Montecito Residence

Location Montecito, California
Design Principal Tom Kundig

The Montecito Residence is a single-family home set in fire-prone Toro Canyon near Santa Barbara. The owners wanted a house that minimized the use of scarce natural resources and that was equal to the challenging environmental conditions of the site. The design solution was to harvest and control the very climatic conditions that put the canyon so at risk for fire: the sun and the wind.

The house is made of simple, fire-resistant materials: concrete, steel, and glass. Exterior perforated metal screens on the west side of the house can be lowered to provide shade or additional fire protection. The steel of the siding and roof is allowed to oxidize, and the concrete is toned so that the house blends into the canyon landscape.

Upswept roof forms at the entrance and over the primary living spaces give the house its distinctive profile, while channeling rainwater for use on site. The roof functions as an umbrella to shield the house from the sun, while the one-hundred-foot-long central hallway allows naturally cool offshore breezes to circulate.

The owners acquired the site because of the dramatic ocean and mountain views and the privacy afforded by the 10-acre site. The design was a direct response to the site conditions, both the challenges and the opportunities.

Tom Kundig Design Principal

The front door, a tall Dutch door, lets fresh air in while maintaining privacy. A system of locks, gears, and chains allows the owner to determine how much the Dutch door opens. The central hallway creates an axis dividing public from private spaces: the garage, road, and entrance lie to the east; the garden, pool, guest rooms, and other living spaces lie to the west. The hallway ends in a glass and steel box turned 180 degrees to maximize the spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean.

We saw our job as healing the site, so for the most part the landscape was restored to a natural state.

Tom Kundig Design Principal



Design Principal

Tom Kundig

Project Manager

Elizabeth Bianchi Conklin

Interior Designer

Debbie Kennedy



Residential Architect Design Awards, Merit Award: Custom Home Over 3,000 SF


AIA National Housing Committee Awards, Housing Committee Award

Architectural Record, House of the Month

Sunset and AIA Western Home Awards, Honorable Mention: Custom Home


AIA Northwest and Pacific Region Honor Awards, Honor Award

Chicago Athenaeum American Architecture Awards, American Architecture Award

Northwest Design Awards, First Place: Whole House Over $400,000


AIA Seattle Honor Awards, Award of Commendation



Gonchar, Joann. “Continuing Education: Wildfire-Adapted Design.” Architectural Record, 1 April. 2018. Web.

Gonchar, Joann. “Out of the Ashes.” Architectural Record, 1 April. 2018, 125-128. Print.


Tapper, Joan. “Sky Scraper.” Santa Barbara Magazine, April 2010, 96-107. Print. Web.

Weber, Cheryl. “Residential Architect Design Awards 10: Montecito Residence.” Residential Architect, May 2010, 45. Print.


“Olson Sundberg Kundig Allen Architects: Montecito Residence.” A+U 458 08:11 Dwelling and the Land, Nov. 2008, 56-59. Print.

Viladas, Pilar. “Angle of Repose.” The New York Times, 15 June 2008, 58-63. Print.

Viladas, Pilar. “Les Ailes du Repos.” AD France, Dec. 2008, 156-163. Print.

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