A Simple White Cottage in Santa Barbara

Simple White Cottage Wallace Neff Santa Barbara 1919This little white house for sale in Santa Barbara, California, has a bit of history behind it. It was designed in 1919 by the notable architect Wallace Neff in “English farmhouse style” as a vacation cottage for his parents. Take a look:

Wallace Neff cottage Santa Barbara listing Dutch Door

Love the Dutch Doors.

Wallace Neff cottage Santa Barbara listing (2)

How lucky would you be as parents to have an architect like Wallace Neff for a son? “Hey, Mom and Dad, I built you a vacation cottage in Santa Barbara…”

Wallace Neff cottage Santa Barbara listing (8)

When my son was about 5 years old he told us he wanted to be an architect when he grew up. I kind of got my hopes up when I heard that. But kids have a way of bursting your bubbles…

Wallace Neff cottage Santa Barbara listing (7)

I said, “That would be great! Someday you could design a house for me.”

He paused and then screwed up his little face. “You’re pretty old, though, Mom. By the time I’m an architect, you’ll probably be dead.”

Wallace Neff cottage Santa Barbara listing (3)

Now he wants to study software engineering. So I’m not dead yet, but my dreams of having a cottage like this designed by my son are. 😉

Wallace Neff cottage Santa Barbara listing (6)

The listing says: “Set on .21 acres, located on the East edge of the lower Riviera with city and ocean views, while also being close in to shops and restaurants of downtown. The heart of the home centers around the large English fireplace in the living room with wood beamed ceilings and wide plank wood floors.”

Wallace Neff cottage Santa Barbara listing (4)

It’s on the market for $1.695 million. Check the listing at Village Properties for more photos and information.

Wallace Neff cottage Santa Barbara listing (1)

Hooked on Cottages? Check out my Cottages page to see some of my favorites!

 P.S. Reese Witherspoon is selling Wallace Neff’s Libbey Ranch in Ojai…


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  1. Carisa says

    Beautiful but makes me want to bring over a case of red wine.

    • Shannon says

      That’s funny.

      Following the rule that red wine gets spilled on white furniture, this place would look like a wine factory exploded.

  2. says

    So wonderful..the views..the ceilings..all the white..Love white and blue by views like those.

  3. Christina from Dallas says

    Perfect except, the deer head on the wall. Sorry when I see that I’m grossed out. I can’t figure out why people think dead animals are decorative. But of course that would be taken down if I were to buy it. The house in lovely otherwise.

    • Jennah says

      Agreed! The thought of a dead “anything” hanging on the walks gives me the heebies!

  4. Julia says

    Lovely! Loved the memory of your son! Out of the mouths of babes. You were (are) probably only in your twenties or thirties, lol! They do have a way with words!

    • says

      Yep, I had him in my 20s so I wasn’t all that decrepit. Ha. Apparently I seemed ancient to him at the time, though. Ha.

  5. says

    Such white & light English cottage perfection in that house!
    (and don’t feel bad that your son is not an architect Julia – a software engineer ain’t so bad…. heck, he’ll be able to afford to buy you a sweet little cottage!)

  6. Laura says

    Gorgeous house, just need a little color. I’d take it in a second if it was offered to me.

  7. says

    Love it…especially the living room!! Love the lightness of it all. And don’t worry about your son..my engineer son is going back to school to be…an architect! (Maybe…at least those are his plans for now.) And even the philosophy degree son is thinking of going back for architecture too. You never know what your children will do or be.

  8. Tracie says

    Haha…love the story you printed along with this. My dream job as a child was to be an architect…still wish I would have pursued that a little more.

    Anyway, the house is so lovely and special. I’m surprised the home wasn’t kept in the family. I’d love to live there.


  9. says

    Gorgeous! I’m planning to visit Santa Barbara this summer on my trip to California! Can’t wait!

  10. Rebecca C. says

    Love it. Just bring the price down a bit and it’s mine.

  11. ShabbyChick says

    This house is so beautiful and relaxed looking! Love it! 😉

  12. says

    Love it! I’m house hunting right now, and I’ve added “dutch door” to my list for my next home! (It’s right up there with kitchen booth, window seat, laundry chute, and tree swing!).

    • Carolyn says

      Great list! My 1928 house has a Dutch door and a laundry chute. Love them. But I too have always wanted a kitchen booth, window seat, and tree swing. Have the big oak tree, but not the right kind of horizontal limb. Our original kitchen had a tiny, and I mean tiny, about 3′ x 3′, built-in booth in the small galley kitchen. We tore that out and put the refrigerator there. But I, too, would love to have a kitchen booth lined with casement windows. Dreaming . . . This Santa Barbara house has something else I’ve always wanted: real beamed ceilings.

  13. Maddie says

    I think those a faux strap hinges on the Dutch door since they are on both sides. I am definitely doing that to my door. I love the way it looks. This house is fabulous!

  14. says

    I think whoever did this did a sensational job of the decor and the landscape!
    It was on the market a couple of years ago. An excellent job!

    The only thing is that hideous roof! It is a charming house; and even an ocean view!
    Your son’s comment is hilarious!

  15. says

    That deer head is carved wood, I am pretty sure! I agree with the “dead animals” deal; but I have a few carved wood ones; and even a moss one!

    • Carolyn says

      Agree. I feel sure it’s a light or bleached wood. A carved head is something all together different from taxidermy.

  16. martha says

    OK, I take back what I said yesterday about not liking the all white look. This is beautiful and I could add some color….still not crazy about the white slipcovers, the practical side of me sees disaster. This home is cozy and airy and I love it!

  17. mom22 says

    Charming but at $1.7 million, I want a little more bang for my buck!!!

  18. Valerie J. says

    Coming back from a week in Santa Barbara, I can’t wait to go back. My husband and I were ready to move there. One day, maybe(on a much lower budget than 1.7 millions unfortunately).

  19. says

    I am perplexed at how a New England cottage could be so old in Santa Barbara. There is rarely stuff around here older then the ’30’s. I’ll have to read up on it a bit more. And about your son, for many years in elementary school my son insisted he wanted to be a gemologist which I strongly encouraged. Now he says he wants to go into the military. Kill joy.

    • says

      I live in Santa Barbara! Lots of things from the 1880’s! (a whole lot fell down in the earthquake of 1925;) but this was a destination resort starting in the 1850’s! We have many houses and buildings dating from the 1800’s!

      It is a very old settlement in California! And, of course, the Missions were here!

      Our Mission (which also fell down in the earthquake of 1925 ; and was beautifully copied and rebuilt); is one of the most beautiful of all the California Missions!

      A lot of California is new; however; Santa Barbara is not! It was Spanish land grants……there are 8th generation Santa Barbarans!

      this is part of “Old California”!! And we are proud of it!


  20. Daphne says

    Utterly gorgeous, upstairs and down. Wish I could beam myself over and use it as my holiday house but at 1.7 million! Really, you’ve gotta be kidding. No pool and a mini patch of earth surrounding it. Seems Americans charge like raging bulls!

    • says

      I live in Santa Barbara; and it is true! This is a hugely inflated price! It is on a minuscule lot (I bet it was way bigger when Wallace Neff designed it!)

      In my humble opinion; the decorating is flawless; the landscaping is totally flawless!

      It will be interesting to see!


      ps most people cannot “visualize”! If someone wants a “second house” or “small house” that they can move into with their toothbrush and their clothes…….this is IT!!

      Also! I hope they buy it “fully furnished”!

      All that furniture is “slipcovered”! Even with an explosion of red wine!

      Into the washing machine and dryer and back in a few hours! This is “bulletproof” ; wonderful light and fabulous decorating!
      (I do not rant and rave often! this is brilliant!) This is a tiny house…made so much bigger by the LACK of color! Color would be a mistake! (no one loves color more than I! In the right place!)

      Bravo! Just my opinion!

  21. says

    somehow my website was completely scrambled in the last post!

    Now it is correct! Thanks!!

    I love, love , love “hooked on houses”!!!!

    • says

      I forgot to say; it has my favorite thing…….”one room deep”! Northern and Southern light….and some rooms with two and three exposures!

      this is lost in present architecture! It is a treasure!

  22. Alie B says

    Very sweet place. The best part is that a son designed this for his parents. :)

  23. Billy says

    How to destroy the sole of a house with white paint. Additionally this house some how is surrounded on 2.5 sides by busy streets. Further I always thought that its was by G W Smith for his PILs. Standard meme on decorators painting wood work wind up in hell.

  24. says

    I normally don’t like a lot of white…since I’m a fan of color used in home decor…but this home gives a very relaxing vibe. I especially love the bedroom…even though it is very simple. Cute house!!!

  25. says

    $1.6 million is out of my budget but she is a beauty. Our kids do at times have a knack for bursting our bubble don’t they? So funny.

  26. Carolyn says

    LOVE it. Of course you had me at Wallace Neff. I probably would have left the beams natural, and if they were really dark, would have just lightened them (a much harder job, I know), not whitewashed them. Still, this is pretty sweet. I can remember when my son at 3 (he’s now 31) said he was going to be a “singing architect.” Well, the singing stuck – he’s a musician. I was the one who studied architectural drafting, so I’ll have to be the one to design my retirement vacation cottage. In fact, I already have, but unfortunately my sons are not in the position to build it for me. Alas.

  27. Carolyn says

    P.S. I feel sure that originally this cottage had muntins (divided lights) in those casement windows, and it would have contributed to the English cottage look. Too bad, in my opinion, that they replaced them with solid glass, though modernists would prefer the unobstructed views. Keep it like the original cottage is my thought.
    P.P.S. I just found a 10 minute video tour of this house from the last time it was on the market showing the original woodwork (not whitewashed) and lots of details. Still has the new windows, though there is one that looks like it has original diamond leaded panes and a guest house has the divided light windows. Interesting to compare the differences. Kitchen has same cabinets, but new apron sink, marble countertops, and subway tile, and they removed some cabinet doors and painted the floor. The furnishings and decor in the newer listing are nicer, but, call me a traditionalist – I wouldn’t have painted over that original woodwork, especially in a signature house such as this – Wallace Neff’s first commission – from his mother! Here’s the video: http://vimeo.com/12518472

    • says

      Wow! I hadn’t seen that video. How fun.

      I agree with you on the windows and the original woodwork. The video is great because it shows rooms that the current listing doesn’t, like additional bedrooms and the baths. Thanks, Carolyn!!

    • Laura says

      That video is great! I absolutely prefer the house “before”. It’s so evocative of an earlier time (maybe it’s the music in the video!). A pretty modest house, actually. Looks very comfortable. The price today is hard to believe.

  28. Susan says

    Great blog. Fabulous house. Your son’s comment…priceless :)

  29. Lisa says

    JoAnn’s Fabrics must have been running a super special on blue plaid the day they picked out fabric.

    • says

      Oh how funny!

      I like the simplicity! That house looks much bigger this time around!
      I love dark beams…..but that house has such low ceilings; those dark beams were oppressive! Look at the Libbey house in Ojai; (which was not long after); I think Mr. Neff learned a lot from that first house!

      Interesting; the Libbey stables are very similar in style……and ended up with that same Godawful composition roof!

      But the low ceilings Kathryn painted the beams white; and the high ones she left natural.

      (If decorators who paint wood go to hell…as one of your commenters said, I will burn!) They key is when to paint dark “wood”; and when not to!

      43 years in the decorating business; some wood is far better painted! (new wood; badly stained inferior wood; all different colored wood in one house; ugly stained plywood! Believe me; particularly in houses built from the sixties
      on; there is very little real quality wood used in “general” construction! Wood that makes a kitchen look “cut up”!!

      Some people (mostly men) have a real problem painting any wood that is any shade of “brown”!

      That very first house of Wallace Neff’s; I think the right thing to do was to paint those beams on the first floor white!
      I felt I had to “duck” walking into those beautiful heavy beams; way too low a ceiling!

      “Wood” is not sacrosanct! Taste. It is truly all about taste.

      I will follow this. It is, as I said, in my opinion wildly overpriced! I’ll keep you posted! I will be amazed if it sells for even a million!

      The talent is evident! and some of the most spectacular residences in Southern California Wallace Neff did! And they have been published and chronicled! This was his first “genius” house; and I am sure had severe restrictions! Almost all of his “signature” things he did in this first foray!

      the video was a complete treasure! (I couldn’t figure out where the guest house was before!)
      As always; such an educational post! LOVE LOVE LOVE!!! This blog!!!
      Every decorator, architect, and real estate agent should read it every single post!!!


  30. Maria says

    Carolyn, thank you for finding the wonderful video of the before look. It made me love the place even more.

    I must say I do like the white beams, and I’d never be able to paint them (especially on a Neff home), but it’s nice to see they weren’t all that dark to begin with – I could live with it, but think the white is an improvement. However, IMHO it’s sacrilegious to have painted the MB floor. One can never get the patina back.

    Also, now that I’ve seen the before kitchen – I can’t unsee how much better it looked! It’s like they’ve de-charmed it. Now, I’d really want to put it back. The beadboard/limestone was so much warmer. Can’t wait for this style of tiling to the ceiling to die out – seems cold, wasteful and busy.

    The OV patio really makes it look like a vacation home. I wonder if the lack of foundation planting beds is original or filled in as a low maintenance solution? The place seems to really want flower boxes under the windows and at least a pair of containers flanking the door.

    Sure is cute though, and of course love that beach light. Hope we find out the actually selling price, as much as I find it charming the corner street location would give me pause.

    • Carolyn says

      Finding the video was a fun discovery. I agree about the kitchen and the floors. While the overall whitewashed look is airy, fresh, and appealing (and you do see it done on remodeled old English cottages), I think the original woodwork gives it more of an historical, Old World, warm, cozy look that has its own appeal, even if the ceilings feel low (emphasizing that enclosed, sheltered, safe from the storm feel). Being a Wallace Neff house, I wouldn’t have changed the beams, mantel, etc. in the living room because once you’ve changed it, you can never get it back. It harks back to the English Arts & Crafts period. Now it seems everything has to be all white (or gray) – whether modern minimalism or shabby chic, and, though I like this look, I’m getting a bit tired of it. I have always liked a warm woodsy look, too. I have a feeling that, as styles always circulate around, warm stained woodwork will come back someday, at least for certain types of houses – Craftsman, mountain, lake, lodge, and some mid-century modern – where it has held its own. Of course I’m not talking about that gosh awful 50’s – 60’s fake paneling!

      • Maria says

        I didn’t realize they’d painted the mantel till you pointed it out. Like you, I wouldn’t have been able to bring myself to paint it. Also, upon closer inspection, seeing it is rough wood, wouldn’t. I have those type beams in one of my rooms, some neighbors painted theirs and it didn’t come out well. Because the wood is rough/dry the paint soaks in at different rates. Looking close, you see the same happened here. On the beams the paint is mottled and uneven. If it looks in person like my neighbors, it’s a real shame. It’s still a sweet little house though, I’d love to see it in person.

        • says

          THIS IS ALL fascinating to me. I am a decorator; very steeped in knowledge about architects! I find all these comments completely fascinating.

          Here is my opinion as a decorator! (one comment sent me to burn in hell!!!)

          Houses are to be lived in! Houses are to raise families in; and to live lives in! Happily! Houses are not to be museums; and there should not be “sacrosanct” things that one cannot change if one buys and owns the house!

          This house is a perfect example!

          It was designed in 1919! Wallace Neff was a hugely successful and talented architect!

          He was limited by his parent’s budget and location, and other things!

          In my opinion; the latest people did a great job!

          the ceilings were way too low to have those dark beams. The floors were way to many times sanded…….(great idea to paint them white); and I hope the windows with panes can be restored.

          I love that the terrific architecture shows through!
          I think it shows what a talented architect can do with a sliver of land; and a very limited budget can do!

          I, personally loved the painted floors! Those floors had been sanded too many times (just my guess) and painting them lifted the room’s light and feeling!

          This is a delightful house! Let’s see what happens!

          Keep us posted!

          Your blog is my FAVORITE about Houses on the market!!!!


          • Carolyn says

            Penelope – I think you’re a terrifically talented designer. I clipped pictures of your gorgeous house and garden (along with blogger Slim Paley’s in the same issue) from House Beautiful and put them in my favorites file. I have nothing but admiration for you. And I don’t totally disagree with you. I think the house as re-done is charming. But it has a totally different FEEL from the original. Some people want a lighter, airier feel; while others like that warm cozy feel. Some might think the wood beams oppressive; others would find them wonderfully nostalgic – like an old English cottage or pub. Certainly the owners have the prerogative to do it in the style they wish. People have different wants and tastes (and tastes do change, as we know!). I also think that since this is a work of a significant architect, an architectural historian would likely feel differently about it than a decorator would. So, different strokes . . .

  31. says

    thank you so much for the video; and your very educated remarks! AND; especially thank you for your lovely compliments on my own work!

    You have hit the nail on the head perfectly!

    “Architectural historians” (which are way too few; and unfortunately; very seldom can”save and preserve” houses with great architectural merit!)

    Would definitely rule in the favor of “keeping the original!”

    I completely agree! I doubt that this house (although Wallace Neff is in the “pantheon” of California architects; would qualify for any “preservation” status.
    (after all; it was his very first house! (USC won’t buy it to preserve!)
    It is a miracle it has not been demolished; as many of his later houses; (far more worthy; in my opinion, because of the settings; and the emergence of his maturing talent!) (Thank God his brother, Andrew wrote a book and chronicled his many houses that were demolished.) Also the survivors, by the way!
    Unfortunately, California has always been “tearing down Paradise to put up a parking lot”! And, I am afraid, we continue to! I hope we are “slowing down”!!

    The price is irrelevant to me (and probably to you).
    My opinion as a decorator is that the painting of the beams and floors gave this house some more years as a dwelling! (It could have been demolished years ago!)

    As I said; the house has been defaced on the exterior ( the windows replaced with the wrong windows; the roof is as bad as it gets, to me); the property (who knows if it was subdivided? I am astonished it has survived!!

    It probably started out as a teeny lot! His mother gave him an opportunity to design his first house!)
    I actually agree with all these philosophies about architecture!

    As a decorator: (for good , or ill) it is my job to make a place a happy atmosphere for a family, or a couple, or whomever lives there!
    I have never had an “architecture critic” as a client!

    (If one buys this house; I promise you; that paint can be stripped off of those hand-hewn rough beams; the floors stripped; etcetera; it could be restored to its exact condition!)

    Any doubters? just check out the San Ysidro Ranch! Before and After!
    (in Montecito; at the San Ysidro Ranch; 75 years of paint over the sandstone of the “Stonehouse” had to be hand removed. (one cannot sandblast sandstone)!
    It took 2 years. It was all done “by hand”!
    And it was done! In my opinion; it was completely worth it! It was the “exterior”; and it is wonderful!

    You said it perfectly; “Different strokes……”

    I, too, will be fascinated to see what it sells for; and I will keep you posted!!!
    I think that this has been a fascinating and educational dialogue! Thank you, you adorable, Julia!

    ps I find the roofing material and the windows seriously defacing the architecture! I think this is an important post! To look around in your city or town; and preserve the “landmarks” you may have! (you can (so far as I know) only preserve the outside! But that would have worked in this case! The roof and the windows would have been protected!

    Whole swaths of beautiful and historic houses have been demolished!
    This can be prevented now!

    • Carolyn says

      Thanks, Penelope, for your fascinating remarks on this thread. You obviously know your architectural history of Santa Barbara and California. I’m on the east coast and only observe from afar. We, too, have lost way too much of our architectural heritage (not to mention natural landscape) to pave paradise. I’m happy to say that my neighborhood was just made a National Historic District, so perhaps things are finally trending the other direction? Hope so.

      • says

        Yay for you and your neighborhood! It takes a lot of work; but, what treasures are saved this way! My friend Tim-Street Porter (major photographer) and his uber-talented decorator -writer wife worked like dogs getting their neighborhood in the “Whitley Heights” part of the Hollywood Hills “a NHD”; and it will be protected! (you wouldn’t even want to see what has happened to wide swaths of the Hollywood Hills!
        It is so important!!! BRAVO!!!

        (they wrote all the books “Houses to Inspire” (in the country, in …..4 or 5 of them! Great books!)

  32. Marian Horton says

    Julia, some time ago, somewhere I don’t remember, I saw a full layout of rooms for Oprah Winfrey’s former farmhouse in Indiana. As I recall, it was done in shades of Green and it was so beautiful that it made me cry as I browsed through the photos of the rooms. Have you any idea where that might have been and if it can be found again? Thanks so much.

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