A New Villa at Santa Barbara’s Most Luxurious Hotel Is Redefining Coastal California Design
Santa Barbara, nestled on the Southern California coast between the Pacific Ocean and the picturesque peaks of the Santa Ynez Mountains, has long reigned as the embodiment of the American Riviera. At the heart of this enclave—which continues to serve as one of Hollywood’s poshest getaways—stands The Biltmore, first opened in 1927. One of America’s most historic and enchanting hotels, it was acquired by Four Seasons management in 1987, and the luxury hotel group enlisted Peter Marino to refurbish and restore the property’s Spanish Colonial adobe-style design. With red roof tiles, graceful archways, romantic gas lanterns, and flower-scented gardens, The Biltmore is a self-contained oasis for the rich and famous—or anyone who wants to feel that way the second they pull up to the grand brick-paved, circular driveway.
The kind of glamorous perfection that is The Biltmore seems hard to improve upon, but recently the resort unveiled its latest and most indulgent option yet: the lavish Ty Warner Villa, named for the billionaire toy manufacturer of Beanie Babies fame who now owns the resort and masterminded the villa’s design. “The Ty Warner Villa is truly the most exclusive and private accommodation,” Karen Earp, general manager of Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara, tells Galerie. “Mr. Warner commissioned an incredible group of experts in their craft to create a villa that would exceed the expectations of even the most discerning traveler.”
With the help of local builders Arroyo Seco Construction, Warner was able to realize his vision for bringing Santa Barbara style into a new era. The 4,000-square-foot villa is an ultra-private beachfront hideaway accessed by its own camera-monitored driveway, with an emphasis on both indoor and outdoor living. The freestanding compound offers a 180-degree view of Butterfly Beach and the Channel Islands. “While the villa itself is impressive,” explains Earp, “the views of the Channel Islands from the beachfront terrace are an absolute standout.”
Warner entrusted the resort’s in-house grounds team, led by landscape manager Ezequiel “Zeke” Gil, to envelop the villa with a protective bastion of palms, ferns, and flowering vines. Beyond the front hedges, an outdoor terrace boasts a 12-by-15-foot heated plunge pool with whirlpool jets, a croquet lawn, and a custom-built outdoor fireplace, which, along with the teak sofas, loungers, and dining set, make for easy alfresco entertaining.
Stepping inside the complex, with its ten-foot-high ceilings, guests are greeted by an open-concept living and dining space outfitted with custom wood wainscoting and coffered wall paneling, whitewashed wide-plank oak floors, floor-to-ceiling windows, French doors, recessed lighting, antique chandeliers, Persian rugs, and inlaid Italian marquetry. The star of the space is the striking Moonshadow quartzite marble slab bar, adorned with a Dornbracht sink and faucet in chrome. The dual wine and beverage center is nestled within a backlit built-in craftsman library wall, which is filled with an array of books on surfing, fashion, travel, design, sports, and entertaining. The artwork is mostly contemporary and by local artists, though several period-specific prints serve as a link to the property’s rich heritage.
The grand master bedroom is encased in floor-to-ceiling windows with sweeping views of the coastline. Though intimate, the modern bedroom fits a fireplace with hand-painted tiles, custom upholstered seating, a 65-inch flat screen, and a Sonos surround-sound system. (The iPad touch-screen-based whole-house sound system runs throughout.) For couples needing added sleeping space for family or friends, the villa can connect to another bedroom, thanks to a neat layout trick that links the back hall to a preexisting guest room.
A hallway to the backyard patio features antique Craftsman carved bench seating and hand-woven wall coverings in a sumptuous nouveau-tropical green. Outside, the patio looks onto the Santa Ynez Mountains and feels thoroughly Californian, with its handmade pottery pieces, serenity fountain with hand-painted Andalusian tiles, and a stone fire pit. A custom concrete table serves nicely for en-plein-air dinner parties at night and can be transformed for table tennis play during the day.
The villa’s pièce de résistance, however, would have to be the bathroom—which is more like a mini indoor-outdoor spa. The focal point is a striking, one-of-its-kind deep soaking tub that was customized for the space and carved from a single piece of French limestone. A nearby floor-to-ceiling frameless glass wall houses a roomy rain shower with hand-painted tiles, hand-leathered Gascogne limestone, and Dornbracht chrome fixtures. The glass wall leads to a 150-square-foot outdoor jungle rain terrace that’s enhanced by dramatic calibrated lighting that makes it feel as though you’re showering not just under the stars but among them.
Checking into the Ty Warner Villa brings with it a full scope of Four Seasons pampering, from butler service, complimentary car washing, private pedicab transportation around the 22-acre property, access to the adjacent members-only Coral Casino Beach and Cabana Club, use of a private poolside cabana, and select tee times at the recently renovated Montecito Club. At $12,500 per night, the Ty Warner Villa might be the most expensive overnight option in Santa Barbara today, but it’s also the most luxurious, discreet, and design-minded.