Take a spectacular beach getaway, with kilometers of beaches, surrounded by the Pacific Ocean and dotted with palm trees, araucarias and hundred-year-old pines. Add to that a climate that, until the advent of climate change, was privileged, a light color of honey and the proximity to the Sierra de Santa Ynez, where hot springs flow. If there was a paradise on earth, it was probably in Montecito, a privileged corner of the already privileged California coast.
And also, very special. Montecito has a very high density of millionaires per square metre, and houses some of the most luxurious homes on the West Coast. In one of them live those who have become (with the permission of Oprah Winfrey) the most famous residents of this place: England’s Prince Henry and his wife Meghan Markle, or simply Harry and Meghan. They moved here from England after starring in a soap opera, promising to continue and acquire a Mediterranean-style mansion for several million dollars, with countless bathrooms and bedrooms, gardens, pools and ocean views.
Couple’s California abode lays out the unwritten rules montecito style, which began to form over a century ago, when the first homes were built in the area between the 1920s and 1930s. Architects such as Reginald Johnson, Myron Hunt, and especially George Washington Smith began to build Colonial-style mansions. Smith, who visited Andalusia in 1914, is considered the father of the stylistic movement of Spanish neocolonial architecture, under whose influence thousands of buildings were built in the United States, especially along the coasts of Florida and California.
In 1917, Smith purchased a parcel in Montecito and built his home, inspired by the architecture of southern Spain. The work created a sensation and a flood of commissions soon followed: by his death in 1930, he had designed eighty houses in Santa Barbara County, as well as a theater and a cemetery. Mark Appleton, an expert on the history of California architecture, explains: “His clients were wealthy and sophisticated people, many from the East Coast who relished the idea of leaving a legacy here.”
Part of this legacy still lives on in Montecito, which has developed over these hundred years as a residential area. Architectural styles have proliferated, too: Colonial houses coexist with mansions that wouldn’t be out of place on the French or Italian Riviera. There are also very American homes, with a rationalist air, inspired by others Cottage English or casoplons, the very XXI century, where bathrooms are counted by the dozens, and square meters, by the thousands.
In recent years, Montecito has become a refuge for celebrities, especially those associated with the world of entertainment and new technologies. Millionaires and billionaires, as reiterated in texts about the place, choose a “simple and prudent” lifestyle. The truth is that both adjectives don’t quite match what is shown in the book Montecito Style (Ed. Monacelli), which brings together twenty of the most spectacular homes in the region and whose images illustrate this report.
Millionaires and billionaires from the worlds of entertainment and technology choose a “low-key” lifestyle
The book doesn’t feature Harry and Meghan’s residence, but Montecito has some of the most famous homes, such as decorator John Saladino’s, which is filled with classic antiques, or the home of carnation, built in 1926 by Lutah Maria Riggs, Santa Barbara’s first female architect, who had worked with George Washington Smith. Its pages also showcase immaculate gardens, with outdoor fireplaces (a very California detail), translucent pools, and Andalusian-inspired fountains. Homes with patios, art-filled living rooms, spacious kitchens, and bedrooms with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the ocean or the Santa Ynez Mountains.
The author of the images is Feroz Zahedi, a photographer of Iranian origin, who worked for Andy Warhol, time why Vanity Fair And stars like her great friend, Elizabeth Taylor. Zahedi visited Montecito forty years ago and fell in love with the place. They ended up buying a house and today, thanks to their contacts and their photos, the rest of us mortals can peek inside these exclusive Californian interiors without needing an invitation.
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