High above the sun-drenched shores of the Santa Barbara Channel sits a Spanish-inspired estate.

Touted as “The American Riviera,” Santa Barbara, California, is renowned for its miles of pristine shoreline and white sandy beaches. The city enjoys a Mediterranean-like climate, which is moderated year-round by warm Pacific winds from the west and the towering Santa Ynez Mountains to the east. But the amenable environment is not a New World discovery.

Ancient human remains dating back some 13,000 years were discovered on one of the eight Channel Islands, making the region home to the oldest human inhabitants found in North America to date.

Today, Santa Barbara is a bustling tourist destination and residential community, which draws potential homeowners to the city’s historic Mission and Spanish Colonial architecture.

“We fell in love with Santa Barbara more than 30 years ago,” says Melanie, who, along with her husband, Don, now owns a home in the community of Hope Ranch. “For us, it is the perfect place.”

Rooted in the 18th century when Spanish missionaries first arrived in the area, the city’s archetypal white plaster walls, tile roofs, archways, and wrought-iron detailing are what first captured Melanie’s heart.


“Years ago I spent time in Santa Fe,” Melanie says. “I was swept away with the ambiance of the city and fell in love with haciendas and Southwestern interiors.” Inspired by that memory, she began hunting for a home that she could infuse with Southwestern influences.

After looking at a number of houses that had been overly customized to the owners’ tastes, the couple finally happened onto a rare gem — a home nestled above the shoreline cliffs and buffered by the More Mesa, a 300-acre stretch of protected open space. Like a seaside Mediterranean villa, the manse featured a large two-story rectangular footprint, smooth stucco walls, wrought-iron details, and a low-pitch clay tile roof. Although the patios and yard were in need of a major overhaul, the interior was a blank canvas awaiting Melanie’s touch.

“It was private with gorgeous ocean views and an airy, open floor plan — I couldn’t wait to make it my own,” she says.

To aid with the project, Melanie contracted with interior designer Lauren Christine Henno.

“When Melanie gave me her book of inspiration, I saw right away that she has a love for hacienda-style design,” Lauren says. “We worked together to combine Santa Fe and Mediterranean influences to create her Santa Barbara home.”

The duo began by determining the color palette. Finding inspiration in the surrounding environment, Lauren combined tones of honey, sand, and driftwood with watery shades of blue. Then the designer turned her attention to the floors, transforming the interior from the bottom up.

“I love the fact that there is no permanent inlaid carpeting anywhere in the house — just beautiful travertine tile,” Melanie says. Lauren’s choice of travertine creates a polished flow from one space to another, while her use of area rugs helps to soften and define designated areas.

Lauren designed custom furniture to emphasize the inviting, unpretentious nature of the home, and Melanie helped select artwork with a Southwestern aesthetic to complement the space.

The result of their efforts is nothing short of spectacular.

From the moment guests pass through the glass and wrought-iron front door, they are enveloped in an atmosphere of coastal tranquility. Warm-hued plaster walls provide a sense of weightlessness to the interior, which is grounded by terra cotta-colored tile. Throughout the day, sunlight pours in through oversized windows and glass doors, dancing and darting with a playful quality.

In the entry, a curved staircase with custom iron handrails spirals up to the second story, hinting at the accommodations above. A one-of-a-kind patchwork rug and an 18th-century ladder draped with an heirloom blanket from Santa Fe add touches of texture and history. Across from the staircase hangs a large equine painting by renowned South African artist and Santa Barbara resident Karen Bezuidenhout.

“Melanie and Don love art and horses. This piece was destined to be placed here,” Lauren says.

In the living room, a sofa and a pair of love seats custom-designed by Lauren provide the relaxed, welcoming vibe that Melanie wanted. “Rather than a stiff back, we fitted the sofa with pillows made in colors that tie to the palette of the room,” Lauren points out.

While the interior received an artful makeover, the exterior underwent a complete metamorphosis.

Fond of entertaining, Melanie and Don had visions of an outdoor oasis. But the landscape was overgrown and the patio structures were unsound. So the couple opted to completely gut and renovate the outdoor living area. They began the process by walking around the yard, laying out hoses and wood boards in an effort to create a sense of order and flow.

With a plan in place, the work began. Old, unleveled brick patios were torn out and replaced with textured concrete pads.

“There were a few things we insisted on keeping, like the 100-year-old oak tree outside the kitchen,” Melanie says. “It’s breathtaking when illuminated at night.”

The couple also installed a large swimming pool with an inset hot tub and added a walkway of oversized concrete blocks that not only lead to the front entry of the home but also provide added space for seating when needed.

“It’s peaceful and private, yet inviting,” Melanie says as she watches the sun dip behind the Channel Islands in the distance. “A perfect coastal respite for friends and family.”


Lauren Christine Henno, Santa Barbara, California, 805.698.3523

From the July 2015 issue.

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