RESTORING A LEGENDARY MONTECITO ESTATE WHEN BILL AND SANDI NICHOLSON PURCHASED SOLANA, A HISTORIC ESTATE LOCATED in the exclusive Montecito enclave above Santa Barbara, in 1999, it came with an illustrious past, having once belonged to one of Santa Barbara’s most influential families before being acquired by a think tank and hosting such luminaries as John F. Kennedy, Henry Kissinger, and Martin Luther King Jr. Sadly, the sprawling property had seen better days and in fact, was in almost complete disarray. With their work cut out for them, the couple enlisted the help of architect Don Nulty and interior designer Joan Behnke — a certified dream team with a combined list of past clientele that reads like the guest list for the Met Gala. It would be a laborious five-year restoration project to deliver Solana to the height of modern luxury with the utmost respect for the property’s past. Solana’s story began in 1913, when building permits were issued for the construction of the $50,000 residence, a precedent-setting price for the day. Commissioned by Frederick Forrest Peabody, chairman of Cluett, Peabody and Co., manufacturer of the famed Arrow Shirt in the early twentieth century, it is one of only five properties that came to be known as Montecito’s “Hilltop Baron” estates, named for the commanding location and prominent families who resided here. After Peabody’s passing in 1958, Solana began a new chapter as home to the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions, where world leaders and scholars gathered to “clarify the issues involved in maintaining a free and just society and to advance the understanding of those issues by promoting discussion of them among the American people.” The Center would eventually relocate in the mid-1970s, after which Solana was left to years of neglect. Seeing potential in the basic footprint of the residence, centered around an open-air courtyard, the Nicholson’s and their team were challenged to get creative to realize the home’s potential for a unique space that could take advantage of Santa Barbara’s year-round climate and be more fitting with the times. “The way we found it, the floorplan really didn’t work as a home for the next century,” notes architect Don Nulty, “so we used the four sides around the courtyard and reconfigured it to create the bedrooms that we needed. Below that, we created space for offices and screening rooms and support space.” Surrounded by 360 degree views of the Santa Ynez Mountains, Pacific Ocean and Santa Barbara below, each section of the home enjoys its own distinct perspective of the scenery. On the north side, guest bedroom suites open to the lush allée. The easterly wing is home to grand, formal entertaining spaces that extend to a lovely terrace and reflecting pond. Along the southern exposure, the kitchen is a work of art in itself, with two antique Moroccan lanterns, Italian terra cotta by Sugaroni for the floors, and Blue Pine beamed ceilings, salvaged from a pre-World War II hangar in Canada. Seamlessly connecting to an open family room that gives way to terraces overlooking the sea, one can watch waves rolling in off the Pacific while preparing a family meal. At the southwest corner of the residence, a sumptuous master suite anchors the estate with a limestone fireplace, kitchenette, and sitting area. Complete with dual bathrooms, the first bath is decorated with an 18th-century painted French glass ceiling and Portuguese Rose Aurora marble, providing a visually stunning setting to prepare for the day. The luxurious closet spaces were designed by famed White House wardrobe designer Programme Martin. When possible, original items, such as several fireplaces, were restored, as the Nicholson’s were careful to preserve the integrity of Solana, while making the necessary updates to usher the home into the 21st century with smart home technology and modern amenities. Gathering materials and artwork from every continent around the world, many of Solana’s detailed finishes were originally fabricated centuries ago. Hundreds of varieties of plants and trees spread across the grounds make for a unique representation of a botanical ideal. The property’s vast 11-plus acres unveil themselves with romantic terraces, manicured gardens, an elaborate pool retreat, charming turtle pond and even a lath house (a place to raise seedlings, rooted cuttings, and rhododendron plants prior to setting them in the garden), and art studio. Today, Solana stands as one of the defining estates in the nation, totaling practically 23,000 square feet of living space and seven bedrooms, it is ready to begin the next phase of its legacy for the most discerning of property buyers. FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THIS LE GENDARY MONTECITO ESTATE, visit luxuryportfolio.com and search Web ID: GWWJ88 ABOVE: A pair of private studies open to the Pool Terrace with harbor views, an ideal environment to complete your work or read a book. BOTTOM LEFT: Stroll along the incredible 150-foot crescent-shaped lily pond which overlooks the entire Montecito Valley. BOTTOM RIGHT: The formal dining room offers a wonderful space for entertaining with original quarter-sawn oak pocket doors and one of two original fireplaces in the estate. TOP: The thoughtfully designed kitchen is prepared to accommodate all occasions, from afternoon tea to a seven-course tasting menu. Embark on culinary adventures or enjoy delights prepared by staff, this incredible space is as beautiful as it is functional. BOTTOM: This en suite bathroom offers guests lavish accommodations, making them feel right at home.
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