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Architecture of Montecito


Architecture of Montecito

Some of the most well known names in architecture made their way to the small town of Montecito, CA, designing and building extraordinary estates, most of which are still inhabited today. 

George Washington Smith

George Washington Smith founded the California Movement in Spanish Colonial Revival architecture in Montecito, and was the founder and early leader of Santa Barbara's signature Spanish Style architecture.  Smith attended Harvard with the goal of obtaining a degree in architecture, but due to financial reasons, dropped out to find a job. 

He soon became a bond trader and, after a successful career, he retired and moved to Montecito with his wife to paint.  There, he purchased land and built his Andalusian Farmhouse style home with a separate art studio.  Shortly after, Smith found that folks were more interested in the design of his home than they were in his art.  

 He found himself being commissioned to design "homes with soul." Inspired by Spanish Architecture during multiple trips to Spain with his wife, he incorporated Spanish finishes into his designs. His career only lasted a short 12 years in Montecito, when he passed away at the age of 54.  HIs work continues to be admired in the area and his homes are in high demand even to this day.


Lutah Maria Riggs


Lutah Maria Riggs was the first licensed female architect in Santa Barbara and the first woman in California to be named a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects. Riggs attended UC Berkley, but moved home to Santa Barbara before completing her studies to be with her ailing mother.  Back home, she started working as a draftswoman training underneath and working alongside the famed George Washington Smith.  

In 1931, she started her own firm and went on to design some of Santa Barbara's most famous buildings such as the Blaksley Library at the Botanic Gardens (bottom right) and the Vedanta Temple (top).


Riggs was also known for the stunning homes she designed for wealthy clients such as Alice Erving, Avery Brundage, Wright Ludington and many more. 


Bertram C Goodhue


Bertram C Goodhue was a leader in neo-gothic architecture with significant commissions from ecclesiastical, academic and institutional clients, such as the St. Thomas Church on 5th Ave in New York City, pictured below.

Most of Goodhue's work was centered in New York; however, he built some of Montecito's most historically famed properties, such as the El Fureidis And Val Verde estates.



Val Verde was originally owned by the cousin of the owner of El Fureidis, and occupies the land adjacent to it.  The owner hired Goodhue to design the home and it was the first in the area done in the Spanish colonial revival style.  The property was later sold to an one of Santa Barbara's most important cultural figures, who  collaborated with Lockwood de Forest on the formal gardens, which de Forest would work on intermittently for the rest of his life.  Val Verde long served as the backdrop for some of Santa Barbara's best parties and provided solace to some of the entertainment industries biggest names. 



El Fureidis, which translates to "pleasure gardens," is one of Montecito's most historical and notable properties. The grand Roman villa was founded in 1906 and was defined in the early 1900's as one of the top 15 places to visit in the United States.  This iconic, ocean view estate served as the backdrop for Charlie Chaplin's wedding to Oona O'Neil and also for the filming of the 1983 movie, Scarface starring Al Pacino.


Frank Lloyd Wright

Frank Lloyd Wright was commissioned to build the George C. Stewart home near the intersection of Hot Springs and Summit Rd in Montecito. The prairie style residence, constructed in 1910, was his first home in the state, and the only example of this style of his architecture in California.  Made of redwood, and with over 350 windows, Wright created a natural flow between inside and outside surroundings. 


Today, more locally famed architects in Montecito include Don Nulty, Micael de Rose and Jock Sewall. Collectively, they are responsible for designing some of Montecito's most noteworthy estates, shown below: 

Don Nulty


This exquisite ocean view villa, on Oak Creek Canyon Road, overlooks the Montecito Valley towards the Channel Islands.

This Montecito masterpiece, on Cima Del Mundo Lane, showcases 360 degree views of the Pacific Ocean. 

This contemporary ocean view Mediterranean villa, on East Mountain Drive, exudes California luxury.

View From Garden1.jpg

Another Mediterranean ocean view estate, privately situated at the end of a long drive, among enchanting gardens, is currently listed for sale.


Michael de Rose

This magnificent Mediterranean compound, on Cold Springs Road, sits on the site of the original El Mirador Estate and is currently listed for sale.

Named Villa de Serenita, this romantic Montecito estate, located on Freehaven Drive, embodies authentic Italian spirit.


Jock Sewall

This custom villa, situated on over 21 acres on Freehaven Drive, showcases incomparable ocean, island and mountain views.

This beautiful European Country home, located on a prviate cul-de-sac on Stonehouse Lane, is currently listed for sale.

This captivating estate on Garden Lane exudes East Coast elegance.