Perched on the most perfect bluff in Malibu is an iconic home, a landmark that all who pass recognizes as the home of another icon: the Academy Award–winning singer, actor, activist, elephant savior, and extraordinary talent known to the world as Cher .
The house itself is another of her many accomplishments, and I have had the great honor (and undoubted pleasure) of helping with its recent reincarnations. Today, it is a zen-like sanctuary filled with museum-quality Asian art and custom-made furnishings, but the story of this magnificent edifice starts way before I got to play within its walls.
It took years for Cher to discover the perfect Malibu location—an idyllic spot, as it happens, that she had driven past countless times, and purchased in 1998. It then took almost five years to transform the magical location high above the Pacific Ocean into the ultimate home.
A reflection of her unique tastes and lifelong interest in architecture and design, the house grew out of years of collecting and travel. She brought hundreds of tear sheets ripped from countless magazines to the drawing board, and the home’s design makes reference to Venetian palazzos, the great Renaissance villas of Europe, and the Moorish influences of the Alhambra palace.
Builder Wallace Tutt III led the team in creating the extraordinary 16,000-square-foot mansion, sited to take in the expanse from Point Dume to Santa Monica along the coast and out to Catalina Island. From sunrise to sunset, the huge picture windows offer stunning vistas. “Every room has two different views of the ocean,” Cher says. “This house wraps its arms around you.”
The finest materials were employed: limestone and marble imported from Italy and France, hand-wrought bronze doors, and custom hardware and tiles from Spain and Morocco. An 18th-century Venetian marble balustrade was purchased from William Randolph Hearst’s collection at San Simeon.
Cher originally worked with designer and longtime friend Ron Wilson, and the house has been filled with her own personal touches since the start. About 16 years ago, I was given the opportunity to help update the residence and source many new treasures. Working hand in hand, we reworked all the finishes with her signature style of opulent comfort, theatrical elegance, and a timeless color palette.
Talented artists painted the ceilings with Eastern motifs, hand-distressed mirrors to create walls of reflective magic, and crafted romantic Moroccan-style lighting that warms the home. The raw silk-clad walls and drapery in the bedroom were stenciled using a mixture of tea leaves and coffee grounds blended with umber paint pigments to recreate traditional henna designs once painted on Cher’s hands during a wedding she attended in India. The Moroccan Mashrabiya wood panels that encase the private sitting area were hand-carved in Fez, Morocco. “My bedroom has been my sanctuary, my fortress, really my very special place,” Cher says.
The entertaining rooms are flooded with light and designed to allow the breathtaking views through the windows to be the stars of the space. From the spacious living room, the prospect seems to flow seamlessly across the pool—its infinity edge appears to lap against the windows—out into the Pacific Ocean beyond. And when seated in the family room, you feel like you are floating on a turquoise sea.
Strict regulations enacted in Malibu over the years would prevent a house of this magnitude from being built these days. And now, after 20 years, Cher is ready to create a new sanctuary. “This house has been one of the greatest passions of my life,” the superstar says. “I have enjoyed every moment of its creation and evolution, but now it’s time to pass this magic on to others.”