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Marbella Mansions - Lights. Camera. Action!

Up until now, although we've longing to tell you about it for ages, we've only been able to drop a few veiled hints, without naming names. But with the first episode of 'Marbella Mansions' - a major new TV series from UKTV's Home channel - airing on 10 September, at last we can reveal all…

Featuring the most exclusive of homes on the Costa del Sol, as well as their owners and the British interior designers, developers and estate agents driving the luxury end of the Coast's property market, 'Marbella Mansions' is a 10-part series of 60-minute shows. It's been more than a year in the making, and we know, 'cos we were there too!

“Magnificent residences of every style imaginable”

It was back in July 2011 - at a time when quite by coincidence VIVA were also collaborating with a Canadian TV crew - that we were first invited to take part in the new primetime series. The brainchild of British independent television production company Splash Media - just some of whose other hit programmes include 'Fantasy Homes By The Sea’, ‘James Martin's Mediterranean' and 'Piers Morgan on... Marbella' - at that embryonic stage 'Marbella Mansions' was yet to be commissioned.

As a first step, series producer James Capria was about to make a pilot. Would VIVA like to be involved and did we have any exclusive but uniquely different properties for sale that would fit the bill? Absolutely! That bit was easy.

The next question, "Would the vendors of those properties be willing to take part, too?" well, that was a bigger ask altogether. But our Vendor Services Team swung into action in their inimitable way and soon we had a shortlist not only of stunning luxury homes, but also some very enthusiastic owners only too happy to oblige!

Two properties were selected, dates were set and not long afterwards James and VIVA Vendor Services Manager, Jacqui Hartley, headed off for a day of filming at a beautiful mansion in Monda – once sold – and a charismatic property  Alozaina which has featured in The Yoga Magazine as “one of the world's Best Yoga Retreats”.

The pilot clearly did the trick and only a few weeks later 'Marbella Mansions' had been formally commissioned by UKTV, a major industry player formed in 1997 as an independent commercial joint venture between BBC Worldwide - the commercial arm of the BBC - and Scripps Networks International.

So, as well as being a welcome shot in the arm for Marbella and the entire Costa del Sol, it was great news for VIVA and the several other companies taking part, and a fantastic opportunity for our vendors' properties to receive massive TV exposure on the Home channel, which of course has also been responsible for launching phenomenally successful programmes such as 'DIY SOS', 'Escape to the Country' and 'Ground Force'...

The actual filming for the series kicked off last autumn and wasn't wrapped up until May of this year, when the post-production phase started. It's hard to imagine just how many hours and the miles of footage that are involved in the making of ten 60-minute shows, not to mention how much of it inevitably ends up on the cutting-room floor!

“A fantastic opportunity for our vendors' properties to receive massive TV exposure”

Although the name of the series is 'Marbella Mansions', in point of fact the film crew - and our intrepid Jacqui - travelled far and wide. It didn't take long for James to spot her 'star' potential, and consequently wherever Jacqui went in her quest to sign up VIVA vendors with €1m+ dream homes to sell... the Splash Media team were sure to follow. And since VIVA list properties all along the Costa del Sol and deep into the breathtaking Andalusian countryside too, that was a pretty long way.

Magnificent residences of every style imaginable, and each possessing that essential wow factor, were filmed in Estepona, Marbella, Mijas Costa, Benalmadena Costa, Valtocado and Casarabonela, and the camera simply loved them... and their friendly, outgoing and engaging owners as well!

So much so, that when the filming of an exquisite mansion in Rio Real was already ‘in the can’ the team made time in their busy schedule for a return visit to shoot scenes of the hospitable Irish owner and Jacqui celebrating with a glass of champagne the breaking news that VIVA had sold the property that very morning.

Captivated by the spectacular scenery, when we were filming one of the most alluring homes that I've ever seen -just outside the picture postcard village of Casarabonela in the lovely Guadalhorce Valley - on hearing that the olive harvest was in full swing on the owners' 30,000m2 plot of land, the TV crew just couldn't resist capturing the event on film.

Although under pressure with deadlines to meet and time running out, James and his team - including Salvatore Assenza and Constantine Diaz - never once cut short any of the filming sessions, so when there were three properties to cover in one short day, they just got on with the job and worked right through until midnight. Even though that meant returning to Valtocado the next morning - with flights booked at midday-to shoot the stunning infinity pool by day as well as by night.

That particular day started in Estepona, where a charming couple from England had two properties for sale with VIVA. One, a majestic Andalusian-style residence commanding views to take your breath away from its idyllic private hilltop location; and the other, an imposing Mediterranean-style, 3-storey villa -now sold - in El Paralso.

"A welcome shot in the arm for the entire Costa del Sol"

Like most of the VIVA clients featured in 'Marbella Mansions', the last thing the owners of these two properties had on their minds was selling up in order to return to the UK. They'd bought a prime frontline golf plot of land a stone's throw from their property in El Paraiso, and just couldn't wait to get started on their next building project!

All ‘our’ couples have fascinating and unique stories to tell about why they bought the properties they did, what their lives on the Costa del Sol have been like since relocating here, and why they're now moving on... and they were only too pleased to share their thoughts and experiences with the millions of viewers who'll be watching the 'Marbella Mansions' series.

Take, for example, the owners of the elegant villa in Benalmadena Costa with sea views to die for. Their home is simply too big for them now, and it's a similar story for the couple who own an impressive residence in Mijas Costa whose gorgeous swimming pool wouldn't look out of place in a 5-star hotel!

And then finally we get to the uncompromisingly contemporary and gloriously minimalist residence in Valtocado, which I'd buy like a shot, if only my infuriatingly long-lost boat would ever come home.

With its sunken lounge, infinity pool with views over the valley to the sea, bridge walkways, symmetrical lines, Balinese-style barbecue area, full height windows so you can lie in bed and gaze at the stars, for me this is the stuff that dreams are made of!

Designed by the British owners - an interior designer and an automotive designer - the only reason their house is for sale is because increasingly their work takes them to the US and the Far East, so their next project is to design "a modern desert home" for themselves near Las Vegas. "But if we could pick up our house in Valtocado and take it with us, we would," they confided.

As for Jacqui, we reckon that if ever she gets tired of working in real estate, she might well have a whole new career in television. Lancashire Woman of the Year in 1995, it's not the first time she's been in the spotlight, although never before in front of millions of viewers glued to their Plasma TVs. "I just hope I haven't made a fool of myself, otherwise I might have to emigrate," she says, laughing. "I'm sure there weren't any wardrobe malfunctions, but there were a few outtake moments!"

Don't miss the shows featuring VIVA's Jacqui Hartley and starring VIVA vendors and their fabulous homes...

Information and style tips from the series will be available online at

Please note: Every effort was made to check the accuracy of the information contained within our archived HOT Properties Magazine articles at the time of originally going to press, but may well have been superseded over the ensuing years. They are now made available as historical archival information only. The said information has not been reviewed subsequently for present day accuracy nor has it been updated and we expressly disclaim any duty or obligation to do so. VIVA cannot accept responsibility for any errors or omissions, nor for the authenticity of any claims or statements made by third parties. We therefore strongly recommend that readers of these archived articles make their own thorough checks before entering into any kind of transaction. Prices were correct at the time of publication but may now vary due to circumstances beyond our control. The views and opinions of editorial contributors do not necessarily reflect those of VIVA .

HOT Properties Magazine Issue 94 - 2012

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