Downtown Historic Spanish

This historic and charming two-bedroom house with a semi-attached artist’s studio is a remarkable tale of three very creative women. In 1926 Louise M. Vhay, a well-known artist and benefactor, built a one-bedroom house connected by a glass-covered roof to an artist’s studio. She wanted it to look like an old adobe and, as in the early days of Spanish adobes, she built the walls out of material that was cheap and easily available, in this case bricks that had come down in the Santa Barbara’s transformative earthquake of 1925. She even used doors, massive and beautiful, that were from the famous Arlington Hotel, which also was destroyed in the earthquake. An architectural historian as well as an artist, she made her little buildings align with Santa Barbara’s original adobes, including the nationally landmarked Gonzales-Ramirez adobe next door, which she also owned. In1956 Lutah Maria Riggs expanded the main house with another bedroom and bath and a large kitchen.

The present owner was determined to restore the spirit of these two great designers while very subtly making the place more accommodating to the way people live today, adding more natural light with windows and doors that matched the existing exactly, opening up the bathrooms and the kitchen and making the garden as magical as the house ever was. One particularly important move was extending the picturesque Gonzales-Ramirez adobe wall at the rear of the lot all the way to the beginning of the driveway. And she was in no particular hurry, allowing everyone involved the time to get every detail right – a rare and joyful opportunity for everyone involved, a feeling that is reflected in everything you see.

Santa Barbara, California

Original design in 1928 by
Mary Craig and Lutah Maria Riggs

Landscape Design By
Eric Nagelmann

Interior Design By
Randy Franks

Construction By
Fahrenkrug Construction

Photography By
Jim Bartsch