Just a short drive up a steep winding road from Santa Barbara’s soft sandy beaches and swaying palm trees lies a 32-acre site so rugged that it’s hard to believe the two worlds are only 25 minutes apart. Emerging from the limestone outcroppings is a glass, aluminum and concrete house so elegant in its simplicity that it barely disturbs the natural environment. The job of marrying the home’s interiors with the dramatic setting fell to designer Sarah Walker, who immediately recognized the challenge before her. “Having a strong connection with the outdoors was critical,” she says. “The site is very dramatic and rugged, rather than nurturing. I knew the house had to have a conversation with the landscape, or it would forever remain disconnected.”
It wasn’t just the jaw-dropping surroundings or the ocean views that inspired the clients to acquire the property. No, simply put, the husband is an engineer and astronomer who thought it was the perfect setting for an observatory. “We bought the property because it’s above the marine layer,” says the wife. The couple, in fact, also own a beach house at the bottom of the road. “Where we sleep is often dependent on the phases of the moon,” she says. When there is little or no moon, they stay at the mountain home for optimal stargazing.
The result is a house so seamlessly integrated with its surroundings that the hillside feels like just another design feature and no one questions the boulders that form part of the entry sequence. As Walker points out, “There’s a perfect interplay between the indoor and outdoor worlds, and an ongoing sense of not knowing where one stops and the other begins.”