Brad Pitt’s decision to shell out $40 million to purchase a historic oceanside estate in Carmel Highlands is a reminder of how picturesque Carmel-by-the-Sea has at times been the preferred first or second home for celebrities looking to escape the pressures of Hollywood life.
With Pitt adding the elaborate, castle-like bungalow known as “Seaward” to his extensive real estate portfolio, the Oscar winner will become neighbors to another Oscar winner, Clint Eastwood. The “Dirty Harry” actor has lived, at least part of the time, in Carmel and owns several properties on the Monterey Peninsula, including the 22-acre Mission Ranch, which he recently transformed into a hotel and restaurant.
Brad Pitt shells out on $40m cliffside bachelor pad in celeb hotspot of Carmel built in 1918 for novelist D.L James https://t.co/E0MCq3kqpP
— Daily Mail Celebrity (@DailyMailCeleb) July 27, 2022
Other famous names long attached to Carmel have died in recent years, notably Doris Day in 2019 and Betty White in 2021. That means that Carmel isn’t quite the celebrity enclave it once was, although its distance from Los Angeles means it was never going to be the glitzy coastal hotspot for A-listers that Malibu and Montecito continue to be.
Whether Pitt’s purchase revives interest in Carmel as a popular second-home destination for celebrities remains to be seen. The Daily Mail may refer to the house as his “bachelor pad,” but it’s unknown whether the “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” star will actually take up residence in there, even part time. Pitt’s main home has long been a multi-house compound in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles, which he’s owned since the mid-1990s.
Perhaps, Seaward, perched on a steep oceanside bluff along scenic Highway 1, is just a real estate investment for the actor, but it’s highly likely that Pitt, with his passion for unique architecture, will turn the sandstone-and-granite house into a personal design project, whether he lives there or not.
With its magnificent coastal scenery, Carmel has long attracted creatively minded people, starting in the late 19th century, when a vibrant and thriving artists community emerged, according to Carmel magazine. The famous people first flocking to Carmel were writers, including Robert Louis Stevenson and Robinson Jeffers, who built his own quirky stone Tor House at Carmel Point. The mostly itinerant Jack London also stopped in and Salinas native John Steinbeck immortalized Monterey County in his books.
Pitt’s new home was originally built in 1918 as a summer retreat for the family of writer D.L. James, who later lived there with his wife, Lily. It was designed by Charles Sumner Greene, who along with his brother, Henry, was a proponent of the Arts and Crafts movement and made up the influential 20th-century architecture firm Greene and Greene, Architectural Digest reported.
The pair were especially known for their “ultimate bungalows,” which were “large American Craftsman interpretations of the bungalow style” that often included custom details attuned to the natural surroundings, Architectural Digest said.
Fast forward to the second half of the 20th century, when film, TV and music stars also began discovering Carmel. Eastwood first fell in love with the area when he was in the Army, stationed at nearby Fort Ord during the Korean War, according to Carmel magazine. When the actor made his directorial debut with 1971’s “Play Misty for Me,” he insisted on filming on location in and around Monterey.
By that time, Eastwood was living in the area, Carmel magazine said. He also became active in the business and social communities and a regular at the Monterey Jazz Festival. He also famously served as Carmel’s mayor from 1986 to 1988.
Day similarly fell in love with the area while making her 1956 suspense film, “Julie.” She eventually purchased land in the Carmel Valley, overlooking the Quail Lodge and Golf Course, in the 1970s, according to the fan website Doris Day Magic. When Day was done with her Hollywood career, she moved to her Carmel Valley home 1981, where she ran her animal rescue foundation and became part owner of the Cypress Inn.
Legendary Hollywood star Doris Day’s long time home in Carmel Valley California looks exactly like you think it would. She moved in in 1981, and lived there until her death in 2019. It’s for sale for $7.4 million, with all proceeds going to the Doris Day Animal Foundation. pic.twitter.com/xmS50q0fSg
— Mike Sington (@MikeSington) September 4, 2020
Other famous people who’ve had homes in or around Carmel have included Joan Baez, Frank Zappa and Kim Novak, Carmel magazine said.
White and her husband, game show host Allen Ludden, paid $170,000 for land on a bluff above Carmel’s Ribera Beach in 1978 and commissioned the construction of a three-story wood, stone and glass house with ocean views, the Los Angeles Times reported.
“Spending time in Carmel was one of Betty’s favorite things to do,” Nicole Truszkowski, an Sotheby’s International Realty agent, told People. Truszkowski oversaw the sale of White’s house for $10.7 million in April, three months after the TV icon’s death at age 99.
The late Betty White’s Carmel, CA home was just listed for $7.95 Million. The home has 4 bd, 4.5 baths, sits on .28 acres and has 3,621 sf. (Info via @DirtDotCom)
— Zillow Gone Wild 🏡 (@zillowgonewild) March 30, 2022
It’s not known how Pitt became interested in owning property on the Monterey Peninsula. Perhaps he fell in love with the region while watching its natural scenery on display across two seasons of HBO’s “Big Little Lies.”
Pitt has shown a penchant for owning architecturally significant homes on the California coast. According to Dirt.com, the “Bullet Train” star has owned “a striking oceanfront compound” in Goleta, just north of Montecito and Santa Barbara, for a number of years.
Shortly after his split from first wife, Jennifer Aniston, in 2005, Pitt also bought a “stunning” midcentury modern home atop Malibu’s Encinal Bluffs, Dirt.com and CBS News reported. He sold that four-bedroom home to Ellen Degeneres and Portia de Rossi in 2012 for $12 million, and they in turn quickly flipped the property to new owners.
Pitt has been embroiled in a bitter legal battle over Chateau Miraval, the estate on the French Riviera that he has co-owned with second wife, Angelina Jolie, since 2008. Chateau Miraval has become one of the world’s top producers of rosé wine and reportedly generates millions of dollars in annual income for its owners.