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Inside Elizabeth Taylor’s Bel Air Estate – 700 Nimes Road

Legendary actress and humanitarian Elizabeth Taylor’s longtime residence at 700 Nimes Road in Bel Air was always open to those she loved. No formal invitation was necessary. She wanted it to be welcoming and warm. Surprisingly not as glamorous or ostentatious as the star herself. As fashion designer and friend Valentino put it, “Of course when she had to appear at an important event, she would put on the most beautiful dress and the most amazing jewelry and became Elizabeth Taylor, the star. But at home she liked a cozy life, friends, good food.”

In Hollywood, stars buy and sell homes often, rarely living in the same one for too long. But there was something special about 700 Nimes Road that appealed to Elizabeth. The silver screen icon purchased the home in 1981 and lived there until her death at age 79 in 2011.

Courtesy Firooz Zahedi, Architectural Digest.

The 7,000-square-foot home is a 1960s style ranch house and sits on 1.27 acres. It consists of 6 bedrooms, including two master suites, and 6 bathrooms.  It’s the former home of Nancy Sinatra Sr. (Frank Sinatra’s daughter). The ranch is a private Los Angeles enclave, surrounded by mature foliage and located at the end of a long driveway.

Courtesy Firooz Zahedi, Architectural Digest.

The main floor includes a spacious living room with a wood-beam ceiling and wood-burning fireplace that opens to a sitting room and dining room, all with direct access to the outdoor pool and terrace. 

Courtesy Firooz Zahedi, Architectural Digest.

The star of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, CleopatraWho’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, and many more films invited both Architectural Digest and artist Catherine Opie inside 700 Nimes Road while she was hospitalized to photograph the house. So all of these photos show exactly how Taylor was living at her time of death. According to her son, Christopher Wilding, the home was a “focal point for the family” where holidays were always celebrated. She “never entertained the notion of moving,” Wilding said. In the picture below you can see three of her Academy Awards,as well as several humanitarian awards, proudly displayed.

Courtesy Firooz Zahedi, Architectural Digest.

In Taylor’s living room, a Frans Hals portrait hung front and center above the mantle. To the right were a David Hockney print and Andy Warhol’s Liz silkscreen, which was a gift from Andy himself.

Courtesy Firooz Zahedi, Architectural Digest.

The first floor also includes a country kitchen, two powder rooms, one of which includes a sauna and shower for the pool, a screening room, a master suite, two bedrooms with garden access, and a maid’s quarters.

Courtesy Firooz Zahedi, Architectural Digest.

Elizabeth also had pieces of art from van Gogh, Degas, Renoir and Pissarro. Her personal assistant said even though, “she lived with paintings by Pissarro, Degas, and Renoir,” she still “wanted people to feel comfortable enough to spill a drink and not freak out.” She also kept each room of the house filled with orchids and family photographs.

Courtesy Firooz Zahedi, Architectural Digest.

Outside, the gardens and pool area have been meticulously maintained. She personally planned her gardens to have color year-round. 

Courtesy Firooz Zahedi, Architectural Digest.

The grounds were always lush with greenery and roses and were designed to tailor to Elizabeth’s children and grandchildren  as she wanted “Grandma’s house” to be all about family and fun.

Courtesy Firooz Zahedi, Architectural Digest.

Each year, Elizabeth would throw an Easter party and Easter egg hunt. Her friend Veronique Peck said, “Elizabeth had a special place in the garden where she would set up a little petting zoo for the children at Easter. It was adorable. Sometimes she would book performers from Cirque du Soleil to do acrobatics outdoors. There was always some wonderful surprise like that.”

Courtesy Firooz Zahedi, Architectural Digest.

Elizabeth viewed the home as a sanctuary for her and her family. A refuge from all the troubles of Hollywood. She threw parties every Sunday. Peck also said, “her buffets were wonderful, with lobster and chicken—and always things children would like. She never did anything halfway.” Family was the most important part of Elizabeth’s life. As Mendelson put it, “She was a serious matriarch.”

Courtesy Firooz Zahedi, Architectural Digest.

The lense of artist Catherine Opie captured something very different about Elizabeth Taylor and her home. Opie never met Elizabeth, but Elizabeth was an admirer of her work and invited her personally to photograph her home before and after Elizabeth’s hospitalization and eventual death in March 2011. Opie spent six months returning to the estate over and over again, taking over 3,000 photos, and then editing them down to 129 for the publication of her book,700 Nimes Road, published by Prestel.

© Catherine Opie, Courtesy of Regen Projects, Los Angeles and Lehmann Maupin, New York

Opie said of the experience photographing the home, “You’re super nervous because you’re in Elizabeth Taylor’s home and you don’t want to piss anyone off; you want to represent her in a way that feels like an extension of the ability to think about portraiture other than an iconic image of Elizabeth Taylor the movie star.”

© Catherine Opie, Courtesy of Regen Projects, Los Angeles and Lehmann Maupin, New York

Opie’s goal was to create a portrait of Taylor by using her house and all of the prized objects found within it, including jewelry, perfumes (of course), family photographs, and other knick knacks, trinkets, and mementos that accumulate during a life well lived.

© Catherine Opie, Courtesy of Regen Projects, Los Angeles and Lehmann Maupin, New York

By allowing Opie into her home, Elizabeth allowed adoring fans access to parts of her life that up to that point had been off-limits to everyone outside her friends and family.

© Catherine Opie, Courtesy of Regen Projects, Los Angeles and Lehmann Maupin, New York

Opie’s photographs present a rare and unfiltered glimpse into the life of one of the world’s most famous stars. Above are Elizabeth’s prized AIDS pins. And below beautiful kimonos and fur-lined robes.

© Catherine Opie, Courtesy of Regen Projects, Los Angeles and Lehmann Maupin, New York

A Louis Vuitton handbag perhaps claimed by one of Elizabeth’s children or grandchildren after her death?

© Catherine Opie, Courtesy of Regen Projects, Los Angeles and Lehmann Maupin, New York

Elizabeth Taylor’s cat Fang walking next to her Chanel shoes.

© Catherine Opie, Courtesy of Regen Projects, Los Angeles and Lehmann Maupin, New York

Mardis Gras masks and pictures of Elizabeth’s close friend, the late Michael Jackson.

© Catherine Opie, Courtesy of Regen Projects, Los Angeles and Lehmann Maupin, New York

Rows of personalized cowboy boots.

© Catherine Opie, Courtesy of Regen Projects, Los Angeles and Lehmann Maupin, New York

A birthday greeting from fellow actress and mega-star Bette Davis.

© Catherine Opie, Courtesy of Regen Projects, Los Angeles and Lehmann Maupin, New York

Our homes act as extensions of ourselves. For Elizabeth Taylor, nothing was more important in her home than family, friends, warmth, and comfort. And maybe a few boxes of diamonds.

© Catherine Opie, Courtesy of Regen Projects, Los Angeles and Lehmann Maupin, New York

Sources:
Architectural Digest
Daily Mail
Elizabeth Taylor Archives
The Hollywood Reporter
Slate
Telegraph
Vogue


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One Response to “Inside Elizabeth Taylor’s Bel Air Estate – 700 Nimes Road”

  1. Margo Easton says:

    Thank you for these beautiful pictures of a beautiful home that was owned by a very beautiful woman. I loved her.


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