Bill Gates is the richest man in the world – again. He has held the title many, many times, but according to a March 2015 article by Forbes, he is once again on top, with a net worth of $79.2 billion. When you take that number into consideration, his Medina, Washington home, which overlooks Lake Washington, is frugal.
His home, affectionately nicknamed Xanadu 2.0 as an homage to the fictional house of Citizen Kane’s Charles Foster Kane, took Gates seven years and $63 million to build. To us, that’s ludicrous; to him, chump change. It’s crazy when you realize that $63 million isn’t even 0.1% of his overall wealth. That’s one way to try and fathom a “billion” dollars.
And yet, it really comes as no surprise. Gates is one of the most philanthropically minded individuals on the planet. And even with its “modest” price, Xanadu 2.0 is one of the most technologically advanced houses that the world has seen. But this should come as no surprise from the man behind Microsoft. Here are 15 crazy facts about Bill Gates’ 66,000-square-foot estate.
12. “Earth-Sheltered Home”
Much of Gates’ enormous residence is “earth-sheltered,” meaning that it is buried into the hillside and surrounded by towering trees. These natural surroundings are used as walls to regulate temperatures efficiently, and to reduce heat loss. 500-year-old Douglas fir beams support the stainless-steel roof, which is surrounded by walls of concrete, stone, and glass. So even though the property is equal to 1.5 acres in size, it is still green and eco-friendly. Looking west from the lakefront side of the house, he has a great view of Seattle.
11. Guest House Fit For a King
The 1,900-square-foot guest house was the first building on the property to be completed (in 1992). It was built in a “French Provincial” style by architect Peter Bohlin of the organization Bohlin Cywinski Jackson (as was the rest of the house), and was built nearly underground.
The one-bedroom, one-bath house is just as high-tech as the main property, and was originally used to test the technology that would later be used in the rest of the main house. Gates wrote much of his book, The Road Ahead, in this comparatively modest guest home.
10. Exercise is Important
Xanadu 2.0’s exercise facility is better equipped than most health clubs. It is 2,500-square-feet, includes a sauna, a steam room, separate men’s and women’s locker rooms, and a separate trampoline room with a 20-foot ceiling. We can’t confirm if there’s actually a trampoline in the room, but some say that the floor itself is a trampoline.
The exercise facility is not taking into account his 3,900-square-foot pool building. The swimming pool is 17-by-60 feet-long, and has an underground music system. The floor is painted in a fossil motif, and swimmers can dive under a glass wall and emerge outdoors by a terrace. The locker room has four showers and two baths.
9. Artificial Stream With Fish
Outside Gates’ estate is home to a wetland estuary and an artificial stream that were created and devised to solve any runoff issues that the property’s large walls could potentially create. The water is kept constantly stocked with sea-run cutthroat trout and salmon to add to the aesthetic appeal and eco-friendly nature of the property – or perhaps to provide him with a simple-to-reach fishing spot.
8. Excessive Bathing and Dining
The house has a total of 24 bathrooms, 10 of which are full baths. Very helpful if Gates is throwing a lavish extravaganza, but a little over-kill if not. Think about it: with 23 garage spots, Gates could have over 23 guests, and they could each use their own bathroom and still have one to spare. There are also a total of six fully-stocked (we’re assuming) kitchens, located in different parts of the house so staff can be ready for any event, any where, any time.
7. High-Value Commodity
Bill Gates purchased the lot of his estate in 1988 for $2 million (a little over $4 million in today’s dollars). The estate took seven years to build, and ended up costing $63 million to build. Even so, in 2009, judging by Gates’ property tax records, the house had a whopping value of $147.5 million! As of 2012, the house has settled to almost double the value of its original cost, and is worth $123.54 million.
6. Expensive Touring
Every fall, as part of Microsoft’s sizable charity campaigns, people at the company donate products and services to be bid on by their fellow employees. The “service” that usually gets the highest bid is a tour of Xanadu 2.0 for the winner and a small group of friends. In 2009, during the heat of the economic collapse, the winning bidder shelled out $35,000(!) for a tour of the property. Microsoft matches the donations, and then the proceeds go to the company’s charitable fund.
5. Personalized Bat Cave
What do Bill Gates and Bruce Wayne have in common? They’re both billionaire entrepreneurs with their own self-stylized bat caves. Bill Gates may not have a Batmobile (we can neither confirm nor deny this statement), but he does have three separate garages which can house a total of 23 cars.
The most fascinating garage is the aforementioned underground cave – a hidden structure that can easily park 10 cars on its own. It is built entirely of stainless steel and concrete, and some of the concrete is purposely broken and cracked to give it a “deconstructivist” look.
4. High-Tech Climate Control
Upon entering Bill Gates’ Lake Washington estate, visitors are surveyed and then given a special microchip/pin. The pin interacts with sensors that are located all over the house, and individual guests can enter their temperature and lighting preferences so that the settings change as they move throughout the house. The lights automatically come on – set to the preference of the pin – when a guest moves into a new room.
3. More Hidden Tech
Bill Gates is a man who just loves hidden, cryptic things. He has a hidden guest house, a hidden garage/bat cave, and more. One of the most fascinating and tech-savvy uses of this “hidden agenda,” is this: there are speakers that are hidden beneath the wallpaper of the rooms, which allows music to follow guests from room to room. We’re assuming the song choices are input onto the microchip pin that all guests receive when entering the house.
Further – and this is just crazy – the flooring on every part of the house is pressure-sensitive and monitored. This means that family members or security personnel can know who is in the residence at any given time, just by the weight of their footsteps!
2. Customizable Artwork
Throughout the house, there are computer screens adjusted to the walls. $80,000 worth of TV-computer screens, in fact, which are run by several $150,000 computer-storage devices. Anyone in the house can change the screens’ displays to their favorite painting or photograph, in effect personalizing the room (via lighting, temperature, and even decor) to the guest’s own flavor.
1. The Library of Alexandria
The personal library of Bill Gates’ Medina estate is perhaps the coolest part of the whole property. It is a 2,100-square-foot, domed room, ornately paneled with a classic flavor. The reading room has a light well and fireplace, and it even has two secret, pivoting bookcases (who hasn’t always wanted one of those?!).
Behind one of the bookcases is a hidden bar (see: more hidden stuff). Somewhere in this library is the home of Leonardo da Vinci’s 16th-century notebook, the Codex Leicester. Bill Gates bought the priceless notebook on scientific writings at a 1994 auction, for $30.8 million (that’s nearly half as much as his entire house cost to create).
And finally, perhaps most fittingly, Gates had a quote from The Great Gatsby etched into the ceiling of the library, which reads: “He had come a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it.”