Cristal's Blog


September 4, 2023

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Nestled along California’s picturesque Central Coast, Montecito and Santa Barbara are renowned for their stunning landscapes, upscale lifestyle, and distinctive architectural heritage. Over the years, several exceptional architects have left their indelible mark on the region, shaping its identity with their unique design sensibilities.

Architectural Heritage Beyond Compare

Here are brief profiles of six iconic architects in Montecito and Santa Barbara history who have contributed significantly to the beauty and elegance of the area.

A luxury home built by George Washington Smith

1. George Washington Smith: A Pioneer in Spanish Colonial Revival
At the forefront of Montecito and Santa Barbara's architectural landscape stands George Washington Smith, a visionary whose influence on the California Movement in Spanish Colonial Revival architecture is unparalleled. Originally hailing from the East Coast and having worked in the bond market, Smith's destiny led him to create masterpieces that define the region's aesthetic. Although architecture was Smith's second career, his passion and artistic flair transformed him into one of the most revered architects of his time.

Smith's creations, with their distinctive Spanish-inspired design elements and harmonious integration of natural surroundings, continue to be celebrated today. His legacy lives on through iconic homes that have graced major architectural and design publications, setting the standard for exquisite Santa Barbara and Montecito architecture.

Architect Frank Lloyd Wright sitting behind a desk in his later years
Image courtesy of The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives (The Museum of Modern Art | Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York)

2. Frank Lloyd Wright: Prairie-Style Elegance
Frank Lloyd Wright, a name synonymous with architectural innovation, also left his mark on Montecito and Santa Barbara. After honing his craft for two decades, Wright received his first commission in California, resulting in the iconic Stewart House. This residence exemplifies his Prairie-style architecture and showcases his trademark seamless connection between indoor and outdoor spaces.

Completed in 1910, the Stewart House is a 4,691 square foot masterpiece constructed from redwood featuring over 350 windows. With its captivating design and incorporation of natural elements, this home perfectly encapsulates the quintessential Santa Barbara lifestyle. Originally spanning five acres, the house now sits on a single acre, yet its enduring influence is a testament to Wright's artistic brilliance.

The Lobero Theater in Santa Barbara
Justin Rizzo-Weaver, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

3. Lutah Maria Riggs: Breaking Barriers and Shaping Skylines
Lutah Maria Riggs emerged as a trailblazer in the architectural world, being the first female licensed architect in Santa Barbara. Her journey began in 1920 when she started as a draftswoman and designer for architect Ralph D. Taylor. Swiftly making her mark, Riggs joined forces with the renowned George Washington Smith, rapidly ascending the ranks and contributing to some of Smith's most iconic buildings.

Notably, Riggs earned the distinction of becoming the first woman in California to be named a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects. Her groundbreaking achievements not only reshaped architectural gender norms but also helped shape the city's skyline, leaving an enduring legacy that continues to inspire aspiring architects.

Luxury home featuring walls of glass for indoor outdoor living at its finest

4. Barton Myers: Innovative Steel and Glass Architecture
Beginning in the late 1960s, Barton Myers solidified his status as one of the trailblazers in a design philosophy centered on the imaginative repurposing of historical structures, often juxtaposing old and new architectural elements in striking and unexpected ways. The common thread in Myers's work is not primarily an aesthetic resemblance but rather a profound commitment to harmoniously blending diverse themes in pursuit of crafting striking and practical spaces. He employed that same commitment when creating several ultramodern residences locally that showcase retractable aluminum walls, seamlessly blending indoor and outdoor spaces by allowing an entire side of the structure to be opened up. Regardless of size, Myers's work is characterized less by aesthetic similarities and more by amalgamating distinctive dissimilar themes in order to fashion both dramatic and utilitarian spaces.

The front of a Wallace Neff designed home

5. Wallace Neff: Visionary Behind California Style
Architect Wallace Neff is frequently recognized as the visionary behind California-style residences characterized by soaring vaulted ceilings, inviting courtyards, verdant landscapes, and abundant glass elements. In Neff's architectural creations, one can readily discern the influence of Frank Lloyd Wright's principles of organic architecture. Much like Wright, the MIT-trained Neff conceived homes that harmonize with their surroundings, showcasing expansive windows and doors that gracefully connected interiors with terraces and gardens, seamlessly melding indoor and outdoor living spaces, something we hold dearly in our coastal communities.

Sunset behind a luxury home in Santa Barbara

6. Andy Neumann: Master at Creating a Sense of Space
Renowned Santa Barbara architect Andy Neumann began his illustrious career in 1976 when he made his mark as a founding partner of Seaside Union Architects. He later played a pivotal role in the success of Neumann Mendro Andrulaitis Architects (NMA Architects), a firm from which he has now retired. Neumann and his associates cultivated an exceptional design philosophy known as a "human-centric approach to architecture," placing people at the forefront of their creative process. Ultimately, they focused on delivering innovative solutions tailored specifically to the individuals who would inhabit the building.

If you are ready to buy a masterpiece from one of these top residential architects of Montecito and Santa Barbara, or from any of the outstanding designers who have helped shape our coastal enclave into what it is today, please call (805) 886-9378 or email me at Cristal@Montecito-Estate. Begin your home hunt by checking out the listings on my comprehensive website.When you find one of interest, I'll be delighted to organize a private tour exclusively for you. You can also count on me to help you in the selling processs, too. Let me put my magic to work on your behalf.

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“It was an emotional experience selling our mother’s home in Montecito that we all loved so much but Cristal made the process easier on our whole family by guiding us through the transaction every step of the way. She knows the market so well and everything she recommended was on point including the asking price, painting, and staging the home, which looked beautiful and helped the buyer envision her new home. We sold it the first day it hit the market with an offer above asking! Cristal did an incredible job communicating with us and the buyer to ensure that the transaction would run smoothly. We highly recommend using Cristal, she was a pleasure to work with! ”

- J & A

“Cristal is a pleasure to work with! Her knowledge of the local real estate market coupled with her amazing listening skills resulted in her showing us an array of homes that were all excellent choices. Her low-pressure patient attitude made us feel extremely comfortable with the whole process. I cannot recommend her highly enough.”

- M.F.

“Cristal Clarke is #1 in her field - and you don't become #1 by luck. Cristal works harder, and longer, and with more charm and patience than any real estate agent I have ever worked with in the past; her calendar has no weekend, her days have no clocks, her only concern is selling your property as soon as possible and for the best price on the market. Am I a fan? You bet!”

- P.B.

“We have used Cristal now several times and cannot express how grateful we are for her expertise, dedication, and unwavering support throughout the entire home-buying process. Cristal is knowledgeable, patient and attentive. Her attention to detail is remarkable, and she consistently went above and beyond to provide us with all the information and resources we needed to make informed decisions. Cristal is a skillful negotiator and advocate. She can navigate complex negotiations with professionalism and grace and felt like a true partner to us in the home-buying process. Cristal has a genuine passion for real estate and a deep commitment to her clients' satisfaction. I cannot speak highly enough of Cristal and her exceptional service. She is a true expert in her field and her dedication to excellence, combined with unwavering support is the reason we choose to work with her for all our real estate buying needs.”

- T.C.

“Cristal is a top-notch realtor who sold my home before it ever went on the market. I had two competing offers that enabled me to get top dollar for my home. Not only is Cristal superb but her team is extraordinary. I cannot say enough about Cristal and her team. They are simply phenomenal, the consummate professionals, who took care of every possible detail, making the sale and transition period, smooth from our end. They are also lovely, caring people, who knew all the right professionals, to get the job done. Thank you, everyone!”

- D.R.

“I could list lots of cool adjectives to describe Cristal. All good by the way. But, that is not why I or anyone should hire Cristal. My reason for hiring her, which proved to be correct, is very simple. She got the job done. And, she does it time and time again and with zero issues. And, that is why she is one of the top agents in the country. End of subject. ”

- M.A.

“Working with Cristal was a complete pleasure. Cristal was extremely patient with us as we evaluated nearly 2 dozen homes over a span of 2 years. Her knowledge of the market is unmatched. Cristal provided us with exceptional counsel as we evaluated opportunities and negotiated pricing. The closing process was handled thoroughly and efficiently. We could not be happier with our purchase and even more happy to now call Cristal our friend.”

- D.K.

“Cristal Clarke has conducted numerous real estate transactions for me beginning 13 years ago with the purchase of a Lemon Ranch. She has handled both large and small purchases and sales with equal dedication. As a negotiator, you can’t find anyone better. Her transactions are always conducted in the most appropriate and professional manner. Cristal has considerable knowledge of the Santa Barbara market.”

- S.N. Decker Ph.D.

“Living in Europe, we were to say the least, unaccustomed to the nuances of Real Estate acquisition in California and Cristal steered us through the process with absolute professionalism and personal attention to detail at every turn. Her in-depth knowledge of the market place combined with enthusiasm and drive was the only reason we secured the property of our dreams and will be forever grateful. If you are looking for personal discrete and private representation of the highest quality we suggest you look no further than Cristal Clarke.”

- Johan and Paula van den Berg

“Cristal is very straightforward, cheerful, helpful, professional and trustworthy….we felt very lucky to work with her.”

- John and Lacey Williams

“After considering our many choices, we are grateful it was Cristal Clarke of Sotheby’s International who represented the sale of our Montecito cottage. We are familiar with Cristal’s reputation of hard work and dedication to clients, but it was her attention to detail that made our experience so positive. She offered suggestions for staging the property, worked in harmony with potential buyers and was even able to secure back up offers. The sale of our cottage was completed much sooner than we expected, due in great part to Cristal’s professional skills and support. We highly recommend Cristal as a first choice for anyone needing representation with real estate.”

- Michael & Nancy Lee

“Our experience in working with Cristal Clarke resulted in the successful and discrete acquisition of a property which was not yet on the open market. Her knowledge of the Montecito/Santa Barbara area and vast expertise blended with her passion for real estate and architecture, provided us with the very highest level of professionalism and personalized services. Cristal exhibited a rare combination of excellent communications, attention to detail, creativity and patience.”

- Richard and Catherine Frinier

“Cristal really breaks the mold. She knows every nook and cranny of this real estate market, understands value, and follows up on everything, all the time. She was incredibly patient with our two year quest to find the perfect house. Every house hunting trip from across the country was well planned, and our time was never wasted. On top of her professionalism and expertise, she is delightful to spend time with. We are thrilled with the home we purchased, and grateful to Cristal for so wisely advising us through this process, right through to the close and beyond.”

- Laurie Siegel

“We met Cristal first in the course of renting a winter home (for three years), then buying a house using her as our agent. She was amazingly good at listening to our wants and showing us homes that fit our needs. Her mastery of the paperwork was perfect. Most importantly, there was never a situation where we doubted her straightforwardness or integrity. If we do another real estate transaction in Montecito (which I doubt, we’re happy with what we purchased), without question we’d use Cristal again.”

- Ken Saffir

“Susan and I just want to thank you for your efforts in the sale of our home. You are really quite amazing. Your competence, persistence, optimism and humor made the entire process effortless. Every problem that arose, you somehow fixed; any obstacle, you overcame. We have bought and sold many homes. It has never been such a painless and enjoyable process!”

- Michael & Susan Marquart

“A little something about “our” realtor, Cristal Clarke. My wife and I came to Santa Barbara about fifteen years ago looking for a seasonal home from which to enjoy the weather and amenities of the central coast. Being in the real estate business myself I was familiar with agents and brokers so entered the market with open eyes. We “flipped” a few houses in the early years, dealing with various agents and finally ended up in Montecito. That’s when good fortune put us together with Cristal. To say we were impressed is to put it mildly. Cristal really knows the market. She is familiar with the area, its history and trends. When we have questions about a particular property she either has the answers immediately or gets back to us by phone or email. There is no waiting or wondering with Cristal. She is an agent who is “on top of it.” Her recommendations as to price points, contractors, inspectors and title agents have proven to be exceptional, showing great insight and the highest professional standards. We consider ourselves exceedingly fortunate to say that Cristal Clarke is our realtor and would recommend her services to any serious buyer or seller.”

- Rob & Judi Kelch