Well, there is a “secret place” in Montecito. Honestly; even close neighbors barely know it is there!
It was the dream job of a lifetime for me!
In 1989, my client and dear friend in Pasadena, Molly Munger, (her Italian villa by Reginald Johnson circa 1919 is pictured in my “work” section) , told me
that her father “Charlie Munger” had some property in Montecito that he wanted to develop for many years; and he was
“getting close”! “I think you want to go up there on Tuesday with Charlie and Nancy” (his wife, her stepmother)!
So I did!
His property was originally part of a subdivision of a large estate owned by the Hammond family; and it was slated to be more large condominium buildings which were built in 1970.
The Montecito community was not happy about these buildings; and they went bankrupt. Charlie and Warren Buffet (his partner at Berkshire-Hathaway) owned the bank
which had the second mortgage. They knew that anything resembling the original buildings would be impossible to build. Charlie also knew that Montecito
was a very special place. He had been a guest at a very unusual development in Oceanside, California, called “St. Malo”.
It was developed starting in 1929..(it was the first gated community in San Diego County)!
and a family with a “vision” (from Pasadena, where I grew up) bought a big bunch of acres……and started a “development” with very strict architectural
restrictions. This is seriously one of my favorite things I have ever seen on the coast of California.
It resembles a fishing village of the same name in the Brittany area of France. That village “St. Malo”
was the inspiration. Many owners who built houses in Oceanside traveled there
to take pictures and buy things.
Many of the houses are extremely authentic; the people who built them went to France and brought back materials.
The coast of California is not known for its fine architecture. Far from it. Frankly, it is pretty sad. Even pathetic. Never mind!
“St. Malo” is a jewel on the coast.
An article about it is on the “san diego travel tips”:
Charlie; being the visionary that he is, thought this would make sense in Montecito!
I went with Charlie and his lovely wife Nancy up to see this property! YOWZERS!!
Beautiful! 28 acres.
It is a”flag lot” meaning that the first part of it is behind some beachfront houses….
and then it opens up and there is a meadow and 11 lots around it with ocean views and frontage. The plan had 23 “condominiums”
(forget every single condominium you have ever seen); a common clubhouse with a tennis court, swimming pool, kitchen and a wonderful living room with poolhouse bathrooms!
This was in “the planning stages”
Charlie finally got the permits to build a “village” like St. Malo; and he was starting to build it!
At first, I was hired to “decorate” the clubhouse! (which was not built yet).
Now. Here is the clubhouse! Originally, Charlie hired me just to do the “Clubhouse”! My foot was “in the door”!!
I designed it. I showed him samples and presented it all to him in his office.
(there is a farm table with red chairs that don’t show in this picture)…they are to the right!
He said, “everything is ok here; except the red chairs. They need to be dark wood color.”
I leapt up! I jumped up and down!!! I shrieked! “NONONO!! THEY NEED TO BE RED! THAT IS THE WHOLE POINT!”
“It will be so ordinary if they are brown wood! This project just cannot be ‘ORDINARY’!”
AND THEN I SAID……..(this is the God’s truth; I could not make this up!)
“And, Charlie, there just needs to be one person doing all these houses you are building! And it needs to be me! I “get” your vision!
I want you to hire me! I know what to do here!”
And he did. And I did.
And that is a true story of a dream job.
My title was “Aesthetic Director”!
So, for the next twenty years…….I chose all the “finishes” exterior and interior; the light fixtures inside and out;
the cabinets, the colors, the floors, the tiles (87 bathrooms all different hand painted tile!
24 kitchens…….all different cabinets and tile! Whew!!!)
for the 23 “condominiums…the clubhouse ..and for Charlie’s own house, and another house!
There are 11 “houses” (built by the owners….but subject to the architectural restrictions) that surround the “common areas;
and the “condominiums ” which are all completely different from one another.
This has never been publicized. So here we go!
Here we are. On one of the most “primo” surf beaches in the world. “Hammond’s” is in every book about surfing beaches. Charlie had to provide a special bridge and beach access to surfers! He also
had to deal with the Chumash Indians; who have a “sacred Indian burial ground” right on the ocean. The following picture is the meadow (which cannot be landscaped); and the Chumash
have rituals here. There is a monument honoring them. This an multi- acre open meadow right on the ocean in honor of their ancestors!
Near the center to the left; you can see the monument!
Here is the monument…..and the Indians have celebrations sometimes in this meadow!
There are some very low-profile houses along the edge of this meadow. They had to be low because of the two story condominium
buildings behind them. ( They emerged from bankruptcy; and now sell for millions each!)
The views from these houses (not condominiums) go up and down the coastline; and the surfing beach is right to the left of them!
This is looking at these houses across the meadow…..and you can see the condominiums behind. …