HOLLYWOOD'S ORIGINAL ARCHITECT TO THE STARS
Updated: Apr 5
One of the most significant oceanfront architectural estates designed by Wallace Neff, The Straus House, located in the coveted community of Hope Ranch, Santa Barbara — has been painstakingly restored, expanded, and modernized over a 10-year period and now for sale ...
One of the first architects for the Hollywood stars was Wallace Neff, who designed a number of Southern California's most important homes including the Pickfair estate for Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, the Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston of the 1920s. Pickfair was the first Beverly Hills celebrity mansion, the longtime hot spot for Hollywood’s movers and shakers, had the first residential swimming pool in Los Angeles, and was compared to the White House by Life magazine.
Although Pickfair was demolished in 1990, Neff had a long home-designing career from the 1920s until his death in 1982. He is often credited with creating the California style of homes with vaulted ceilings, courtyards, lush landscapes and lots of glass. Neff was a favorite of celebrities who bought his homes including Charlie Chaplin, Darryl Zanuck, Bob Newhart, Madonna and Diane Keaton. One of his later designs was the Straus House built in 1970 for Macy’s department store heir Robert Straus. Restored, expanded, and modernized over a 10-year period, the Straus House is now for sale. Previously priced at $32.75 million in 2017, the listing agency has not yet publicized the new price, it is only available by request.
Eye catching with a black circular driveway paired against the stark white of the building, the Straus House is located in the small and highly regarded equestrian-and-seaside community of Hope Ranch in Santa Barbara County’s Montecito neighborhood. Behind the stylized wrought-iron gates that open to a courtyard, the hacienda-style house spans 14,000 square feet in an “H” floor plan on one floor and big ocean views. The center section is a massive gathering room with a vaulted ceiling of floor-to-ceiling glass facing the Pacific with the Neff-designed raised fireplace. There are five bedrooms and five baths divided between the two wings, a completely refurbished chef’s kitchen, a dining room with ocean views, theater, wine cellar, and a den with fireplace. One of the home’s most interesting features is the guest house that is under the back lawn’s first level, which leaves the view completely unobstructed. Many homeowners in Hope Ranch are horse owners who enjoy its 27 miles of riding trails.
Mr. Strauss had previously been living in a home in Bel Air that Neff designed in the 1920s, and they liked it so much that they hired him for their Montecito home. Almost 50 years later, the current owner worked closely with the Santa Barbara historical committee on all aspects of preserving the integrity of the design and inspiration of Neff's work while simultaneously creating an estate of comfort and luxury.
Montecito, sometimes referred to as “Beverly Hills North,” has surged in both price and popularity in recent years, the hometown for big stars including Oprah Winfrey and Ellen DeGeneres. With its mild climate, world-class beaches and natural beauty stretching from the ocean to the mountains, Montecito has been a popular backdrop for the movie industry with over 1,000 movies filmed there since the early 1900s. According to local real estate agents, Montecito home prices have more than doubled in the last few years.
The listing agents are Weston Littlefield, Dalton Gomez, and Aaron Kirman of the Aaron Kirman Group at Compass.