Who Gets Bill and Melinda Gates Family Mansion?
Experts in finance, technology, philanthropy and global health are trying to predict the impact of the divorce of Melinda (Bill Gates) on their respective industries. Others are asking: Who will inherit their lakefront property in the Seattle suburbs that is worth upwards of $131 million? And will the public finally have a chance to look inside?
Forbes estimates that the couple is worth $124 billion. On Monday, they posted a joint statement to their social media accounts. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation co-chairs has stated that they will not be changing their organizational structure.
Their 66,000-square foot home on Lake Washington’s shore is another story. The sprawling complex — which, at the time of a 1995 New York Times story, included a spa, a 60-foot pool, a gym paneled with stone from a mountain peak in the Pacific Northwest, a trampoline room, and a stream for salmon, trout and other fish — got the nickname Xanadu 2.0 from Mr. Gates’s biographers.
(Xanadu is a reference the large, extravagant property that belonged to the tycoon who appears in “Citizen Kane”. The 2.0 refers Mr. Gates’s technological innovations.
TechCrunch reports that the Gates family has kept the details of the waterfront compound extremely private. In 2009, a tour of the property sold for $35,000 at a charity sale. According to public records, the Gates also own several other parcels of land around the main property. Therefore, it is impossible to walk by the property to get a glimpse.
An intern at Microsoft, however, was allowed to blog about the experience. According to his account, the house is built out of “orangey wood” and the sand on the beach is imported from Hawaii. Douglas fir was used to make the wood. The source of the sand is unknown. (“Going down Bill’s driveway is like arriving at Jurassic Park,” the intern wrote. “The landscaping is absolutely insane.
Another detail we know about the house is its division into pavilions which were terraced into an 170-foot hill. Also, it was designed by James Cutler as well as Peter Bohlin. Later, was designed by Mr. Bohlin’s company. This famous Apple cube can be found at the company’s Fifth Avenue store.
And, Ms. Gates once said that the mansion caused her to have a “mini sort of personal crisis.”
Before marrying Ms. Gates 1994, Mr. Gates began work on his dream residence. But construction was halted when she arrived on the scene. According to, the place was both a bachelor’s dream as well as a bride’s nightmare. It had “enough software” and high-tech displays that a newlywed could feel like she was living in a videogame.
Ms. Gates was equally grim a decade later. “But I take responsibility for it.”)
Six months later, after much discussion about whether the project should be abandoned, Ms. Gates decided it was worth influencing construction. She incorporated her preferences and wanted the place to be a home for a whole family, and not just one individual. To that end, she hired the interior designer Thierry Despont, who has been the creative mind behind the restoration of famous interiors like the Palm Court at the Plaza Hotel in New York and the Ritz in Paris.
Yet, Gates still made huge promises about the house’s technological capabilities in 1995’s “The Road Ahead”. He described his vision for a smart home, where guests would receive badges that would allow them to communicate with sensors throughout the house. As guests moved through the rooms, lighting would dim and brighten according to their preference. Music would also play and the temperature would be automatically adjusted. It’s not clear whether these plans panned out.
Another aspect of Mr. Gates’s vision included the conversion of the walls into video displays that would allow him to display digitized works. As the house was being built Mr. Gates started to acquire the electronic rights of world-famous works from museums such the National Gallery in London, through Interactive Home Systems.
These acquisitions were part a business experiment. Mr. Gates hoped that other people would be able decorate their homes with digital artworks in the future. His vision didn’t come to fruition. (Interactive Home Systems evolved into Corbis, a rich photograph archive. later sold its image and licensing section to a Chinese company.
Perhaps Mr. Gates can now make a commitment to design and build a smart home, even though it might not be too difficult today with connected devices everywhere.
Ms. Gates expressed concern about the possibility of her husband continuing to live in the home despite all the improvements she made.
In 2019, she said to The Times, “We won’t have that home forever.” “I’m actually really looking forward to the day that Bill and I live in a 1,500-square foot house.”
Alain Delaqueriere contributed research.