Scott Smith logs 15-hour days at his Morris Costumes corporate campus in Charlotte, so naturally he’d want a home with a lake view to help him relax.
Smith, 53, just never expected to buy a castle with a view of Lake Norman from every window – for a sixth of its original asking price.
He and his wife, Denise, paid $4.4 million for Chateau Lyon, a mansion that cost $22 million to build and came fully furnished with 19th-century French antiques, not to mention 500 feet of shoreline. “The only thing missing was a microwave, and a washer and dryer,” Scott Smith said.
The May 18 sale of the foreclosed southern Iredell County estate was the highest-priced home sale in the Charlotte area since 2009, according to Carolina Multiple Listing Services Inc., which lists tens of thousands of homes for sale in its 10-county service area.
Chateau Lyon is off Interstate 77 Exit 31, in the gated Alexander Island community, at the end of Langtree Road in Mooresville.
The Smiths said they didn’t seek out such an ornate home but couldn’t resist when Scott’s older sister, Terri Bate, called it to their attention. Terri lives nearby off Langtree Road, as do their parents.
The home was built over six years by entrepreneurs Jane and Larry Hendricks, who completed their 8,700-square-foot dream castle in 2009. They lived in it only briefly, as their situation changed when their Boyles Furniture company filed for bankruptcy.
When Chateau Lyon returned to the market in September 2011, it attracted interest internationally, Lake Norman Realty president Abigail Jennings said.
At the original auction 1 1/2 years ago, the price was $25 million, Scott Smith said. By January, the asking price had dropped to $5.9 million.
Jennings calls the estate “an architectural masterpiece” inspired by the French limestone, soaring ceilings and antique ceramic roof tiles the Hendrickses admired on their European travels.
The two-story home’s stone flooring was reclaimed from 600-year-old farmhouses bordering the Mediterranean Sea. Its grand foyer features a limestone fountain hand-carved in France. The half-bath to the right of the foyer has a sink that was converted from a black marble fountain in Paris.
The home has five bedrooms, six full baths and three half-baths “and is very livable,” Scott Smith said.
Chateau Lyon’s sale comes amid signs of life for the local housing market. Charlotte home prices increased 1.2 percent in March from February, and 0.4 percent from a year ago, according to the Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller Home Price Index, which measures home prices in 20 metropolitan areas.
Still, more than a quarter of all U.S. home sales in the first quarter involved homes that were either in some stage of foreclosure or were bank-owned, including 12 percent of sales in North Carolina, according to real estate research firm RealtyTrac.
Scott Smith said Chateau Lyon was too good to pass up. The Smiths are considering renting it out for $12,000 a month for a year to help pay for the purchase.
The home’s colors are watery greens and shades of blue. Its bronze bay windows replicate those adorning Hotel Le Meurice in Paris. The dining room’s paneling includes original paintings, sections of gold-leaf paneling, and antique fixtures taken directly from an early-1900s reproduction of Marie Antoinette’s summer home.
Chateau Lyon has a library, conservatory and theater. The library has a hidden door in a bookcase that conceals a half-bath. The master bedroom has a French antique marble fireplace and antique light fixtures, some covered in 22-karat gold.
The home has 13 air conditioners, and its heating, air-conditioning and security systems are controlled by an iPad.
Its exterior walls are 20 inches thick and covered with French limestone. The roof is covered with 250-year-old tiles covered in zinc-coated copper. Copper is featured in one of the upstairs bathrooms, which has a solid copper tub valued at $65,000. The copper stove on the main floor cost $110,000, Scott Smith said while touring the home Thursday with his wife and Piglet, their Yorkie-poodle mix.
The sunsets are stunning, Denise Smith said. The veranda looks westward across the water to The Point Lake and Golf Club, which real estate mogul Donald Trump bought for $3 million and is renaming Trump National Golf Club, Charlotte.
“It’s just gorgeous, and I figured I could work out the price with the bank,” Scott Smith said of the home.
Lake Norman Realty luxury associates Debbie Monroe and Amber Garchar brokered the sale of the 1.5-acre property.
Worldwide costume sales
So how does a costume shop owner afford a $4.4 million house?
Morris Costumes started 50 years ago in the basement of Scott Smith’s family’s home at 5110 Kistler Ave., behind the Amity Gardens shopping center in east Charlotte. For 30 years, it remained a small retailer and distributor, moving to several locations on Monroe Road over the years.
“With the explosion of e-commerce and temporary Halloween stores, we quickly grew 10 times the size and volume,” Smith said. The company moved from a 20,000-square-foot facility to a 300,000-square-foot facility, ships 15,000 packages a day and employs more than 350 people, he said.
The company ships to almost every country in the world, from Australia to Russia to South Africa, and maintains $50 million worth of costumes at all times, he said. It sells everything from rubber noses to animated spaceships. “What a fun business,” Smith said.
Smith drives a 2005 Chevy pickup and shows up to work at 7 a.m. in shorts. Each Saturday, he mows the 25 acres of lawn at his company’s 80-acre Charlotte campus. “It takes me nine hours to cut it,” he said.
He’s so informal that one of the couple’s two teenage daughters needled him Thursday at their Charlotte home when he put on a dress shirt and long pants for an interview with the Observer. He wore his trademark running sneakers.
He has no choice but to continue working long hours at Morris Costumes so he can pay for the home, he quipped.
Lake Norman always has been dear to Smith, who’s owned a 2,200-square-foot home off Schooner Drive and Torrence Chapel Road in Cornelius since 1984. The Smiths intend to keep that home but sell their 5,500-square-foot custom home off Rocky River Road in the University City area for $500,000.
As for Chateau Lyon, “I can see us retiring here and our kids retiring in a home like this,” Scott Smith said. “It’s not something you can replace.”
Staff Writers Kerry Singe and Victoria Guida and Observer archives contributed.