The Montecito-Santa Barbara area has been one of the country’s hottest luxury real estate markets since the start of the pandemic, but this estate lingered on the market for nearly three years, since summer 2019. Perhaps that was due to the home’s very custom style — unlike most other area mansions, which tend to be Tuscan-inspired, this Moorish-influenced spread was modeled after the Alhambra palace in Granada, Spain.
A more likely culprit is despite its nearly 12,000 square feet of living space, the house is currently configured with only three bedrooms, probably a turn-off for the sort of people with tens of millions to spend on a second or third home. (Those folks usually roll around with an army of kids, live-in personal assistants, nannies, security or other assorted hangers-on.)
But there’s a behind for every saddle and the house has now sold for $21 million — much less than the original $35 million ask, but still a lot of money. And the new owner is the local top trophy property-collector herself, Ellen DeGeneres, who already owns at least three other Montecito homes but apparently still has funds to burn.
Villa Tragara, as it is called, was designed and built by Kinka Usher, perhaps best known to the general public for directing the 1999 superhero caper (and box office bomb) “Mystery Man.” But the French-born director’s millions came not from creating full-length films but rather exceedingly lucrative television commercials for the likes of HBO, Nike, Pepsi, Nissan and Sony. During the height of his career, Usher’s income from his commercial spots exceeded $4 million a year.
Set on a knoll with clear views of the Pacific Ocean, Villa Tragara boasts a very prime location. And the place is an easy jog away from the five-star San Ysidro Ranch resort, home to the beautiful (and popular with area locals) Stonehouse restaurant. Out front, a long driveway hewn from crunchy pea gravel leads past lush landscaping to a formal motorcourt. Nearly everything in the rouge-colored mansion itself is ultra-bespoke and dashingly expensive, from the hand-carved front door, to the intricately crafted windows, to the gorgeous floors, most of which were imported from Europe. There are hammam-inspired bathrooms, numerous Corinthian columns and radiantly heated floors throughout.
Outside, the nearly 2.4 acres of terraced grounds are fully landscaped and include a heated swimming pool that cost Usher $400,000 to install, a pickle ball court, bocce ball court, koi ponds, a 16-seat covered pergola for al fresco dining, tennis court and expertly maintained gardens filled with exotic plantings.
In addition to Villa Tragara, DeGeneres and her longtime wife Portia de Rossi also maintain a $14.3 million ranch elsewhere in Montecito, plus a smaller cottage in the area. They also still own a luxury flip estate that they bought last fall for $12 million and currently have up for sale with a $13.9 million asking price. (Per the MLS, that place is currently tied up in escrow with an unknown buyer.) The couple also maintains a midcentury modern “crash pad” tucked away within a guard-gated community in the rugged mountains above Beverly Hills.
Nancy Kogevinas of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties held the listing; Riskin Partners Group at Village Properties repped the buyer.