The Secret Garden!!!

by Posted On

My friend Bonnie  lives in the neighborhood

where Ty Warner (beanie babies) built the most enormous house in Montecito!

He bought 5 houses on a bluff overlooking the ocean; tore them all down;   (all of them multi-million dollar houses)  and built an enormous “Venetian” Palazzo.

Bonnie called me and said….”Penny;  You absolutely have to meet Renee!  You are ‘soul mates’!”

 “And I want to be there when you meet her and see what she has created in our neighborhood!  You are going to have a complete fit!!!

 No one knows it is there.   She has made the most amazing creation out of some former “stables”!!!”   She said, “until 12 years ago, there were “hippies” camping out on this property!”

Originally, there was a Country Club on this entire bluff.  Around the turn-of- the- century , these stables were to house the horses for the carriages who came to  play golf and visit!

Renee, by the way, is a landscape designer who also has a “Greek Revival” house in New Orleans .  (that explains a lot)

The first hint of what was to come!  What a mailbox!

I have been by here so many times!  It is right across the street from the Music Academy of the West;  and just the week before I had walked by this mailbox with my grandson, and not noticed

it at all!    I was focused on my grandson;  but usually I notice everything……(good or bad..a blessing and a curse!)


How had I possibly missed these gates!!

I have been by here so many times!  It is right across the street from the Music Academy of the West!!     And these magnificent gates!!

 These are  most beautiful gateposts and gates I have ever seen here!  When I met Renee she said;  “Oh we were in France when I started here!

I left the “Chateau”  there;    and I bought the gates and posts and the paneling and brought them here!”

 See those grapefruits?  There was an orchard here that had also been part of the Club.

Lovely nasturtiums  sprouting out and about !

This little “moment” just inside the gates!

Following the wide path to where????

When I saw these rusty arched french doors with the beautiful roses climbing on them;  I had an even better idea of what was coming.  However, nothing could have prepared me for what was to come !!  I wish I had Steve Giannetti with me.  I’m just not a great photographer;  but I have done the best I can!!


Look to the left;  raised beds surrounded by boxwood! The sweet peas are climbing up a French “tree guard”!

gorgeous roses!

Some charming fencing to help the roses climb!  No house yet!!!

Coming around the bend….a one story house with an astonishing trumpet vine going all the way around it!!

Right next to the house,  an old pergola (original ) covered with wisteria.

Yikes!  Two separate  houses!

One separate house is the bedroom and bath.  One house the living, dining kitchen! The larger house was originally  one room!  I’m posting the interiors in my next post!

A clever way to hide the meters and things!

The outdoor dining terrace with the most charming barbecue I have ever seen!  It was foggy; but the view from here is across a rose parterre garden belonging to the house next door;  and then the ocean!!  That “view corridor” is protected!  Renee raised the terrace two feet so the view was over the hedge and through the rose garden to the sea!

Talk about a “borrowed view!”

Renee brought her stone sink from her Paris apartment to use outside!

she lets the alyssum sprout where it wants!

This is the path between the “living” and bedroom areas.


This is between the two buildings this  chandelier is here!  Outside……..totally charming…..(I have to keep adding)  it is just too much to do in one post!  even the outside!!

This is the view from her husband’s desk in a corner of the “bedroom cottage”.

This is a little corner with things “in progress”!  Nothing;  and I mean NOTHING is “staged”!  This is real……real living!!

This is the chimney of the fireplace in the “living cottage”;  and evidence of this trumpet vine that goes all over the entire two buildings.  If someone made me pick my favorite thing in the entire place;  I would pick the next picture.  It is the trunk of the  120 year old  trumpet vine INSIDE THE FRONT DOOR!!!  It is a miracle beyond that it has survive intact!

It had a “guardian angel” protecting it.  Nothing like this whole stable, the pergola…….the trumpet vine……nothing like this has survived here in Montecito……or any other enclave with wealth….and the ability to change.

This reminds me so much (first thought in my head……Tara Dillard…..and the “Poverty circle.”

That makes so much sense;  I believe it it…… on earth did the poverty circke

This slays me!

When she barbecues she “just moves the vines away”…and then puts them back when it’s all cooled off”!

The top of the barbecue chimney is the top of a dovecote found at a “brocantes fair” in Provence!

This is a glimpse of the lovely house next door which owns the rose garden!

 Renee just raised the floor of the pergola;  now the view is over the hedge and to the rose garden.  She cautioned the gardener not to trim that “leggy branch” of lavender going across the steps!
Another view of the next door property.
These are some of the old shutters all over the inside and outside!
I explained to my assistant and my grandson;  in the hands of most people, this would all turn out looking like a “junkyard””
Renee is a “magician”, in my opinion!!!
By the way, my friend Bonnie was treated by my having a complete fit the entire time!
It must have been like watching a trained seal perform!!
I could hardly breathe I loved it all so much!
Next comes the inside!
You really couldn’t take it all at once!!
The real miracle is that these once “derelict” buildings and this astonishing vine survived until 12 years ago!  They were awaiting rescue!
How often does that happen?  Not enough, if you ask me!
What a treasure preserved!!!
I hope you enjoyed it!!
Oh!  I forgot to tell you that after I saw this house and garden with Bonnie;  Bonne and Renee came over to my house and garden!
She threw the same conniption fits that I did at her house;  so we had a lively discussion about which one is more ingenious!
Bonnie calls it a “draw”
It was so much fun for me to meet such an incredibly gifted and imaginative “soul mate”!!
There will be more coming from this source!!!

21 thoughts on “The Secret Garden!!!

  1. Victoria Athens

    This is an amazing property. I love the front gates and I am anxious to see the interior spaces.

  2. Marietta

    Oh my gosh Penny!!!! I discovered this one day on my hike early morning. I could not believe it!!! Only wish I had met Renee! Will you take me? I ADORE that property and those gates are to die for. Takes your breath away. One of my favorite places ever……

    1. penelopebi

      Yes! She has told me I can bring any friends! She is the loveliest person. I took Tommy (my grandson) there and he LOVED it. They have a tiny Yorkie named “bittersweet” and the most darling husband who clearly adores her and everything she does! He hired her to do the landscaping when he bought it; and then he married her!!! Smart man!

  3. Sandra Jonas

    That is wonderful! Love that the vine was incorporated into the design & not destroyed.

    Can’t wait to see the interior through your disserning eye!


  4. Karen

    I cannot wait to see the house! (The hundred or so Beanie Babies in my kids bedrooms await also!)

  5. Tara Dillard

    The gate! Keeps chickens & rabbits out. Wish I’d had the pic sooner.

    Fun discovery. Loved seeing so many handtools about.

    Brooms & dust pans. They love to garden. Not only hire it out.

    XO T

    1. penelopebi

      Tara! The first person I thought of was you ; the second I walked through the gates…….everything you teach……she does it!

      She said..”why would anyone pull those flowers out from between the bricks? They have struggled to bloom? What kind of person would pull them out?

      An innocent question…….wow!

  6. Nancy Mehagian


    Leave it to you to find such a fabulous house and garden. Loved the photos by the way. And I love the way everything is allowed to grow so freely.

  7. Brillante Interiors

    So serene, so natural,so unique. Looking forward to go inside…

  8. Dovecote Decor

    When I was on my tour of SB with Anne and Larry we were so focused on the Music Academy we forgot to look across the street. I can’t wait to go inside!

  9. kim porter

    Wow I esp. loved the picture of the little corner with things in progress…so many goodies! You really are sole mates, I can see you making all this work like a magician as well!

  10. Patty

    Oh Penelope…thanks for sharing! Peeking into the house, I believe that this is the home I have coveted for many years. I originally saw the interior in Santa Barbara magazine and have saved that issue. I have often wished that I could see the garden…thank you for escorting us through it! I’m looking forward to the interior photos!

  11. Content in a Cottage

    Penelope—That was an amazing tour. I can’t wait to for the interior views. Thanks so much for taking us along and thanks to your friend Bonnie for setting it up. You and Renee are definitely kindred spirits.
    Have a great Memorial Day!
    xo, Rosemary

  12. Loi Thai

    Dear Penelope –
    Thank you for the fabulous tour of this incredible property. What a setting!! I love that view…yeah, want to borrow it along with the gates and posts from France 🙂 I can’t wait to see more of Renee’s work. Promise you will go back and take more photos of this property over time. And, thank you for visiting me! I really enjoyed your view on converting old swimming pools to ponds. Very wise, beautiful and green! Thank you, Penelope!
    Cheers from DC,

  13. penelopebi

    via email:

    “Penelope, I am just back at my desk after weeks out for knee surgery, and your email was one of the first things I read. It was just like coming back to an old friend! I am so glad you are well and happy, and I so look forward to seeing you soon and visiting! Thank you for sharing all of this beauty with us.

    Day Breitag
    Philanthropy Officer
    National Wildlife Federation”

    ps We are a “certified backyard habitat” by the National Wildlife Association; and Day was about to visit us when she had to have her knee surgery! ( I might add that this “Secret Garden” is all organic and encouraging of wildlife!)

  14. penelopebi

    EEk! Wrong!

    It is the National Wildlife Federation!
    They have a wonderful “Backyard Habitat Program”; and all the information on how to make one out of your property even if you have only a balcony!!!
    I made it a project with my granddaughter when she was in the first grade!!!

  15. Lyndia Rono

    It was a wonderful experience to join you on a
    photographic tour of this “hidden” property that you discovered. One of my favorite spots was the pergola; I wanted to “cozy up” in one of the chairs and sit back and take in the many views. The sneak peek into her house makes me anxious to see more.
    On another note, I hope you will give your readers an opportunity to see your daughters home progress. I noticed your note on V&L
    comments. Thanks for another adventure in your day of discovery.

    1. penelopebi

      I am so glad you enjoyed it! I will be posting the interiors tomorrow!
      And I will be posting the before, during, and after photos of my daughter’s house!

  16. Linda Leyble

    Oh my goodness – my jaw would have been dropping the whole time so it’s amazing that you took so many photos!!! Can’t wait to see the inside!! Wow! Now I have some inspiration for my place. It’s amazing that this was not staged. It looks so great…like a stylist was there. Rene is something else.

    I am so glad I found your blog. I found you via Thoughts on Design – a blog on the East Coast. Glad I took a chance and clicked! Hopefully you’ll pop pver to my blog. I am not a beanie baby maven – but I’m a pretty good decorative artist!

    Thanks for this eye candy. Wow!!!


  17. Joni Webb

    im confused – is this ty’s house? or another house?

    it’s so wonderful – that glimpse inside – can’t wait to see! the chandy outside!

    the flowers! the gates!

    hurry. put up the insides already!!!

    1. penelopebi

      NotTy’s! I am working on it!! He lives two doors away!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Gallery  -    Blog  - Press -  Contact