For ten years Mr. and Mrs. Robert K. Straus had lived in a large, traditional home built during the late 1920's in the Bel Air section of Los Angeles. They liked the house so much, they sought the same architect, Wallace Neff, to create their new weekend residence. To design the interior, the Straus's commissioned twenty nine-year-old designer John Hall, who had completed several projects for their Bel Air residence. The Straus's selected a site in the Hope Ranch section of Montecito, several miles south of Santa Barbara, California. Situated on the crest of an oceanfront acre, the land slopes gently downward to the edge of a cliff where the lawn's greenery seems halted in mid-air by the ocean's blue water. The Channel Islands are visible beyond bobbing, white-sailed pleasure boats. Architect Wallace Neff designed the gracefully proportioned structure to take full advantage of this panorama. The entrance is a large courtyard leading to massive wood front doors which open to reveal a breathtaking straight-through view to the sea beyond.Great expanses of glass join beamed ceilings which range from eight to twenty-five feet in height. White walls and cool tile floors convey the mood of a Mediterranean villa. The interior colors were inspired by a fine collection of paintings acquired by Mrs. Straus through the years. All were done by living French artists, with the notable exception of a fine Diego Rivera hanging in the dining area.Designer John Hall, who has an admitted preference for antiques, mixed the real thing with authentic reproductions which he had specially hand-crafted for the house.Although Mr. Hall begins with a careful layout indicating where furniture will be placed, he leaves a few minor areas open until everything is installed. In this way, spontaneous touches may be added before the work is finalized. “It happens that Mrs. Straus is a talented woman who can visualize a completed interior,” Mr. Hall explained. “But most people find this difficult — even a professional is bound to be surprised occasionally. I prefer flexibility so we can fill in a few areas after we all see everything we've been talking about.”When the Straus residence was completed, the owners gave designer Hall and architect Neff the most meaningful of accolades by making what started out to be a weekend house their year-round home.
One of the most significant oceanfront architectural estates designed by Wallace Neff, The Straus House, located in the coveted community of Hope Ranch, Santa Barbara — has been painstakingly restored, expanded, and modernized over a 10-year period and now for sale. Designed by Wallace in 1970, in collaboration with noteworthy landscape architecture Thomas Church, the home is situated on an oceanfront acre of land on the crest of a bluff where the blue sky meets the blues of the Pacific and wide-open panoramic views include clear sight of Channel Islands. The current owner worked closely with the Historical Committee on all aspects of preserving the integrity of the design and inspiration of Neff's work while simultaneously breaking the mold and creating an estate of unrivaled excitement, comfort, and effortless luxury and indulgence.