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Lofty Gallery Walls and Understated Architecture Are an Art Collector’s Dream

From museum-finish gallery walls to half-landings for sculpture displays, these homes were made for displaying a collection

India Stoughton |

The perfect home for an art collector is an elusive thing. Just as each private collection is unique with its own specific preoccupations and focal points, each property adapted by an art collector will lend itself to different types of display. 

Whether seeking a historic home to serve as a contrasting backdrop for a collection of sleek contemporary sculptures, or a modern apartment capable of housing sizable wall-hanging works, the process of finding the right home to double as a bespoke gallery requires perseverance, luck and imagination. But there are a few shared characteristics that can elevate a property into the perfect surrounding to showcase a private collection, from high ceilings and large rooms, to careful lighting and well-chosen décor. 

Photo: Matthew Millman

From the highest penthouse on a the U.S.’s West Coast, to a historic six-story mansion on London’s prestigious Cadogan Square, to a charming pied-à-terre in the heart of Paris’s Carré des Antiquaires, these properties are all made for collectors in search of both a living space and a unique private gallery.

Art Gallery in the Sky

Designed specifically with art collectors in mind, the so-called grand penthouse is the crowning glory of 181 Fremont, the highest residence on the U.S. West Coast, rising nearly 800 feet above San Francisco Bay. Fully furnished with bespoke interiors by the owners of design firm MASS Beverly, the luxury $46 million condominium takes over the entire top floor of 181 Fremont and features four bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms and walk-in closets, an entry gallery, study parlor, library, family room, grand living room and grand dining room with a wine cellar and tasting bar, as well as a main kitchen and a catering kitchen. 

Spectacular floor-to-ceiling windows provide panoramic views of the city, the Pacific Ocean, the Bay Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge, but what makes this apartment the ideal home for an art collector is the 7,000 square feet of Venetian plaster gallery walls. 

“The living spaces of the Grand Penthouse are an art collector’s dream; they feature 10- to 12-foot ceilings, museum-style suspended base walls and museum finishes befitting the art that adorns its walls,” said Holly Baxter, art adviser to 181 Fremont, who’s curated a selection of contemporary works already on display in the unit. “The elegant and sophisticated artworks in the home are by modern masters and enhance the architecture and design.” 

She selected the artworks currently on show in the Grand Penthouse to showcase the potential of the space, exhibiting pieces by “artists whose works are in the permanent collections of major museums and in important private collections” in collaboration with the local gallery Anthony Meier Fine Arts.

The building is designed to house a community of residents who are immersed in the world of art and design. It has its own art program, led by Ms Baxter, and more than 200 paintings, sculptures and mixed-media works are displayed throughout the building, including in the lobby and the private Residents’ Lounge. Launched in 2019, Gallery 181—the highest art gallery in the world—hosts pop-up exhibitions in collaboration with acclaimed galleries and is currently featuring a selection of work by 16 contemporary artists from the New York-based Mitchell-Innes & Nash Gallery.

Simple Period Architecture Lets Art Shine

Dating to the early 1880s, this spectacular red-brick corner mansion on London’s prestigious Cadogan Square is on sale for the first time in 22 years, after serving as the family home of an art collector. 

One of few remaining full houses on the square, where most properties have been divided into modern apartments, the £35 million (US$48.1 million) Queen-Anne style mansion has a storied history, with ties to Princess Diana, the Duke of Cambridge and the Duke of Sussex. 

Spanning more than 11,000 square feet on six floors, it provides a unique opportunity for an art collector looking for a spacious home in central London. 

“To get 11,000 square feet in one unit is extremely rare. You have nearly 2,000 square feet on every floor,” said Becky Fatemi, director at Rokstone Properties. “The ceiling height stays the same on every level and when you get to the top floor you have the vaulted roof, which is a four-meter ceiling height.” 

Each floor has a generous half-landing, perfect for displaying large sculptures, and extensive wall space allows for the display of paintings and photographs. The orientation of the house, with the main rooms facing northeast and northwest, is also ideal for an art collector, allowing light to come in without direct sunlight potentially damaging artworks.

The house, boasting five bedrooms, seven reception rooms, a study, a family den, a stately dining room, a wellness retreat with a swimming pool and gym, as well as staff accommodation, also features a west-facing roof terrace accessed through the primary bedroom. It retains original period features including ornate moulding, stone fireplaces and grand staircases, making it an ideal backdrop for both period and contemporary art. 

“When a house has predominantly the basic period features it’s the perfect canvas,” said Ms. Fatemi. “A lot of our houses have been bought by developers and redeveloped and are now very modern… But our most avid art collectors tend to find houses in their original, simplest form so then what becomes the interior design is the artwork.”

Historic Hotel Particulier, Rue de Lille, Paris

This historic townhouse, nestled in the heart of Paris’ 7th arrondissement, in the prestigious Carré des Antiquaires neighborhood, the seat of France’s nobility and aristocracy since the 17th century and home to some of the city’s most famous art galleries and museums, is a calm oasis on the left bank of the River Seine. Built in 1823, the €6.9 million (US$8 million) mansion spans 350 square meters, or nearly 3,770 square feet, and has been renovated in a contemporary style. It features an entry, study, drawing room, evening lounge, dining room, a spacious kitchen and three bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms, as well as a basement with a guest bedroom. But its most spectacular asset is a spacious living room with a seven-meter-high ceiling, creating the perfect space to showcase both paintings and sculptures.

Photo: Courtesy of Daniel Feau Saint-Germain

“This private mansion dating from the early 19th century is fitted with an interior lift and a staircase designed by contemporary artist Jean-Michel Othoniel accessing all floors from the basement to the third floor,” said Mireille Tracol, a luxury real estate broker at Daniel Féau Saint-Germain. The elegant white spiral staircase by Mr. Othoniel, a celebrated sculptor who is currently the subject of a major retrospective at the Petit Palais and received a prestigious induction into the Académie des Beaux-Arts in October, creates an eye-catching statement accent in the living room, wending its way up toward the lofty glass ceiling.

Located “in the heart of the art galleries,” a stone’s throw from some of the city’s finest cultural attractions, including the Musée d’Orsay, the Museé Rodin and the Museé de Quai Branly, this townhouse is a unique pied-a-terre for a collector who wants to tap into Paris’s storied art scene in the neighborhood where Serge Gainsbourg, Pablo Picasso and Voltaire once made their homes.