Italian Palazzo in Montecito by SFA Design

 In Interior Design

Today’s home is a classic design, Italian inspired Palazzo that sits high atop a hill in the affluent enclave of Montecito, California with stunning views reaching out over Santa Barbara and beyond to the Pacific Ocean.  The home’s owners, who are lovers of Italian art and culture, wanted to build a home that would be truly emblematic of that love.  They wanted to build a Venetian style Palazzo and were happy to personally go and research the real thing for design inspiration.  The couple traveled extensively throughout the Veneto region, visiting every Palladian villa they could get into, while collecting hundreds of photos and interior design ideas,  and perfecting their vision for the perfect interior architecture.

To translate their historically inspired ideas into a home for modern living, they turned to the Santa Barbara based architect Peter Becker.  With the sea and mountain views in mind, he specified that the architecture would include large windows and doors accented with metal for a home that would be of contemporary design, and that would also possess the elements of classic design the couple wanted.  Why sacrifice one for the other when you can have both?   A Palladian sense of symmetry and visual balance was paramount, as was an open flow.  These were achieved by using details such as arches in the main hall and living areas, as well as arched windows and doors throughout.  Rhythm and order were observed in every detail creating perfect harmony.

The interiors of the 5,800 square-foot home were entrusted to the interior design firm Smith/Firestone and Associates (SFA Design), a globally successful boutique firm that specializes in both residential and hospitality design, with offices on both coasts.  At the owner’s request, no compromises were made on authenticity or quality and SFA took a special pride in selecting the very best finishes and furnishings for the luxurious interiors.  Countless custom and bespoke design details have been painstakingly layered through this home fully articulating and appreciating the clients vision.  Art is also a focus throughout the estate.  Custom Murano glass chandeliers shine beneath hand-painted grotesque frescos on the ceilings, while 19th century paintings and antique tapestries adorn the walls, and Florentine statues accent the homes architectural features.  In the end, the estate itself is a work of art… rich and exquisite.


The scroll work and the inlaid stone detailing in the wood floors was handcrafted over the course of a year.  A large antique tapestry from Paris is hung on the Living room wall.  The elaborate hand carved Italian chairs paired with the tripod table next to the grand piano really make a statement here.


I cannot say enough about this luxury home.  The really great thing for me with this estate is that even with all of this truly extraordinary interior architecture detailing, and the abundance of multiple grand scale chandeliers along with the generous use of really nice period antiques throughout, it never feels overly formal or unlivable.  I love details and ornamentation when handled with discipline in this classical way.  It doesn’t look period even though it is “historically accurate”.  The owners wanted a Venetian inspired home and the designers helped them to achieve that in a balanced and completely contemporary way.  This is a home designed for a refined lifestyle perfectly reflecting the lives lived by the owners.


Custom created, hand-blown Murano glass chandeliers from the oldest Murano factory in Italy hang here in the main hall, as well as throughout the home.  In fact, all of the lighting used in this home is quite spectacular as you will see.  The inlaid patterns of the marble floors echo the classical rhythms created with the walls.



The chandelier above the dining table is a replica of a 19th century Lobmeyr piece.  A painting by Frank Duveneck hangs over the fireplace.  The table and chairs are made from hand-carved walnut and covered in hand-woven Italian damask.  The custom mill-work used here and extensively throughout the home is really remarkable.  Ceilings are not treated as simple caps to the space.  They are treated and adorned with as much detail as the space beneath them.


In the kitchen, where the couple spends much time cooking, bianca quartzite countertops and a sink with a white bronze patina were selected.  The hardwood floors are a medium walnut.  Glass front cabinets allow for the display of their white Richard Ginori china and crystal from Venice.  Most of the hand painted pots and dishes were purchased in the Italian coastal cities they visited while researching for the house.  The elaborate ceiling ornamentation was continued into this area as well.  The family of bronze lighting fixtures are some of my personal favorites in the home.


The homeowners refer to their wine room as a “jewel box”, and it is indeed ornate.  The floors are expertly laid marble and limestone.  The ceilings are vaulted brick.  The doors used originally came from the elevator of the Hotel George V in Paris.  Everywhere the details are in keeping with the notable quality found in the rest of the home.


Here in the polished wood paneled library, the pitched ceiling is decorated with hand painted grotesque frescoes.  The principal designer commissioned the work by Darren Franks of Darren Franks & Associates, which was painted off-site on muslin in the style of the older Raphael grotesques, and then applied to the ceilings.  Are they not really stunning?  This inspires me to take another look at my ceilings.  Those grand bronze dore chandeliers suspended beneath the frescoes perfectly complete this room.  The designers tempered the formality of the space with plump contemporary design sofas making the room welcoming and comfortable.


The style used in the main hall is continued upstairs.


The master bedroom overlooks the home’s grotto and has the most spectacular views in the house.  From their bed, the couple can gaze out through the ornate glass windows and doors and see the coast stretching far north and south.  The custom draperies framing those views were made with imported Parisian damask.


The master bathroom features ceiling designs based on photos the couple had taken of grotesque frescoes, while below, the floor has been completed with a stylized mosaic design.  The counter-tops and tub are marble with gold plated fixtures.  This reminds me of Donatella Versace’s glamorous interiors and provides wonderful design ideas for bathrooms.



The monumental marble fireplace shown here, as well as the 6 others throughout the home, were hand carved in Italy according to the principal designer’s sketches created with input from the owners who personally visited the marble caves in Carrara and the carvers in Pietrasanta.








The finished home is an exquisite masterpiece combining the best of both contemporary design and classic design.  A testament to the fundamental values of incredible vision and meticulous execution.

That concludes out post for today my friends.  I hope you all enjoyed and have found much design inspiration for your projects.  Thank you so much for reading along.  Have a great day!

Principal Interior Design: SFA Design @

Architecture: Peter Becker Architect @

Photos via

Also: Darren Franks & Associates @

Robb Report- Venetian Master- Chris Erric Maddox

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    • […] home’s interior architecture includes many classic design details derived from centuries old techniques; stone carving, gilding, […]

    • […] paneled library comes from an Italian style palazzo in Montecito, CA created by Santa Barbara based SFA Design. (see entire post) The pitched ceiling is decorated with hand painted grotesque frescoes. The […]

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