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It’s impossible for
not to feel spiritual looking out at the ocean and wildlife from the sun-soaked morning room of her house in Montecito, California.
Hawks are frequent visitors during such morning meditations, cutting across the panorama that surrounds the
Berkus-design house—a contemporary architectural property perched on a knoll that overlooks the Pacific Ocean from Ortega Ridge Road.
“Nature is very important to me,” said
, a designer and native Austrian. She built the lighthouse-esque estate with her husband, businessman
Jean Claude Benarrosh
, as a getaway when they’re not at their main home in Switzerland. “It is so humbling to look out the window and see the back of a hawk,” she said. “You can’t help but think ‘there must be a God.’”
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The Benarroshes, like many jet setters, have been mostly grounded amid the pandemic. The couple, who built the home 20 years ago, have decided to sell the property as they, like many, recalibrate their lifestyle. They listed it last week for $8.75 million with a team of real estate agents from the Agency, including its CEO
The property’s contemporary design stands out from many of the estates in Montecito, a scenic area that draws Hollywood stars and business leaders alike, and a bastion of stucco Spanish Colonial-style architecture,
said. By contrast, Berkus’s house boasts walls of glass that frame some of the region’s most coveted views across the ocean and Channel Islands to the south of the property and out toward the Santa Ynez Mountain range to its north.
Berkus, a Santa Barbara-based architect, who died in 2012 at the age of 77, oriented the home to maximize sunlight throughout the day, he said in a video.
Tracing the path of the sun, he designed the main bedroom, kitchen and
’s beloved morning room on the eastern side of the house to soak in the first light. The living room, by contrast, faces west to capture the fiery sunsets and twinkling lights of the harbor at night.
“The idea was to build a house that would give us bookends,” Berkus said in the video, as he’s seen sketching the property. “So you had architecture that gave you a place that was much different in the afternoon than it was in the morning.”
The European couple decided to build a home in Montecito almost on a whim. They were still dating in the late 1990s when they took a trip around the American West, and were about to drop their rental car in Los Angeles when
suggested they turn around and check out Santa Barbara.
They barely had time to drop off their things at the hotel before he whisked Ms. Benarrosh across the street to a nearby real estate agency, she recalled.
“We totally fell in love,” Ms. Benarrosh said. Several months later, in the fall of 1999, they closed on the hilltop property, a nearly two-acre lot with an older ranch-style house, which they razed and replaced with the Berkus creation.
The house sits at the end of a lane lined by agave plants that leads to a motor court at the front entrance. High ceiling heights and numerous beacon-like cupolas rising from the roof line add volume to the already sundrenched interiors, images of the home show. The house spans 6,854 square feet, with three bedrooms and six bathrooms. Meanwhile, the view that Ms. Benarrosh cherishes looks out over a large infinity pool and the property’s sloping gardens.
While the family had spent a few months of every year at the house, some of their happiest memories took place in Santa Barbara. Mr. Benarrosh proposed there, on the eve of the new millennium, while their house was still under construction, his wife recalled.
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They also nurtured their love of film from their California dream house, converting a lounge-like living room into a home theater, where they held regular screenings with guests.
Ms. Benarrosh has every intention to return to Montecito at some point in the future, at least to visit friends and bask in an atmosphere she said is “super difficult to explain to our European friends.”
“There is something about the energy,” she said. “There’s a lot of goodness in Santa Barbara.”
This article originally appeared on Mansion Global.