Cristal's Blog

Top Residential Architects in Montecito and Santa Barbara History

May 25, 2018

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exterior design of top residential architect

These four top residential architects of Montecito and Santa Barbara brought their own unique style to our area

    • George Washington Smith
      Architect George Washington Smith is Montecito’s and Santa Barbara’s most admired home designer, hands down. Credited as the founding father of the California Movement in Spanish Colonial Revival architecture, he and his artistic sensibility made a lasting impact on the look and feel of our area. Smith originally lived on the East Coast and worked in the bond market. Designing homes was his second career. It may have been his second career, but designing homes was definitely his destiny. His amazing creations made Smith one of the most popular architects of his time. Back in the day, his works were featured in major architectural and design publications and are still the gold standard today for distinctive Santa Barbara and Montecito architecture.
    • Frank Lloyd Wright
      Frank Lloyd Wright also influenced the design of high-end houses in Montecito and Santa Barbara. After two decades of designing, Wright received his first commission here in California. The Stewart House holds the distinction of being a prime example of his Prairie-style architecture, the only one of its kind west of Nebraska. Designed in 1909 and built in 1910, the original plans for The Stewart House included the main residence, a cottage for the gardener, horse stables and a simple work shed. The 4,691 square foot Montecito home, made of redwood, featured more than 350 windows, creating a natural flow between the inside and outside, the architectural standard for the quintessential Santa Barbara lifestyle. Created as a vacation home for a Scottish accountant and his family, the 6-bedroom, 3.5 bath home originally sat on five acres. The house stands on a single acre today is a prime example of Wright’s artistic style.
    • Lutah Maria Riggs
      Lutah Maria Riggs holds two amazing distinctions. Besides being the first female to be a licensed architect in Santa Barbara, Riggs is known as the first woman in California to be named a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects. Riggs began her architectural career in 1920 as a draftswoman and designer for architect Ralph D. Taylor. She worked with Taylor for only a few months before moving to Santa Barbara. Once here, she became a draftswoman for our most heralded architect, George Washington Smith. In a short amount of time, Riggs became extremely influential in the firm and the industry. In fact, some of Smith’s most well-known buildings were designed by Riggs. 
  • James Morris
    Warner, Morris & Wilson Architects was established in 1966 with partners Jack Warner, James Morris, and Charles Wilson. Their first job was to convert the old lemon packing house in Montecito into Birnam Wood Country Club. That success led to other country clubs, golf clubs, and private resorts. In time, the firm added custom estate and high-end residential projects to their specialties; focusing on upscale neighborhoods around the country including right here in Santa Barbara and Montecito. The firm retained the name of Jack Warner, a highly-regarded Santa Barbara architect and is still in business today. Known as the company is still recognized as an authority within the fields of Architecture and Interior Design.

If you are ready to buy a masterpiece from one of these top residential architects of Montecito and Santa Barbara, you’re in luck. I happen to have a stunning contemporary Montecito home designed by James Morris, AIA, listed on my comprehensive website and pictured above. The home is an homage to the quintessential indoor-outdoor lifestyle that Morris is known for creating. I have many other amazing listings in Montecito, Hope Ranch or any of Santa Barbara’s upscale communities, too, so please, give me a call at 805.886.9378 or email me at [mail_to email=""][/mail_to]. I can also help you sell your property in the area.

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Client Reviews

“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