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Family & Friends

The cozy entry courtyard, paved with reclaimed bricks, sets the tone for the home’s warm, informal appeal and reiterates its Santa Barbara-influenced architecture.

A home in Santa Barbara County is the culmination of a close bond between architect and client.

By Katherine Adomaitis | Photography by Bradley Otto Posey

Designing and building a house is a very personal experience, and clients often bond with members of the team who bring their dream to fruition. Occasionally, those loose skeins of friendship become tighter and everlasting. Such is the story for one California couple and their Arizona-based architect.  

Lisa and Glen Wysel met Mark Candelaria almost 15 years ago when they hired him to design a home for them in Silverleaf; they had recently moved to the Valley from Santa Barbara to open a clinical training center for dentists. Little did they know they would quickly become part of the Phoenix Home & Garden Masters of the Southwest award-winning architect’s circle of friends. In 2013, the couple joined him on one of his annual friends-and-clients tours to Italy, where they explored the country’s food, wine and architecture, as seen through Candelaria’s enthusiastic eyes. 

“On one of the last days in Italy, when we were staying at Villa d’ Este at Lake Como, we found an invitation in our room,” recalls Lisa. “Mark was marrying his fiancée, Isabel, on the shores of the lake. Glen stood in as the father of the bride and walked her down the aisle. It was truly a special trip.”

After such an emotionally bonding experience, it only made sense that when the Wysels retired and decided to move back to the Santa Barbara region, they chose Candelaria to conceive their newest residence. Built on a tree-covered lot in Montecito, the gracious three-story house bears strong echoes of classic Santa Barbara architectural influences as well as touches of Italian villa style. 

“I’ve spent a lot of time in this area of California, and I’ve collected a lot of imagery of its classic residences,” explains Candelaria. “Over the years, so many architectural trends have come and gone, but Santa Barbara style is timeless.”

The architect walked the lot chosen by the Wysels, which has views of nearby mountains, valleys and a neighboring grove of eucalyptus trees. Afterward, during dinner at a local restaurant, he sketched out his ideas on a paper tablecloth—upside down so the homeowners could see the plans right-side up. “It’s pretty much as we built it,” he says.

The 4,600-square-foot house angles around an entry courtyard and opens up to a sloping backyard. The main level includes the great room and library, a small dining room, kitchen, master suite and office. The second floor has two guest suites and a family room, while a partial lower level—made possible by the site’s slope—is home to the garage and wine cellar.

“We wanted to downsize,” says Lisa. “We were looking for a warm, inviting home where our children and grandchildren could visit. We asked Mark to place all of our daily living spaces on the main level, and for this house, we didn’t need formal living or dining rooms.”

1. An antique urn, transformed into a fountain, and two olive trees mark the entry to the front courtyard. 2. The library’s custom bookcase frames a painting by Erica Hopper and serves as a backdrop for a baby grand piano.

“Over the years, so many architectural trends have come and gone, but Santa Barbara style is timeless.” 

—Mark Candelaria, architect

The exterior elevation is simple, Candelaria points out, and not overly adorned. Cream-colored stucco walls, simple shutters, brick window lintels, a stone-clad fireplace chimney and rustic red clay roof tiles evoke not only the area’s historic homes, but traditional Italian villas as well. Inside, steel-framed windows focus views on the back garden and distant mountains. Honey-hued ceiling beams, sunlit walls and French oak flooring add warmth.

“Glen and Lisa are very casual,” says Scottsdale interior designer Donna Vallone, who had worked previously on the couple’s vacation home. “The look they wanted was welcoming and warm. When it came to furniture, everything they gravitated toward was transitional and timeless—nothing trendy.”

1. The home, which has views of distant mountains and a nearby eucalyptus grove, features varying rooflines and strong vertical elements, inspired by the architect’s love of Mediterranean design. The front garden’s groomed, clipped look gives way to a natural appearance at the edges of the property. 2. A pair of custom leaded-glass cabinets flank the entry to the kitchen, where a soft blue hue warms the walnut-topped island, custom range hood and cream color palette. 3. Mountain views are framed by a large window in the intimate dining room. The space’s charm is enhanced by a coffered ceiling with tile detail. 4. Steel-framed windows in the living room and library offer a panoramic view of the backyard and distant mountains. Furnishings in neutral shades were chosen for their transitional style and comfort that invites lingering. The dark back panels and custom wood frame of the built-in bookshelves anchor the room. 

Working with a soft, neutral palette, Vallone and colleague Shane Mehrer upholstered two reclining sofas in a pale gray mohair, creating a comfortable seating area in front of the great room fireplace and TV. A wall-to-wall bookcase crafted of alder wood serves as a backdrop for a baby grand piano in the adjacent library. The intimate dining room is framed by a pair of leaded glass cabinets and a ceiling detailed with custom tiles between the beams. Upholstered dining chairs and a cozy window seat make this a space for lingering, be it for morning coffee or dinner parties. The kitchen features cabinetry in cream and blue-gray tones, with a spacious island finished with a walnut countertop. In the master bedroom—a study in pale hues—a custom cabinet hides the TV behind doors detailed with wire mesh and shirred draperies.

Outdoors, Santa Barbara-based landscape architect Puck Erickson-Lohnas collaborated with the homeowners and Candelaria to create a low water-usage Mediterranean-influenced garden. “We were careful to work around a grove of oaks that existed in the backyard,” says Erickson-Lohnas, “but in front, we did a more clipped, groomed landscape that gives way to a natural look at the edges of the site.”

Working with reclaimed Chicago brick and cobblestone as paving material for the driveway, paths and entry courtyard, the landscape architect interspersed the site with olive trees, lantana, viburnum, sages and westringia. In the backyard, where a curving staircase leads from the terrace down to the lawn and fire pit, she tucked in a rose garden and a small bed for herbs. Between the oaks, at a low spot in the garden, hydrangeas flourish, nurtured by shade and rainwater runoff.

And the garden’s unexpected pièce de résistance? Italian cypress planted next to the house. “In Italy, many of the older homes are very vertical in orientation,” Erickson-Lohnas explains, “and Mark was spot-on with that design element here. The cypress is classic, and it resonates with the verticality of this architecture. It doesn’t work if you plant them next to a low ranch-style house.”

Shortly after the home was completed, Lisa celebrated her 60th birthday with a big gathering. “The entire design team, of course, came to the party,” she recalls, “and Mark sang an operatic version of ‘Happy Birthday’ to me. That’s what he does. He’s a Renaissance man.”

Candelaria wouldn’t have it any other way. “We approach each project like we’re designing a house for best friends,” he says. “It’s so personal, and we try to make it fun. Most of our clients do become close companions.”

Architect: Mark Candelaria, Candelaria Design Associates. Builder: Steve Powell, Powell & Associates. Interior Designer: Donna Vallone, Vallone Design. Landscape Architect: Puck Erickson-Lohnas, Arcadia Studio.

For more information, see Sources.

1. Time is of no essence in this relaxing, fireplace-warmed patio off the living room and library. The wood-beamed ceiling, stonework and reclaimed bricks echo the aesthetic of old-world Italian villas. 2. Pale hues soothe the master bedroom, where the TV is elegantly hidden behind a large cabinet’s wire mesh screen and shirred fabric. 3. Two staircases lead from the back terrace to a fire pit, where friends and family gather to enjoy Montecito’s cool evening breezes while sipping local wines.  


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