The striking white lines of a contemporary villa set against the intense turquoise of the Caribbean Sea. A whitewashed farmhouse clad in ivy and wisteria and softly wrapped in the embrace of ancient olive trees. A turn-of-the-century hôtel particulier where the understated lines of a honey-coloured façade hide the opulence of gilded interiors. From palatial manors in the heart of Paris to romantic estates in Spain, billionaires have the pick of the very best properties around the world. When the price tag is not an issue, and suitability is down to privacy, accessibility and sheer architectural grandeur, the choice is mind-boggling. To help you make a selectionor just dream a littlewe have picked five of the most prestigious homes on the market.
Name your own villa, Anguilla
It has yet to be built, but it already tops a list of the worlds most luxurious homes. This rare feat has been achieved by a new villa to be designed by a leading modernist architect, Myron Goldfinger, against the jaw-dropping backdrop of a feather-soft beach lapped by deep turquoise waters in Anguilla. One of a handful of exclusive properties, which are aptly called International Gems, this villa will be named after a jewel of the owners choice. This will also inspire an interior design to match the façades bold sculptural lines.
The plan is to have 12 living areas, seven bedrooms, 13 bathrooms, a huge guesthouse and a pool laid across 23,269sq ft. There will also be a wine cellar, a private spa treatment room and fitness centre, and an outdoor shower garden, plus a home cinema, a glass lift, an aquarium and a roof terrace. Add to this broadband, state-of-the-art integrated audio-visual and security systems, and lighting and shade control, and you have an extraordinary mix of architectural purity, barefoot opulence and majestic landscape that will take contemporary living to new heights. The guide price is $79m (about £40m) through Charlotte Wilson at Savills (020-7016 3745; www.savills.com).
Hillandale, New York State
A lush canopy of trees, only interrupted by the azure of a lake and the slick geometric pattern of classically landscaped gardens, envelops the pure lines of Hillandale, a magnificent estate that straddles the states of New York and Connecticut.
Built in 1920 and renovated in 1991, the main residence surveys the rich greenery of its 262 acres from a grassy knoll. If the façade is reminiscent of an English country houses understated elegance, the lavish interiors, which span some 20,000sq ft, have American proportions. The grand feel of the formal living and dining rooms, the conservatory with walk-in bar, and a profusion of antique marbles, limestone, onyx, mosaic tiles and stained glass make the house perfect for stylish entertaining.
The same grandeur permeates the eight bedrooms and 10 bathrooms, where the windows frame perfect views of the estates private lake. A gym and an indoor pool with Italian mosaics are the rainy seasons complement to the tennis court and swimming pool gracing the grounds. And of course, theres a plethora of small residences and outbuildings, including a chauffeurs apartment and a carriage house. Peace, seclusion and architectural perfection just 50 miles from Manhattan are virtually priceless and Hillandale comes with a suitably steep price tag of $95m (about £48.2m) through Joe Barbieri at Sothebys International Realty (00 1 203 618 3112; www.sothebyshomes.com).
The Domain, Côte dAzur
Like a fly caught in amber, the Domain stands beautiful and untouched on the south coast of France, just 300m from the Principality of Monaco.
Built in 1929, the estate was conceived as a retreat from the vivacity of this popular coastal area, and is still surrounded by walls that ensure high levels of both security and privacy.
The Earl De Fels, a French architect who was inspired by the buildings of Italy, and Florence in particular, built the main residence in the Palladian style. It has seven bedroom suites, arranged over two floors, plus many rooms for entertaining, including a grand salon, two kitchens, a library, and a wonderful terrace with panoramic views out to sea. Beyond the main house, the estate has a pool, chapel, stud farm, paddocks, dressage arena and caretakers lodge, all in 18 acres of land secured within a wall, outside of which lies Monaco city centrejust four minutes drive from the house.
The Domain has belonged to the same family for more than three quarters of a century. Now that it has come to market, it has received a valuation in excess of any other property featured in these pages, and the owner will accept offers subject to negotiation through Michael H. Claes (00 33 660 609 090; www.high-property.com).
Monte del Duque, Andalucía
Evergreen hills and valleys full of cork oaks, olive trees, eucalyptus and pine shelter the dazzling white walls of Monte del Duque, a traditional Andalusian estate. Just over an hours drive from Malaga, and 20 minutes from the sea, it is like a miniature village wrapped around a central courtyard.
The main house, which was originally built in the 19th century, is a triumph of self-indulgence, complete with library, billiard room, a spa with plunge pool and sauna, and three master bedroom suites. There is further accommodation in a second house and two guesthouses. Staff have dedicated quarters, and outbuildings include a butchery with larder, a gatehouse and a garage, plus 10 dog kennels. Should the owner feel the urge to reach the capital quickly, there is also a helipad and pilots quarters: the estate is just over an hours flight from Madrid.
Outside, lawned gardens are broken only by the deep cerulean of a swimming pool. But it is the great outdoors that makes Monte del Duque really special: its 5,246 acres of verdant slopes, peaks and valleys are home to wild boar, fallow, roe and red deer, mouflons and Spanish ibex. The estate is priced at 65m (about £49m) through Aylesford International Contact Harry Langton (020-7351 2383; www.aylesford.com).
LHotel de Soyecourt, Paris
Behind a honey-hued façade, lHotel de Soyecourt hides opulent interiors which evoke the hedonistic last decades before the French revolution.
This rare building stands among the beautiful period houses of Rue de lUniversité, on Pariss left bank. Built in 1707, it belonged to the then President of the French Parliament, Claude de Longueil, and its grand layout and gilt edged décor match this exalted past. Ten bedroom suites, a series of reception rooms and a library are spread out over a whopping 48,545sq ft. There is a spectacular ballroom and breathtaking parkland outsidean almost unheard of luxury in this district of Paris. The guide price is 100m (about £75.3m) through Emile Garcin (00 33 142 617 338; www.emilegarcin.com).
Find more on international property in Country Life International out March 6 2008