Spirit of Ecstasy

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Nick Churton of Mayfair International Realty visits an exquisite home at Hope Ranch, Santa Barbara, California being sold through Village Properties and is given a lesson in architecture from an expert.  

Like many people visiting St Peter’s Basilica in Rome I marvelled at the architectural detail. But what I found so amazing was not only the detail one can see but that which one can’t readily see – the detail in the hidden nooks and crannies. The fact is that the same amount of exquisite craftsmanship is in the unseen as the seen.

I was reminded of this on my visit to the beautiful Via Huerto, that faces the ocean at Santa Barbara, California. This too is a labour of love. Indeed the delightful owner would have to be or to become a committed disciple of the 16th century Venetian architect/builder, Palladio, in order to fulfil this particular dream of a small villa.

If you value your privacy and choose to accommodate your intimate friends and family in light numbers; if you don’t subscribe to the modern vogue of contemporary minimalism but prefer to live in high classical elegance: if you demand perfection in every detail of your home: if you want to sweep down a magnificent stair to your lawn fringed pool: if you want the sparkling ocean to provide the backdrop to your life and the sun’s arc to describe the pattern of your day then Via Huerto is for you. In fact it is hard to think of anywhere better.

A couple of hours’ drive up the coast from Via Huerto is Hearst Castle, the magnificent 115 room hilltop home created by William Randolph Hearst at San Simeon. Hearst’s architect, Julia Morgan, worked on that project for 28 years. She was uncompromising over every aspect of its construction and finish. Morgan died in 1957 but I swear her spirit lives on at a Via Huerto.

Of course this villa is tiny by comparison to the Castle and the Basilica but while the scale is different the ambition for perfection and commitment to detail – seen and unseen – is the same. This is so much more than taking a theme or style and just copying it. Here Palladio’s treatise has underpinned the creation of a very modern house of classic style and proportion surrounded by a garden of sublime taste, understanding and execution. Good style never dates. But in the right hands it may evolve. This house was in very good hands.

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