Spanish Revival

Originally part of an estate, a Spanish colonial style art studio dating to the early 1900s illustrates how remodeling can preserve the soul and charm of a structure.

In this case, however, the path was not a direct one. At some point, the studio was transformed into a residence. A poorly designed addition added two bedrooms, two baths, a kitchen and dining room. What character the studio once had was eclipsed by the haphazard add-on. Deterioration and water damage also took their toll over the years.

Further, the home was remarkably modest for its location in the prestigious Hedgerow district of Montecito, Calif., with only two bedrooms and approximately 1,500 sq. ft. of total living space.

Montecito, located east of Santa Barbara, occupies the coastal plain south of the Santa Ynez Mountains and is home to more than a few celebrities. The area’s scenic beauty, seclusion and climate attracted the wealthy in the early 1900s, and it became an area of exclusive estates and second homes, a circumstance that no doubt explains the art studio.

The task of restoring and transforming the structure fell to Allen Associates, a remodeler and builder headquartered in Santa Barbara. Completing the team was Neumann Mendro Andrulaitis Architects, LLP, of Carpinteria.

Studio Restored and Preserved

“Upon careful review of potential design options with our client, it was decided to restore and preserve the original studio structure, remove the more recent building additions and create a new residence that built upon the wonderful charm of the studio, while at the same time creating a new modern home for a young family,” says Dave Mendro, AIA, LEED AP.

“Traditional forms and archetypes of the historical Spanish Colonial style were reinterpreted to create a sense of place meshed with the owner’s needs for contemporary living,” he adds.

The artist’s studio, with its high ceilings, a north-facing window that brings in indirect light and offers views of the garden and the Santa Ynez Mountains, wide plank hardwood floors and fireplace, is the centerpiece and inspiration for the new addition. The studio, converted to use as a living room when the home was first remodeled, also features an arched plaster ceiling.

In addition to bringing back the historical character of the home, the goals of the project were to expand and update the kitchen and dining areas and to add four new bedrooms, four new bathrooms and an office space.

Abundant natural light and strong connections between indoor and outdoor spaces are key elements of the new addition. French doors and bay windows in the upstairs master bedroom provide views of the mountains to the north and of the Pacific Ocean to the south. With numerous French doors, hexagonal terra cotta floor tiles, and craftsman light fixtures, the new interior arcade offers an elegant connection between the living/dining/kitchen areas and the new bedroom wing of the home.

Quality details are the hallmark of this project. One example is the arches. “Everything has an arch,” said Allen Associates project manager Ian Cronshaw, “including the bathtub wall surrounds.” The new, enlarged kitchen features traditional style cabinets, wide plank oak floors, and state-of-the-art appliances. A new formal dining room has replaced the small eating area that was once a part of the original kitchen. An open beamed Douglas fir ceiling, arched windows, floor to ceiling custom cabinets, and a kiva corner fireplace add special touches to the new den. Hydronic radiant floor heating provides comfortable and energy-efficient space heating throughout the home.

Roofing Challenge

The biggest challenge was figuring out and implementing the unique design for venting the red tile roof, according to Cronshaw. Past moisture and mildew problems dictated the need to vent the cathedral ceiling tile roof configuration. It was not easy creating a 1-in. plane between the rigid insulation and the roof sheathing to allow air to flow up the slopes from eave to ridge openings while still satisfying the fire department requirements of minimal openings. Another problem to be solved was how to flash the connection between the existing and new portions of the home. The two sections were flashed separately so that they could move independently of each other, given that they sit on separate foundations.

“Even though the project consists of a relatively small structure situated on a tight lot, there is a sense of exploration and wonder created as one discovers the many varied individual indoor spaces and outdoor gardens throughout the home,” Cronshaw says.

“Our charge was to replace the addition, restore the existing studio and create a house that took its cues from the original Spanish colonial style studio,” says architect Dave Mendro.

“We tried to come up with a design that integrated with the studio so in the end it looked like the house had always been there,” he adds.

Designed for Modern Living

Working within the Spanish colonial style vocabulary, the architects nevertheless designed the house for modern living. It has, for example, an open kitchen suited for entertaining.

One of the striking aspects of the house is that it actually might be viewed as four separate buildings connected and unified by an arched arcade or gallery, which has also been called a loggia. (When the series of patio doors are open, it is open to the outdoors as is traditional for a loggia.)

Adjacent and at right angles to the living room/studio is a two-story structure with dining room, kitchen and garage on the first level and the master suite on the second floor. Separated from that by a courtyard are two bedrooms, and at a right angle to that is another structure housing another bedroom and an office/den. Together the structure forms an L-shape surrounding a lawn/courtyard on three sides. Patios, terraces and gardens in one form or another are accessible from each room of the house.

Pulling it all together was not without its challenges. Montecito has a very strict design review process, Mendro relates. One of the limitations was a floor area ratio, which limits the size of a development relative to the size of the lot. “It was challenging to get the spaces that the family wanted within a fairly limited area of allowable building area,” Mendro says.

Another challenge was to minimize annoyance to the neighborhood. Staging materials, scheduling deliveries and keeping parking of crew members under control were all concerns that Allen Associates had to address. “In Montecito people don’t like to be disrupted,” Cronshaw says.

Detailing and Craftsmanship

What’s important on a Spanish colonial style project, Mendro says, is the detailing and the craftsmanship. “The integrity of the design is based on it,” he adds, crediting Allen Associates project manager Ian Cronshaw with achieving that.

Traditional materials — a tile roof, copper chimney caps, clay tile flooring and wood beam ceiling — were incorporated but modern materials and methods were used as well. The custom wood windows and doors are high

quality, contemporary design units. Columns in the loggia are precast concrete that is integrally colored. “It’s a blend of modern building techniques with more traditional style,” Mendro says.
Beamed ceilings are a motif that is carried throughout the house. The beams are distressed, their texture and surface softened. And while in a traditional Spanish house the beam work and ceilings are traditionally darker, the tone was lightened to better suit the tastes of the homeowner.

“We worked very closely with Allen Associates and their subcontractors,” Mendro says. “It was a real team effort to create this design. In the end I think it has a lot of integrity, craftsmanship and detail; that’s really the richness of the project.

“In the end it looks like it has always been this way,” he says. “If you walked into the site now, it would be hard for you to tell where the old house was and where the new house is; it all blends very nicely.”

Fast Facts About the project:

  • Location: Montecito, Calif.
  • Remodeling contractor: Allen Associates, Santa Barbara, Calif.
  • Project manager: Ian Cronshaw
  • Architect: Neumann Mendro Andrulaitis Architects, LLP, Carpinteria, Calif.
  • Partners in charge: Dave Mendro, Andy Neumann
  • Project captain: Dave Intner
  • Gross floor area: 3,983 sq. ft.
  • Gross lot area: 0.44 acre

Specified Products

  • Flooring: Distressed black walnut
  • Cabinets: Crystal (kitchen), Diamond (bath)
  • Appliances: Wolf, Sub-Zero
  • Doors: H.D. Stanley
  • Plumbing fixtures: Toto toilets, Kohler baths
  • Roofing: Red tile
  • Siding: Stucco
  • Tile: Quarry Resources
  • Insulation: Owens Corning