Outdoor Design Principles of a Santa Barbara Architect

We are fortunate to live in Santa Barbara, its weather allows for nearly year round outdoor living. As Architects we like to take advantage of this and design homes with a great connection with the outdoor either with big areas of glass or with walls that can be folded or slid away. We prefer multi-sliders that slide away into a wall pocket, opening the interior and connecting you to an outdoor room used for dining, lounging or entertaining.

fleetwood multislider

fleetwood multislider image by fleetwood

This looks best when the tracks are recessed into the ceiling and floor creating a seamless material transition between interior and exterior. See how the stone flooring in the image flows from inside to outside? This leads the eye outside and “borrows” space, making the interior feel more expansive and connected with the outside world. Outside you might set your dining arrangement to create an easy flow for your family or guests to enjoy your outdoor space but within easy reach of the kitchen. Companies like Nana Wall and Fleetwood  are provide high quality solutions for this type of construction.

Now that you have a good indoor outdoor flow its important to provide some scale for your outdoor space. We like to consider these spaces to be “rooms” for living, lounging or dining and we design with specific uses and furniture arrangements in mind. If the area is too big your furnishings will appear to be lost in space, too little area and the space will feel like an afterthought. When you get it just right people are drawn to these spaces by their intimate quality.  It’s important to define the edges of  outdoor rooms with planted areas, changes in materials or with the design of the home.

Santa Barbara Architecture Sierra Madre Interior View

Sierra Madre Interior Rendering

Our Sierra Madre project is all about connecting the interior with the exterior. The project uses continuous flooring and ceiling materials, multi-sliders, the addition of a new deck area with shade structures and fire element to provide a great place to relax or entertain guests while looking out at the amazing view of the Santa Barbara Channel Islands.

santa barbara modern remodel

View from back yard

Give us a call and let us show you what we can do for you and your home!

Modern Beach Shack Wins Final Design Board Approval!

View From Street

View From Street

Our Santa Barbara Mesa Beach House received final approval from the City of Santa Barbara Single Family Design Review Board based on the quality of design, details and materials. The Board is made up of 7 qualified members living in Santa Barbara; Architects, Landscape Architects and members of the public. It is a distinguished group with a difficult job.

It wasn’t without some controversy however as a vocal member of the neighborhood presented her negative feelings about the second story of the proposed project. We absolutely understand her concerns for privacy and maintaining views, we are big proponents of these issues ourselves however there must be a balance with property rights. These properties are zoned for 2 story houses up to 25 feet tall! This project is only 17 feet tall! We did reach out to her and all the adjacent neighbors early in the design process however she declined to be involved.

A 2nd floor addition can be a touchy issue but most issues can be hammered out by involving the neighbors early in the process. We like to meet with those who will be most affected, present the design and try to address privacy and view issues. I doubt anyone wants to look thru their neighbors windows and see what they are having for breakfast… it just makes for better neighbors and better neighborhoods if we can work together before going in front of a design board. Several members of the Santa Barbara Single Family Design Review Board applauded our process of working with the neighbors and the client’s willingness to change the project to ease the impact to the neighborhood as well as improve the property in a modest but attractive way. It makes it easier for the Board to approve a project if they see that the neighborhood has been involved and issues have been addressed.

Next stop is the Building Department!

Like what we do? Let us show you what we can do for you, get in touch!


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Building a Master Suite Addition in Santa Barbara

Building a Master Bedroom and Bathroom Addition or Suite in Santa Barbara

Economical Home Additions in Santa Barbara

This is the plight of the young Santa Barbara couple with a growing family. They have good jobs, plenty of friends and love living in Santa Barbara. They bought a house and it was a stretch at the time but they feel good to have a piece of Santa Barbara to call their own. Everything is great until one day… the house is starting to feel small. It might be another kid on the way or the home office is taking up too much room but it’s time to start looking for more room. They might start looking for a new house that can fit their needs but as most find out jumping up in size carries a hefty price tag. Some people find that this isn’t an option or that they really like the location where they have been living. So what is a young family to do?

A common approach is to add onto the house in some way. Most often this is a master bedroom and bathroom. We have done a few of these in the past , building in Santa Barbara is not cheap and you may not need an Architect but we wanted to share our strategies for providing the best design on a young family’s budget.

The Bridge

The most expensive part of an addition is demolishing and rebuilding part of the house that was just fine. This is work that results in zero gain for you and you’ve spent part of your tight budget on something that provides little face value. Only touch the existing house where you need to, create a “bridge” to separate the new from the existing. This strategy was developed to allow you to spend more of your money on new construction. The plan below shows how we proposed to add onto this typical Mesa home in Santa Barbara. The addition only touches the existing house where needed while providing a comfortable master bedroom and bath. Aside from a coat of paint we left the rest of the house alone, the client plans on tackling the rest of the house as a remodel some time in the future. As a bonus we were able to create a protected deck area transforming the small house by adding a large outdoor entertainment space all while maintaining a large backyard space for the kids to play in.



Reduce circulation space

Find a way to remove hallways, vestibules and other extraneous space from the floor plan. Try to combine functions to efficiently build your spaces, circulate through rooms not hallways. You shouldn’t pay for what you don’t need.

Consider a flat or single pitch roof

Whether the existing house architecture is traditional, ranch, modern or contemporary design consider a flat or single sloped roof. A single low sloped shed roof or flat roof is easier to engineer and build. It also allows you to take advantage of new PVC roofing materials that are incredibly long lasting, quick to install and when used in reflective colors can dramatically reduce the heat gain thru the roof.

We have put this to use in the Vaquero Residence addition and remodel and The Modern Beach Shack the design resulted in higher ceilings, used less lumber, required less labor and will be completed faster than a typical sloped roof.

View From Street

View From Street

Consider skipping the tub

Fewer master baths have showers and tubs in them these days, how often do you find yourself taking a soak in a tub? We suggest skipping the tub and having a larger shower instead this allows the bathroom be more compact. This move saves money in many ways; the cost of the tub, fixtures, tile work, water lines and drain line. When done right a shower can be a great design element and be incredibly functional at the same time. This image below is from our Hope Ranch Residence


Consider reducing or not using recessed lighting in the bedroom

Overhead lighting in the bedroom isn’t necessary for most people. We have found that well placed floor lamps and bedside lamps can provide what light is needed. Half hot outlets can be placed strategically to allow lighting to be switched from the wall and at the bedside. Every recessed can removed from the design saves money in material and in electrician labor which you can then spend where you want to.


These are just a few of our budget saving tips, give us a call and let us put them to work for you.


[email protected]


Santa Barbara Vaquero Residence Addition and Remodel Gets Final Design Board Approval!

Santa Barbara Modern Contemporary Architecture Modern Addition

Our Vaquero Residence project was in front of the Santa Barbara County Board of Architectural Review today and received final approval based on the quality of the design and materials.

Next stop is the building department!

While our friends at the building department are looking over the drawings we will be working hard to round out the interior design and all the other detail required to communicate the design to the builder.

Interested in learning more about the process of architecture and what we do? click here to read our thoughts.

Like what we do? Let us show you what we can do for you, get in touch!


[email protected]

Modern Beach Shack – Color Views

We just wrapped up a bunch of work to get drawings submitted for design review for the Modern Beach Shack located on the Mesa in Santa Barbara. We have found that soft color perspectives communicate the feel and intent of the project to the design board so much better than the hardline computer generated drawings. This usually gets the board members on our side and in favor of the project! The City of Santa Barbara has three separate design review boards, this project will be in front of the Single Family Design Review Board. The City’s process can be cumbersome but with our experience we have come to understand how best to represent each project.


Garden View Street View

Modern Beach House | Project Progress Views

This Santa Barbara Mesa project seeks to bridge the gap between the old house with it’s pleasing feel of wood ceilings and exposed wood beams with an addition of modern yet warm architecture. We’ve made good progress on the design for this modern but warm addition and remodel project on the Mesa. We had a successful client meeting recently, thanks in part to the software we use. We used the 3d model in the presentation which allowed the client to understand what we have been up to, they say a picture is worth a thousand words so a 3d model must be worth ten times that. It really is the best way to work, not only for the benefit of the client, it also benefits us to virtually build the house. We can see so much more as we work and really use it as a design tool in an iterative process which produces the best design possible.


Job sign up for Mesa Shoreline Drive project!

Our job sign is up at our Shoreline Drive project!

This very visible project is located along the beachfront road appropriately called Shoreline Drive leading up to the Mesa in Santa Barbara. It is a fairly modest project meant to provide an addition of approximately 350 s.f. including a master bath, dining room and a rework of the front of the house. Once completed the owner will have a nice porch to sit and take in his ocean views over the park. The design is in keeping with the more traditional architecture in the Mesa area and seeks to bring this original tract home up to date.