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.
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 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 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.
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.
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.”