With just over two acres of generous panoramic views stretching up the Pacific coastline to the Santa Ynez Mountains, this Montecito estate was a gem—but the property’s existing 1970s-era abode needed an overhaul. With the intention of transforming it into a weekend retreat for their extended family, its new owners tapped architect Brad Clark and interior designer Mark J. Williams to create a guesthouse and tune up the older home. But as the project progressed and the list of requests grew, it became clear to both the architect and interior designer that the project needed to shift from renovation to construction. “There was so much remodeling needed, it was turning into a new house,” Clark recalls. Things came to a head when the owners proposed raising the ceiling height. “That’s when we convinced them they’d be better served starting from scratch,” Williams says.
The architect sketched out a fresh plan that, along with higher ceilings and plenty of natural light, included a U-shaped floor plan, creating a courtyard centered around a reflecting pool. “The original home offered a nice starting point, and we made an effort to respect many of its design elements,” he notes. He drew from a variety of architectural styles to create a residence that he refers to as “a warmer version of California modern, with clean lines softened by materials that feel natural and organic.”
To this effect, Clark specified steel-framed windows and doors, split-faced stone fireplaces and walls, cool limestone and oak floors as well as white plaster walls. And to amplify the dramatic view, he played off the idea of compression and expansion—an architectural methodology famously beloved by Frank Lloyd Wright—with smaller spaces that move into larger ones to generate a sense of tension followed by release. “There’s this initial feeling of compression combined with a ‘hide and reveal,’ ” Clark says, gesturing to the modest motor court and low-key entryway that lead to airier, open rooms inside. A similar theme repeats at the pathway into the guesthouse.
The residence’s meticulous construction emphasizes its connection to the exterior and pervasive sense of tranquility. Witness its flush transitions, like those that extend from interior ceiling to exterior roof or from plaster wall to oak baseboard. “The goal was to have everything be seamless,” general contractor Clint Unander comments. Clark concurs, adding, “It takes a lot of work to build a house that doesn’t get in the way of this site.” As the pieces came together, the team dubbed the result “California Zen.”
That impression is reinforced by a meditative exterior setting courtesy of landscape designer Nord Eriksson. Contemplative pathways meander across the property through Mediterranean gardens, olive and citrus trees and groves of Canary Island palms. There are spaces for lounging and dining, strolling or yoga sessions, bird-watching and sports, as well as a large front lawn that even served as the setting for the homeowners’ daughter’s wedding. Topping it all is the infinity pool that merges seamlessly with the ocean. “This is a garden that allows for massive views while also having moments of mystery and discovery,” Eriksson notes. Its beauty is underpinned by environmentally astute features, including low-water plantings, rainwater capture and a solar farm that powers the property. Trees and shrubberies were placed to screen out any trace of neighboring homes. The effect is that of complete solitude.
Bridging the gap between the soothing architecture and idyllic landscape are the home’s peaceful interiors. Wooden ceilings covered in the same oak used for the floors and the kitchen’s cabinets foster a strong sense of intimacy that belies the home’s 11,000 square feet. Custom furniture in strong, simple shapes elevated by luxurious, inviting materials and paired with well-patinated antiques keep the focus on the view. That objective is augmented by a spare but effective use of art, and a palette of sand, stone and brown with a silvery blue that conjures up the sparkle of sunlight glinting on the water. There’s also the judicious incorporation of lighting fixtures, which are carefully integrated to blend harmoniously with the architecture. At night, the house seems to glow with a peaceful ambiance. “We tried to create a serene residence that felt like an escape,” Williams says. “And I think we achieved that.”