Casa Bianca was the opportunity of a lifetime: to design and build an 8,500 square foot villa on the beach in Montecito, Santa Barbara. I left school to do so and never regretted it. The house was designed to showcase an extensive collection of Moroccan and Ottoman objets that had been accumulated over years of travel, but to do so in a modern idiom. The house took five years to design and build and cost $2.5 million.
Remarkably, the project began as a remodel of the garage of the house that was there previously, a project that was intended to address the very real challenge of having, along the inland side of the property, an easement for the heavily travelled railroad tracks and immediately beyond, US 101, a freeway that connects Santa Barbara with Los Angeles that more often resembles a parking lot. Needless to say, the combination of deafening noise and thick black soot required a bold solution.
Eventually, in arriving at that solution, the garage, and then the existing house gave way to a vision of a Mediterranean style villa resting on the abrupt cliff overlooking a bay that was eerily similar to the bay of Napoli looking out across at Vesuvius. A series of “outbuildings,” walls, courtyards, and more walls provided, along with a redress to the environmental violence of the modern world, a magical sense of passage into and through the house, resulting in arrival onto the terrace with the breathtaking and tranquil presence of the ocean beyond.
I could have lived here. I have seen few houses the likes of this. Forget that I designed it. It was exceptional and magical.