YOUR MAMAS NOTES: Listen chickens, Your Mama has a lot of things crowding our plate today but instead of leaving y’all high and dry we thought we’d show you a little pretty located in the über upscale enclave of Montecito, CA.
All to frequently Your Mama finds ourself staring with flabbergast and shame at some over-wrought mcmansion that listing information generously and audaciously proclaims to be Tuscan or otherwise Mediterranean in its architectural style. As often as not these faux-Tuscan bad dreams are sitting cheek by jowl with massive mock-Mediterraneans in some suburban guard gated community with a stoopid name like Whispering Oaks. Seldom and sadly do we come across a property that purports itself to be authentically Italian in design that could very well be found in the countryside of the boot shaped nation. However, the done done duh-uhne 13-acre Montecito estate owned by the much lauded and applauded veteran interior designer John Saladino that recently arrived on the market with a butt clenching asking price of $24,500,000 manages a genuine Italian truthfulness seldom seen outside of Italy and, let’s be honest butter beans, only available to those with the loot to finance such an exercise in architectural integrity.
Mister Saladino’s work may not be to your taste–and it is not even remotely how Your Mama and the Dr. Cooter would choose to do up a house–but he’s known around the world by the sorts of filthy rich folks who can afford his services for masterfully mixing modern bits and pieces with traditional styles and architectural antiquities that altogether create a pastiche of decorative perfection. The completed rooms and projects of the mid-west bred designer sally forth with a dignified–if sometimes haughty–self possession, are painstakingly and expensively balanced, and remarkably poised with a pitch perfect sense of what is both architecturally and decoratively correct.
Once upon a time, in another lifetime when Your Mama owned an itty-bitty showroom in New York City, Your Mama sold Mister Saladino–or more accurately a representative of Mister Saladino–several custom made chandeliers that were to be installed in the home gym of some potentate in Saudi Arabia, Dubai or one of them other Middle Eastern countries where money is often no object. Needless to say we have a bit of a soft spot in our cold and dark heart for Mister Saladino who helped to keep our lights on for another month or two in those post-9-11 years that were pretty rough for a lot of small downtown biznesses such as our little endeavor.
Anyhoo, property records indicate that the very accomplished New York City-based Mister Saladino scooped up his West Coast getaway in July of 2001. It’s not clear to Your Mama what the decorating demon paid for the property but we’d bet our long bodied bitches Linda and Beverly that the purchase price and renovation costs don’t even come close to the sky-high asking price which reflects not only the quality of Mister Saladino’s full-scale renovation and restoration of the 1929 stone Italianate mansion, but also the explosion in property prices that occurred in the early 2000s in that exceedingly expensive neck of the California coast.
The house, which Mister Saladino drolly dubbed Villa di Lemma, is accessed by way of a gated .2 mile long drive that winds up the hillside through a park like forest of eucalyptus, cypress, and mahogany trees. One arrives dramatically at a massive motor court that’s paved with antique stones and dotted with antique Venetian statuary.
The ocean view villa measures somewhere in the neighborhood of 10,000 square feet and in addition to its 9 fireplaces includes 6 bedrooms and 6 full and 2 half poopers, a count we’re pretty sure but not positive includes the guest apartment or staff quarters that has its own separate entrance.
A doorway in the ivy covered stone front facade, flanked by tall cypress trees and a pair of gas sconces, gives passage to a covered loggia with exposed beam ceiling and rustic stone floor that leads to the entrance hall that gives way to the 40-foot long drawing room with large fireplace, original 2″ thick terra cotta tile floor, and sophisticated day-core. The nearby formal dining room that has large casement windows on two sides, another fireplace, and a mix of stone and paneled walls that might be some sort of pecky cypress or pickled something or other. A hidden door in the dining room leads into the adjacent kitchen.
Most folks would not dream of putting a super sleek sybarite’s dream kitchen into such a period piece as Villa di Lemma, but Mister Saladino fearlessly dares to go there with slab marble counter tops, stainless steel cabinetry, and custom built refrigerators all of which are without question happily married to Old World architectural details such as rough stone walls and a series of chunky hand hewn beams that march down the wood ceiling.
The least formal room in the house, where Your Mama hopes Mister Saladino and his family can kick their feet up on the furniture and watch the boob-toob, is the stone walled and sky-lit media room that has a curving fireplace tucked into the corner, built in book shelves with scrolled broken pediments, wet bar, large flat screen tee-vee, garden access and views, and lots of cozy looking down-filled upholstered pieces. Your Mama would like the children to note the gigantic antique rug on the floor of the media/family room woven of the most beautiful and subtle beiges, burnt oranges, and ochres. We can’t imagine how we’d incorporate that run into the day-core of our little cottage in the hills, but we’d run over a nun to have something that exquisite to lay down on the floor.
There are, according to listing information, three bedrooms with private poopers on the upper level and another guest suite on the lower level with private entrance, access to a garden terrace, and private facilities that feature an antique Roman soaking tub. Mister Saladino’s master suite, also on the lower level, opens to an ocean view gravel garden and includes leather detailed bathroom and dressing areas.
Mister Saladino’s talents don’t end with choosing the right wood for paneling or the correct side table for the foyer. He’s also a skilled landscaper whose handiwork can be seen in every nook and cranny of his Santa Barbara estate. There are extensive gardens, terraces, courtyards that offer both panoramic and thoughtfully framed ocean, harbor, mountain, and city views. In addition to flat lawn terraces including one where Mister Saladino has installed a single classical Roman column, there is an agave garden, olive allee, and ocean view swimming pool. Just below what marketing materials call the Oriental carpeted terrace an outdoor dining terrace is shaded by craggy olive trees on one side and hemmed in by a long stone balustrade on the other. It’s really here where Your Mama can see and best understand the appeal and skill of Mister Saladino who has recognized that this stunning locale requires little in terms of day-core than an extra long family style farmhouse table and 10 or 12 weather worn wicker chairs that look like they were stolen out of a café on the Via Veneto.
The new owner of Mister Saladino’s Villa di Lemma will have some big shit neighbors to invite over for a backyard barbecue including Al or Tipper Gore who recently scooped up a $8,875,000 Montecito mansion, Oprah Winfrey, tool tycoon Eric Schmidt who reportedly bought Ellen Degeneres and Portia diRossi’s old place in late 2007 for around $20,000,000, super producer Ivan Reitman (National Lampoon’s Animal House, Ghostbusters, Kindergarten Cop, and Ghostbusters II), the disgraced and former Countrywide Financial CEO Angelo Mozilo, funny lady Carol Burnett, and Beanie Baby billionaire Ty Warner who has a massive bluff top spread just on the other side of the Santa Barbara Cemetery from Bellosguardo, the sprawling estate of the recently hospitalized, mysterious, and reclusive centenarian heiress Huguette Clark who is said to not have occupied in the meticulously maintained house in 40 years or more.
In 2009 Mister Saladino published a coffee table tome called Villa that documented his long slog through the renovation and decorating process of Villa di Lemma which listing information says Mister Saladino called “the summation of all my knowledge; it’s my opus.” For twenty four and some million clams it better be a damn opus, right?
listing photos: Prudential California Realty