Photographed by Amy Barnard
Even hearing the words “beach house” brings on feelings of relaxation. Those two enchanting words conjure images of lazy golden days spent lounging on a porch, gazing out at a seemingly endless ocean; strolling in soft sand with waves lapping at your feet; or plying the swells with surfboard or kayak until sunset when, tired and happy, you skip just steps to a welcoming seaside home.
Here, we highlight three uniquely beautiful Santa Barbara area beach houses—a sprawling scientist’s retreat, an Italian-style villa with murals hand painted by the owner and a colorful cliffside lair accented with salvaged architectural finds. Each is a personal statement, completely different in style, but they all share a stunning oceanfront location.
The elegant oceanfront Kavli Estate in Hope Ranch has the feel of a private resort. Set on about four acres, the property includes a tennis court, a swimming pool, sprawling lawns, bluff-top patios and private access to the beach. Physicist, entrepreneur and philanthropist Fred Kavli, who passed away in 2013, owned the nearly 12,000-square-foot home. The estate is on the market, and proceeds from its sale will benefit the Kavli Foundation, which Kavli founded to advance science for the betterment of humanity and to promote public understanding and support for scientists and their work.
Designed by architect Richard E. Johnson, AIA, the island-style contemporary home is ideal for entertaining on a grand scale. If these mahogany paneled walls could talk, they’d probably speak of theoretical physics and nanoscience. “Mr. Kavli entertained a lot of intellectual company here, including world famous physicists and Nobel laureates,” says Adrienne Schuele, estate director with COMPASS real estate, which represents the property.
Trained as an engineer, Kavli was exacting and precise in the planning and materials for his home, from the redwood exterior with copper facings, stone accents and expansive custom windows to interior elements of rich woods and marble. “He took great pride in every detail,” says Schuele.
The elegant living room has walls of glass that make the most of sweeping ocean views. Mahogany-wrapped box-coffered ceilings and limestone fireplaces both here and in the adjoining dining room add a warm and cozy feeling that belies the spaciousness of the rooms. Just a few steps up, a large wood-paneled office overlooks both the living room and the ocean.
Set apart from the common rooms, the large master bedroom suite is a private sanctuary in itself, with views of stately cypress trees and the Pacific. A sunken lounge area and Italian marble fireplace provide a comfortable place to read, relax or drink in the views. Down the hall, an attached guesthouse with private entrance includes two bedrooms and a living room with fireplace. Three guest bedrooms in the opposite wing share a glass-topped atrium bath that adjoins a unique two-person stone shower and exercise room, with access to a private garden and the swimming pool.
Downstairs on the lower level, a recreation room offers a card-playing area, wet bar, fireplace and wine cellar. “This is the place to let your hair down,” says Schuele.
Yet for all its grandeur and creature comforts, this estate is all about the breathtaking setting. Wooden stairs lead down to the beach, where tide-poolers and shell-seekers stroll in the ocean breezes, waves lapping at their feet. And back up at the house, we sit on one of three bluff-top patios that provide front-row seats for dramatic sunsets. We see a migrating whale spouting in the distance and take in views that sweep up the coast to UCSB and out to the Channel Islands on this uniquely beautiful stretch of coastline.
As we arrive at Gene and Deanna Dongieux’s elegant home on the beach in Carpinteria, we feel transported to the Italian Riviera. The sand-colored stucco exterior is accented with delicate wrought ironwork, dark wood doors, graceful arches and columns, and a red tile roof. Vines hug the curves of floor-to-ceiling arched windows, giving the impression that the house has been here for a long time.
Deanna is perched on a stepladder, paintbrush in hand, on the spacious back patio that overlooks the beach. “It’s like a boat,” she says with a laugh. “There’s always something that needs painting. You finish at one end and have to start again at the other!” As she touches up the trim around large windows that capture panoramic ocean views, she tells us, with husband Gene, about the house; it’s clear that their seaside home is a labor of love.
Gene, co-founder and chief investment officer of Ariadne Wealth Management in Montecito, and Deanna, a talented artist, shared a vision for the Mediterranean-style family beach house. Deanna did much of the painting, stenciling and refinishing throughout the house, which took a year to build with local firm Ribbens Construction. The result is an inviting gathering place where their son and daughter, who are now away at college, could bring their friends over the years for surfing, kayaking and paddle boarding. “We finished the house, and the kids put their fingerprints in the cement in 1999,” says Deanna.
A soothing neutral palette of shades of beige and cream reflect the home’s sandy setting and allow the blues and greens of the ocean views to take center stage. Sophisticated elements include eggshell-color travertine floors that let a bit of errant beach sand blend in. “Keeping sand out of the house is a challenge…but I don’t worry about it,” says Deanna.
Her artistic talents are showcased most strikingly in the dramatic dining room. Trompe l’oeil designs in hues of golden flax and pale blue adorn the cathedral ceiling. On a wall that holds a fireplace, Deanna painted trompe l’oeil columns that echo actual columns between the dining room and kitchen. Sliding metal doors between those columns are painted with an eye-catching scene depicting Renaissance-era courtiers in a formal garden setting. “I was inspired by paintings we saw while traveling in Europe,” she says, “and I included elements from beautiful estates in Montecito that I liked.”
Drawing again on her exacting artist’s eye, along with the problem-solving skills and precision that no doubt served her well in her UCSB math/economics major, Deanna has artfully applied decorative moldings throughout the house.
Another example of Deanna and Gene’s hands-on approach is their willingness to literally drive the extra mile to make their vision a reality. “When we were building the house almost 20 years ago, you couldn’t just find everything on the Internet. By asking around, I found some beautiful wooden doors that were available in Mexico. We drove down to Ensenada with our daughter in the car seat to get them,” says Deanna. She stained the round-top doors a deep chocolate brown, and they were incorporated into the home’s interior.
As we walk out onto the roomy patio with large stone fireplace and beckoning seating areas, the sun begins to melt into the ocean, and the Channel Islands float in the distance. Gene points out some frolicking dolphins. “When you see dolphins, you know it’s a good day,” he says.
Vision & Views
Up the coast, the ever-changing ocean show presents another act at the home of Tammy and Kim Hughes, perched above Leadbetter Beach on the Mesa. It’s no surprise that the panoramic Pacific views stretching from Montecito to Shoreline Park originally captured the imaginations of the couple. When they first saw the property, says Tammy, “The house was a 1960s concrete box that had been occupied by college students over the years—it was in bad shape.” Although the house was partially demolished, the property came with renovation permits and a good footprint; both Tammy and Kim had the vision to see the possibilities. “When I saw the views with no other houses obstructing them, I was sold,” says Tammy.
The couple quickly settled on a Spanish Colonial style for the house and worked with Becker Construction, which “did a beautiful job of completing the construction within a year,” says Tammy, an interior designer and principal of Emerald Eye Designs. In fact, Becker Construction won Contractor of the Year for their work on the project. Tammy notes that Kim, a real estate investor, also “has an amazing art eye.” The two have worked on projects ranging from a beach house in Nicaragua, where they spend part of the year, to their most recent home in Hope Ranch. But their three-bedroom bluff-top home is “the perfect size and location,” says Tammy.
The location suits the Hughes’s easy-breezy lifestyle just fine. “Kim’s office is in the Funk Zone, so it’s really convenient,” says Tammy. “Friends will ask us to meet them at The Lark, and we’ll hop on the bike path and join them.” The couple, who has a teenage son at home, as well as three older children, soak up the bird’s-eye views of the Shoreline Park bike path with its parade of cyclists, runners and walkers, along with the bustling harbor.
Tiles & Textiles
The stunning views are highlighted even from the home’s front step. A 1920s hand-carved wood-and-glass door allows a glimpse through the living room to the ocean. The dramatic two-story foyer opens into a warm and colorful living room with reclaimed wood floors, beautiful objects from the Hughes’s travels and architectural finds. One such find is a Churrigueresque concrete relief fireplace mantle, which is set against a deep cobalt blue wall. Tammy found the fireplace in pieces in Los Angeles. “It lends itself to the Gaudi-esque style I was looking for,” she says. An un-fussy mix of vintage and modern furnishings suits the family’s style. “We really live in our houses,” says Tammy. “We have to not be afraid of spilling wine…and we love sharing our life with people.”
Her eye for color is evident in the adjoining open kitchen, where ocean hues are on display. Silvery blue soapstone counters are combined with handmade tiles in shades of grey-green and grey-blue that Tammy and Kim brought back from Europe. “Tiles and textiles are my absolute weakness,” says Tammy.
Tammy seems to be an arty magnet for what she calls “scrappy bits.” She points us to a powder room with turquoise tiles against walls of pale yellow. “This is my little nod to Casa del Herrero,” she says, referring to the historic Montecito estate known in part for its dazzling Mediterranean tile work. In bathrooms and the laundry room, Tammy has combined finds from the Habitat for Humanity ReStore, Art from Scrap, Craigslist and tile store sample boards for a distinctive look.
The Life Aquatic
The house is designed to take full advantage of its setting. “I wanted to make the three bedrooms all feel part of the sea…that’s the superstar,” says Tammy. Iron and glass French doors let in the ocean breezes while standing up to the salty air, and balconies provide perfect spots for a swing chair and a cup of tea.
Outside on the patio, the floor is composed of concrete tiles the family brought back from Nicaragua. A hammock and seating area overlook the curve of coastline where sailboats glide in the yacht club regatta and pelicans swoop. “It’s like nature television,” says Tammy. “It’s always changing.”
Originally published in the Summer 2017 issue of Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine.