“College dropout turned billionaire builds the most expensive house in the United States!” That’s exactly what the headline might have read when news broke that Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates was putting a large chunk of his $81.5 billion net worth toward building his dream home in Medina, Washington. Dropping out of Harvard in 1975 to join his friend and fellow programmer Paul Allen at Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems (MITS) to develop a BASIC interpreter for the Altair 8800, it was only a matter of time before the PC software company known as Microsoft was born. By then, Gates had no reason to return to Harvard.
With his parents’ dreams of him attending law school overshadowed by his love of computers since his early childhood, Gates was far from the stereotypical computer nerd. Smart beyond his years, Gates, Allen and two other students actually lost their computer privileges in school after they were caught getting free computer time through bugs in the computer operating system. In fact, he even hacked into the class scheduling program for his school to ensure he was in class with the most interesting girls. And to think, all of this mischief came from the mastermind behind the world’s largest PC software company.
Spending the majority of his life on Forbes’ list of the world’s wealthiest people, Gates’ prestige in the computer industry didn't’ stop there as his frugal lifestyle and countless charitable donations finally led him to splurge a little in his personal life. Doing exactly that, the billionaire programmer spent $63 million to build the home of his dreams—a 66,000 square-foot mansion on Lake Washington in Medina named Xanadu 2.0 after the famed 1941 film Citizen Kane where a humble man rose from nothing to great heights as a prominent businessman and publishing magnate. How’s that for symbolism?
Ground first broke on Xanadu 2.0 in 1990 and was finally completed after seven years of construction by 100 electricians and over 200 construction workers who spent day in and day out ensuring no detail was missed. During that time, Gates made sure that numerous 500-year-old fir trees were used or preserved to ensure the earth-sheltered home was more than capable of regulating the house’s temperature and reduce overall energy usage. Hey, we told you Mr. Gates is frugal, didn’t we?
Although he might save a few pennies on the electric and gas bills, Gates certainly splurged everywhere else. Starting in the library, the 2,100 square-foot room is complete with a domed roof and two secret bookcases, one of which reveals a hidden bar. It’s also home to Leonardo da Vinci’s 16th century Codex Leicester, which Gates purchased in 1994 for $30.8 million. Beyond this luxurious room, there is a 2,500 square-foot gym, a 60-foot pool with a state-of-the-art underwater music system, heated floors and driveways and, of course, an estate-wide server system for the fastest internet on the west coast. There’s also a 1,000 square-foot dining room and a 2,300 square-foot reception hall with a total of six kitchens, seven bedrooms, 10 full baths and 14 half baths with each room offering stunning views of Seattle, the Washington countryside or the lake.
Removing the original house on the property by barge on Lake Washington, Gates replaced the house with an activities building located next to the putting green, sport courts and boat docks all of which are nestled along a shoreline filled with St. Lucian sand imported straight from the Caribbean each year. Apart from parking a kayak on shore or tying a small boat to the dock, Gates made sure there was plenty of room for his cars with multiple garages throughout the property that allow him to store up to 23 automobiles. So which one is his favorite? Giving new meaning to “man cave” and undoubtedly the most unique garage we’ve ever seen, Gates’ underground cave garage is constructed of stainless steel and concrete with a max capacity for 10 of the billionaire’s most prized sets of wheels.
And, when it comes to technology, Xanadu 2.0 certainly doesn’t disappoint. First tested in the 1,900 square-foot guest house, the technology in the main home is incredible and allows anyone who enters the estate to customize everything from the lighting and temperature to the music and art. Upon first entering Xanadu 2.0, guests are given a pin, make their selections and confirm their preferences. Then, as they move throughout the home, wall sensors make the necessary adjustments to the streaming music, temperature and lighting as well as the artwork seen on digital displays in every room. The house also has pressure-sensitive floors that tell security where everyone is on the property simply by the weight of their footsteps.
Featuring everything from a home theater and an aquarium to a natural lakefront view, Xanadu 2.0 combines modern comfort with Gates’ deep appreciation for nature. With the front of the house surrounded by trees to add to its earth-sheltering construction, the landscape even includes a wetland estuary and artificial streams stocked with salmon and trout to handle runoff. And, while his passion may be for the latest technology, his concern for the environment doesn’t go unnoticed as he has done everything to ensure his dream home is part of the landscape even when that meant saving a 40-year-old maple tree and installing a computer-monitored watering system just outside his front door. Looks like this billionaire has a soft spot for something beyond computers and programming, don’t you agree?