural and artistic technique, sumptuous interiors rich with pizzazz and panache, and luxury resort-style amenities. These authentic mansions are developed by design aficionados that are passionate about the art of architecture; homes in this category are not mere mansions, but works of art.
When the top percentage of the world’s elite want to build a truly magnificent palace of this caliber, they turn to developer Mohamed Hadid. His homes are the best representation of what it means to have an inspiring luxury mansion that radiates with a timeless grandeur. Hadid builds properties with the splendor and scale of opulence found only in the top old-world palaces. With modernized contemporary fixtures and high-tech amenities, there is positively no debate-a Hadid home epitomizes everything that word “mansion” now represents.
Hadid is no stranger to building luxury real estate. From developing five-star resorts and deluxe commercial buildings worth hundreds of millions of dollars, he has earned his label as a master real estate developer. He is known to take incredible risks on projects and discount his worst critics with fantastical success. Colleagues and friends admire him for his deal making skills, forward-thinking vision, and aesthetically tuned eye.
Born in Nazareth, Hadid spent most of his childhood in Damascus and Beirut until the age of nine. His well-educated father was a former literature professor that relocated his entire family to Washington, D.C., to take on a job at Voice of America. At a young age, Hadid was able to develop and take advantage of his strong entrepreneurial spirit. Among his very first business ventures was the renovation of exotic and classic cars in Georgetown. A risk taker at heart, Hadid spent his summers on a Greek island where he owned a ritzy nightclub that quickly became a European hotspot. With profits from the club combined with his savvy business sense to siege perfect opportunities, he eventually opened up an international export company that traded equipment between the U.S. and the Middle East. This gave him the connections he needed with influential people and organizations, allowing him to start investing in large-scale real estate projects.
With his audacious “buy high, sell higher” investment philosophy, Hadid built his development fortune on his shrewd eye and intuition by finding more worth in expensive property that most entrepreneurs would never touch. As a result, Hadid has successfully developed several hotels around the world, including ownership in Ritz-Carltons in Washington, New York, Houston, and Aspen.
Leveraging on his expansive experience building luxury resorts as well as his love for design, Hadid began to craft his own ultimate dream home with notes and hand-drawn sketches. He applied his vision to an invaluable plot of land in Bel Air that eventually ended up as a visible masterpiece that embodies old-world architecture at its finest. His aesthetic inspiration for his Bel Air estate ultimately comes from his own multicultural background and experience living abroad. “My passion for design, training in architecture, real estate development, and history as a businessman have all come into play in developing this house,” Hadid says.
There are simply no words to describe the magnificence of this home. The beauty of the minutest details catches the eye, thanks to his almost obsessive attention to every facet of the development process. Throughout the home, the hardwood floors are hand-honed and beveled into captivating patterns-such as Casablanca, Versailles, and Brittany styles-that use three types of premium Bavarian wood mixed with American walnut. The juxtaposition of opulent materials such as imported marble and rare objets d’art and accessories is surprisingly warm and inviting. And even though the house is inundated with antiques, Hadid is no foreigner to high tech either. From futuristic computer equipment to integrated sound systems, the mansion is fitted with the best technology one expects in the most ultra-modern estates.
During his extensive career as an architect and interior designer for most of his residential development properties, Hadid acquired a penchant for taking on challenges that raise the standards of luxury homebuilding to even higher levels. It would be no surprise that his own home he built in Bel Air would emulate that passion.
“The property was originally 2.3 acres, but with only 10,000 square feet of flat pad. The challenge was that the rest of the land was on a slope of a hill,” Hadid explains. “I recreated two more acres of flat land by building retaining walls up to 33 feet high at its highest point. Now the house sits above 1,000 linear feet of retaining walls that are backfilled with 600,000 cubic yards of compacted earth. These walls were then covered with carefully selected, hand-chiseled stone imported from Jerusalem and the surrounding areas, like Bethlehem.” These massive structures also serve another purpose by forming a beautiful fortress-like periphery with lush foliage flowing over the edges of the stone walls that border the long windy street up to the house.
With his ultimate intention to create an oasis where he works, lives, and entertains, Hadid reminds me of the infamous Sun King himself who brought the term “gilded excess” to the architecture and design world. With the aid of master architect Carlos Rocha, this nine bedroom, 14 bathroom estate was developed on a prime Bel Air hillside, allowing for 300 degree majestic views of the city and surrounding mountains. During the day when the sun is at its highest point, the stunning pool sparkles as if diamonds were floating on the surface. In the evenings, the captivating view beyond the pool takes the stage, appearing as though thousands of jewels were suspended in the air over the vast cityscape from downtown Los Angeles to Santa Monica. The perfectly landscaped gardens have been designed by Hadid himself with plants native to European soil. To complete the fairytale castle image, the pond is home to 10 swans.
“It took about 1,000 people up to 18 months to build this 52,000-square-foot home with artisans from all over the world-from Morocco, Mexico, Italy, China, and Russia,” says Hadid. The living area itself is an impressive 3,000 square feet of open space around the kitchen. But even more noteworthy is his private suite that is double the size, and includes a massive closet that can hold more than 1,000 pairs of shoes. There is even space for 10 cars for an avid car collector, including two interior car garages that currently shelter his private collection.
Every inch of the interior of this estate is adorned with unexpected trimmings and accessories. Hadid went as far as to commission more than 100 artisans to hand-carve each ornate fixture for every crevice in the house. He set up a workshop on the property while the home was being built where specially trained masters in their craft would sculpt, cast, and hand finish embellishments for the walls, windows, ceilings, and staircases.
Hadid generally aspires for a collected rather than decorated look. He blends his newly designed furnishings with vintage accessories from different periods and styles. The aged finely woven rugs from Iran and Afghanistan are sprinkled throughout the house, adding a soothing feeling of warmth and distinction to the formal and sophisticated European décor. Hadid collects antiques, designer oddities, and rarities and stores these precious objects until he finds a home for them. For instance, one of the 14 mantelpieces in the house was placed in storage for 25 years until it found its home in his office today.
A chef at heart, Hadid built a grand kitchen worthy of a professional with all the state-of-the-art appliances one finds in Michelin star restaurants. “Everyone feels more at home in rooms that feel open,” Hadid says. “That is why I opened up the kitchen to create another living space.” The open kitchen makes it easy for him and his guests to collaborate with his own personal chef during more informal gatherings. There is even a comfortable area to dine al fresco where the meals are served directly from the hot stove to the plate. The brick dome ceiling and heavily carved cabinetry pays homage to the Tuscan villas in Italy. In Hadid’s kitchen, one can feast on the architecture and design alone.
Aside from its château-inspired exterior, there are other significant hints to French influences. Unlike the typical American design of a room where the style is more about conformity, the French prefer to mix patterns and fabrics as Hadid has done here. In this case, the windows are dressed with gloriously layered fabrics of brocades, silk, and velvet, which come together in a sophisticated and harmonious way.
More Italian and French influences are everywhere, which isn’t surprising. Hadid is a true master of modern aristocratic design, artfully blending different periods and styles from the globe into one distinct setting. The palatial rooms also exhibit unique touches from more exotic locations such as Turkey, Morocco, and Russia.
Every room in this house is visual proof that its designer is truly a world citizen. The Turkish-style spa is reminiscent of a traditional bathhouse; iridescent Moroccan tiles form elaborate mosaic designs in the floors and walls, and colorful lamps from Turkey hang from the tiled ceilings. The incredible 60-seat screening room is inspired by the magnificent opera houses in France and Russia. The theater interiors are what overwhelms audiences, with its deep burgundy couches covered with imported silk velvet from Belgium, ceilings hand-painted by Russian artists, and antique French lamps giving off a romantic glow.
Mohamed Hadid can be labeled many things aside from being a real estate entrepreneur; he is an avid pilot, a dedicated father to five children, and devout Muslim that religiously fasts during the holy month of Ramadan. He is also known to be an exemplary host that loves to entertain lavish parties in his own home. An event company’s paradise, the house boasts an authentic Moroccan room and an extraordinary 300-seat ballroom with its own kitchen and bar. Even though he has never indulged in alcohol in his life, his 5,000-bottle wine cellar is filled with the best French and Californian wines. Not only does his collection consist of a diverse range of premium wines from local vineyards such as Summerland Winery, but it also includes bottles from his very own winery in Beverly Hills.
Whether it is a Mediterranean beachfront villa in Punta de Mita or a winter ski lodge in Aspen, Hadid enjoys taking on diverse real estate projects in order to display his great range of styles. “Even in this business, you have to keep reinventing yourself,” he says. Hadid is referring to a stunning modern home he just completed in Beverly Hills-a contemporary sanctuary designed in minimalist style with an Indonesian flare.
The famed French writer Stendhal once called beauty the promise of happiness. If this is true, Hadid must be one of the happiest men on earth. His taste in beauty is evident in the luxurious projects that surround him and the lavish lifestyle he leads. This simultaneously flamboyant yet charming real estate mogul has come a long way from his Middle Eastern roots to develop some of the most beautiful mansions and first-class resorts in this country.