Cliff May-Designed California Ranch House Is A Breath Of Fresh Air

The low-slung California Ranch-style home in Montecito was designed by Cliff May (JIM BARTSCH | VILLAGE PROPERTIES).

Cliff May shaped California housing in a way few designers or architects have. His postwar “dream houses” resulted in the creation of the style known today as the California Ranch.

This exquisite example in Montecito, in Southern California’s Santa Barbara County, benefits from May’s own hand in its 1969 creation and from more recent tasteful updates that modernize the indoor-outdoor residence.

Double doors open to a skylighted foyer at the entry of the house.

Double doors open to a skylighted foyer at the entry of the house (JIM BARTSCH | VILLAGE PROPERTIES).

Santa Barbara-based interior designer Micholyn Brown spent two years refurbishing the elegant home, incorporating luxury finishes while maintaining its architectural integrity.

The long, low-slung profile and open layout are in keeping with the Ranch style, which blends Modernist concepts, nostalgia for the American West and informal living.

A ridge of skylights brings visual interest to the vaulted ceiling in the living room.

A ridge of skylights brings visual interest to the vaulted ceiling in the living room (JIM BARTSCH | VILLAGE PROPERTIES).

A long ridge of skylights top the grape stake and wood beam vaulted ceilings in the great room. Details include terra-cotta tile flooring, floor-to-ceiling windows and built-in shelving. Sliders open to courtyards and patios in keeping with May’s intention of integrating the interiors with the outdoors.

The white-walled main residence contains adjoining living and dining rooms, three bedrooms and 4.5 bathrooms. The primary suite features a fireplace and two full bathrooms.

The roomy kitchen features a long island and an interior window to the dining room.

The roomy kitchen has a long island and an interior window to the dining room (JIM BARTSCH | VILLAGE PROPERTIES).

The updated kitchen includes an island with bar seating, skylights, pendant lighting and a banquette-anchored breakfast area. An interior window and pass-through further opens the kitchen to the formal dining room.

Separate buildings are connected by a breezeway and set at slight angles to the main house. They house an office and a two-bedroom, one-bathroom guest quarters.

A bathroom off the primary bedroom has been elegantly updated.

A bathroom off the primary bedroom has been elegantly updated (JIM BARTSCH | VILLAGE PROPERTIES).

The 1.36 acres of grounds are covered with pathways, stone walls, raised gardens, redwoods and fruit trees.

A gated golf cart path leads from the garage to the second fairway of the Birnam Wood Golf Club. The membership club has a Robert Trent Jones Sr.-designed 18-hole golf course, tennis, dining and a fitness center, among other amenities.

Patricia Griffin of Village Properties is the listing agent for 2069 China Flat Road, Montecito. The asking price is $8.5 million.

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Wood, stone and metal accents contribute to the home’s grounded feel (JIM BARTSCH | VILLAGE PROPERTIES).

May, known as the father of the California Ranch, is credited with designing more than 1,000 custom residences as well as the models for more than 18,000 tract homes.

Of his signature Ranch style, a New York Times article from 1986 quoted the then 77-year-old as saying, “I rebelled against the boxy houses being built…. The ranch house was everything a California house should be—it had cross-ventilation, the floor was level with the ground, and with its courtyard and the exterior corridor, it was about sunshine and informal outdoor living.”

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During four decades of covering luxury and celebrity housing, I’ve looked into people’s homes, lives and property records through many lenses. I was the Los Angeles Times Real Estate section editor for eight years, the Hot Property columnist for six and did stints as a newspaper reporter, copy editor and page designer. My work for The Times Business, Home and Real Estate sections has garnered in-house and national awards for blogging, editing and feature writing.

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