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A G.W. Smith classic in Montecito enters the 21st century

This 1922 Spanish Colonial Revival, carefully restored, now has all the benefits of an ultra-modern home.

March 08, 2009|Frank Nelson

George Washington Smith, widely regarded as the founder of the Spanish Colonial Revival style, designed scores of houses in and around Santa Barbara during an architectural career that lasted only a dozen years before his death in 1930.

Today those houses, with their signature mix of whitewashed walls, red-tiled roofs, balconies, courtyards, fountains, elaborate carved woodwork and wrought iron, are keenly sought after, according to area real estate agents.

Smith designed this home for his cousin James Canby in 1922. However, it was sold three years later to a widow from Boston, Edith Cunningham, who hired Smith to extensively enlarge the property, adding the library, a new dining room, a bedroom with bathroom and dressing room, and maids' rooms.

Current owners Stuart and Deborah Fuss bought the house 80 years later and embarked on their own restoration and renovation. They brought in materials from as far afield as Morocco, Argentina and Nicaragua to restore historical features or create handcrafted duplicates true to Smith's original designs.

After much painstaking research and almost two years of construction, the former Bay Area couple have a historic, handcrafted property with all the benefits of an ultra-modern home. The architect for this project was Steve Geiszler of San Francisco.

The improvements include new wiring and plumbing, under-floor radiant heating, wireless computer and phone networks, and high-tech automated control of lights, heating, sound systems and security. "They've brought a 1920s G.W. Smith into the 21st century," says listing agent Harry Kolb.

Kolb believes the "G.W." cachet adds a premium to the value of a home. He says in the course of his 30-year career in Santa Barbara real estate, he's sold 25 to 30 such homes -- "some of them more than once."


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Cunningham House

Location: 1284 Mesa Road, Montecito 93108

Asking price: $11,995,000

Last sold for: $5 million in 2005

Size: Six bedrooms, seven bathrooms and two half-bathrooms in 8,500 square feet. The house sits on a 1.4-acre lot with mountain views.

Additional features: Climate-controlled wine room with space for 1,200 bottles; steam shower with six body sprays, heated bench and stereo speakers; seven fireplaces; swimming pool; library/office with 13-foot-high hand-carved, vaulted and beamed ceiling; outside beach/pet shower

Around the neighborhood: In 2008, 177 existing single-family homes sold in the Montecito 93108 ZIP Code at a median price of $2,825,000, according to MDA DataQuick, a price drop of 0.4% from the 2007 median. Last week there were 216 houses listed for sale on in the ZIP Code, ranging in price from $729,000 to $47 million. Listing agent Harry Kolb currently has another George W. Smith-designed house for sale in Montecito at $9.95 million and one in Hope Ranch at $28.9 million.

More information: "George Washington Smith: Architect of the Spanish Colonial Revival," by Patricia Gebhard

Agent: Harry Kolb, Sotheby's International Realty, Montecito, (805) 452-2500

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