Cristal's Blog


June 4, 2022

Back to Articles

See What Gives the American Rivera its Signature Style

Side yard of a beautiful Montecito home with ivy growing on the wall and a cozy patio in the foreground.

Without a doubt, Santa Barbara’s architecture is one of the city’s most defining features. There’s a deliberate consistency to the aesthetic here that’s been cultivated by city leaders since the early 1920’s. The commitment to upholding these standards over the generations has resulted in a signature style; one that reflects the Santa Barbara lifestyle. When you think of Santa Barbara, you picture red-tiled roofs, whitewashed buildings, and Spanish-Moorish accents like vibrant tile work and intricate wrought-iron details. Yes, architecture is a key element in making Santa Barbara what it is today. And to learn more, all you need to do is lace up your comfy shoes and take one of our Santa Barbara architecture walking tours.

Masterpiece of the 21st century at sunset

Private Walking Tours

Architecture Walking Tours of Historic Santa Barbara
A unique way to experience Santa Barbara architecture and learn about our rich history is through a personal guided walking tour from the Architectural Foundation of Santa Barbara. There are two tours to choose from, each focusing on our downtown area through significant and historic buildings, aesthetics, past and present building usage, and landscape history. Santa Barbara Architecture Walking Tours of historic areas are an ingenious way to see our fine city in a whole new light.

  • El Paseo
    See the historic center of downtown Santa Barbara and celebrate our rich cultural heritage that began with the first Spanish and Mexican settlers. This tour begins on the City Hall steps at De la Guerra Plaza and is an easy stroll which includes:
    • Casa de La Guerra, City Hall, Santa Barbara News-Press, and La Placita buildings, the 19th-century center of Santa Barbara
    • El Paseo, the restaurant, courtyard, and commercial spaces
    • Meridian Studios
    • Lobero Theatre (1924)
    • Lobero Office Building, by Julia Morgan, architect of Hearst Castle
    • Santa Barbara Recreation Center (1912)
    • Castillo Building, Masonic Building (1924)
    • Montecito Bank, designed by Myron Hunt and said to be modeled on a basilica in Sicily
    • Hill-Carrillo Adobe (1828)
  • La Arcada
    Learn all about the historic art and architecture of downtown Santa Barbara as it was reborn after the devastating 1925 earthquake. This true walking adventure begins at the Central Library courtyard entrance on Anapamu Street and continues to include the following:

    • Pre- and Post-Earthquake Santa Barbara Central Library (1917)
    • La Arcada (1930)
    • East Figueroa Buildings, San Marcos Building (1913, 1926)
    • Santa Barbara Museum of Art (1914-1937)
    • Granada Theater (1924)
    • Upper Hawley Building (1887)
    • 1301 State Street Arlington Theater (1930)
    • US Bankruptcy Court (1946-47)
    • Santa Barbara Medical Clinic Building (1920)
    • Trinity Episcopal Church (1919)
    • Plus, many more, including Notre Dame School, Santa Barbara Yoga Center, and Our Lady of Sorrows Church

For further information, or to arrange your own private Santa Barbara Architecture Walking Tour, email The Architectural Foundation of Santa Barbara at or call (805) 965-6307.

Self-Guided Tours

Red tiled roof home with blue sky in the background.

Red Tile Walking Tour*
With its red tile roofs and palm-lined streets, it's no wonder that Santa Barbara is regarded as the "American Riviera." The architectural combination of Spanish, Mediterranean and New England Victorian coupled with our lavish rolling landscape, with the Santa Ynez Mountains and Pacific Ocean as backdrops give this coastal city its timeless charm.

The self-guided Red Tile Walking Tour* includes 17 stops and 22 historic adobes dating from the 1700s through the 1800s and embodies the best of our city’s Spanish-style architecture. Besides viewing Santa Barbara’s red tile roofs, you’ll also discover smooth, white-stucco walls, flower-bedecked courtyards, hidden passageways, notable restaurants, theaters, museums, and several architecturally significant government buildings of our downtown area. 

Put on a pair of comfortable walking shoes then print the Official Red Tile Walking Tour Map, provided by Santa Barbara Car Free, and take off on an adventure like no other.

Stark white estate surrounded by palm trees sitting right on the beach

Jeff Shelton Santa Barbara Architecture Walking Tour
While there’s nothing cookie cutter about Santa Barbara’s architectural design, it is very cohesive and 100% steeped in tradition. Local architect Jeff Shelton found a way to turn that tradition on its head while maintaining the integrity of design. Shelton is referred to as visionary for introducing an imaginative, modernized interpretation of Santa Barbara’s Spanish Colonial Revival look. In this video, Shelton discusses the architecture of the area and his self-guided walking tour which takes a look at 60 residential, commercial, and mixed-use projects the native Santa Barbarian has designed. Eight of his most noteworthy designs are located within a 10-block area of the downtown core.

All you have to do is download the map, lace up your walking shoes (or slip on your flip flops—no hills involved!) and enter the fantastical world of Jeff Shelton.

If you live in Montecito, Hope Ranch, or any of Santa Barbara’s upscale communities, you’re exposed to a variety of architecture aesthetics so popular here, from modern, mid-century modern and contemporary, to Mediterranean and more. No matter what architectural style calls to you, if you are looking to move to a new property here, call me at (805) 886-9378 or email me at My knowledge, contacts, and experience can be invaluable to home sellers and buyers alike.

Other Resources:

Back to Articles

Client Reviews

“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