Robin Williams' "Villa of Smiles" estate in Napa Valley hit the Multiple Listing Service
Williams commissioned the Italianate estate about 10 years ago from Gast Architects, and is now offering it at $29.9 million -- a big price cut from about two years ago, when he tried to sell it for $35 million.
He dubbed the 650-acre property Villa Sorriso; "sorriso" means "smile" in Italian, so real estate agents and the media have loosely translated it as Villa of Smiles. The listing is held by Cyd Greer and Joyce Rey of Coldwell Banker Previews International.
If our eyes don't deceive, the home is heavily influenced by Italian Renaissance architecture. That wouldn't surprise us. The Italian Renaissance spawned commedia dell'arte -- the original comedy improv, a discipline that Williams (a true genius, to our minds) has taken to extraordinary heights.
In any case, "Villa of Smiles" is an apt name:
• You cross a bridge from the master bedroom to reach a "belvedere" -- a word rooted in the Italian words for "beautiful view" -- where you can sit in an open gallery and soak in the views all around; picture a bell tower without the bell. You might recognize the concept from a mind-twisting Escher print, though a belvedere can take any form. Its popularity surged in the 16th century.
• The home has one grand rotunda and two smaller ones, which set up the axis for the floor plan. The rotunda is a motif found elsewhere in the home too.
• The property has its own spring-fed pond, pictured here, with private bass fishing. The land is about 650 acres and also includes a tennis court and sculpture gardens.
• The library has a gold leaf ceiling with verdigris finish. It also has three inlaid mother-of-pearl panels: One says Villa Sorriso, one says "Amor vincit omnia" ("Love conquers all" in Latin) -- and one of them might give you a little shiver of delight if you were a fan of William's 1989 movie "Dead Poets Society." It says "Carpe diem," or "Seize the day" in Latin:
• Not just in the library but throughout the home, ceilings are extraordinary: Some are coffered, others vaulted, gilded or tiled. Some have circular skylights, including one in a bathroom.
• Even details as small as the corbel pictured here infuse the home with warm character. (Confession: This little guy has been tickling our brain mercilessly, because he looks awfully familiar. We've done an outrageously inefficient amount of research trying to figure out why. Do any commenters recognize him?)
• Doors are made of mahogany; the door hardware is antique pewter, with egg hinges. The entry floor is limestone, while floors in other public rooms are reclaimed walnut.
• The master bath is done in Moroccan style, with an etched relief pattern on the shower door and a soaking tub on a raised platform overlooking the pool and the countryside.
• A grand globe chandelier, made by Historical Arts & Casting in Utah, hovers over the entry. A playroom contains Matisse-like light fixtures; the dining room has a commissioned Murano glass chandelier. The architects say the estate was "designed for large-scale entertaining as well as a retreat for the family."
• A range from French manufacturer La Cornue presides in the kitchen, where you'll find cabinets that have panels inset with art glass collages.
Also in keeping with the "Villa of Smiles" name, an 18-acre vineyard grows on the property.
"To my mind, the grapes -- the vineyard is the key element of the whole property," listing agent Cyd Greer tells us. While many properties in the area have extraordinary homes, and others have exquisite vineyards, scarcely any have "the whole package," she says.
Williams' vineyard is "ultra-premium," she says, so much so that it generates real revenue in an area where many properties merely break even. This year, its grapes are being sold exclusively to the highly respected Robert Craig Winery. She says more of the property's 630 acres are plantable, too.
Another detail about the home is perhaps less smile-inducing but a practical consideration for anyone who has the wherewithal to buy such an estate: It has a couple of safe rooms, described as "Kevlar-wrapped" in previous sale material.
Williams' recent newsmaking hasn't been confined to real estate. The Hollywood media reported that he's reprising his role as Mrs. Doubtfire: