Villa Solana

villasolanaWall Street Journal’s “House of the Day” is my new listing in Santa Barbara – the incredible Peabody Estate known as Villa Solana.

Restored Neoclassical Mansion
Santa Barbara, CA

A nearly 23,000-square-foot home in Santa Barbara with views of the ocean and the mountains is listed for $49 million; the property includes a terraced rose garden, bee hives and a pond with rescue turtles.

–Sarah Tilton

Philanthropist Frederick Forrest Peabody built this neoclassical home in Santa Barbara, Calif., in 1914. The current owners, Sandi and Bill Nicholson, bought it in 1998. Mr. Nicholson is the former chief operating officer of Amway, which manufactures and markets consumer products. ‘It really needed to be restored,’ Mr. Nicholson says. ‘We were happy to save a wonderful hilltop home.’

The Nicholsons preserved the original footprint of the home, with the exception of taking out a section of the central courtyard to improve the flow of the house. They enclosed the two galleries and use the space to display their art collection. The 22,658-square-foot house sits on 11.29 acres with views of the ocean and the mountains. ‘The history appealed to us, but the views of course were the thing that clinched it,’ says Mrs. Nicholson, 63. The Nicholsons have a passion for older properties, having restored a Federal home in Washington, D.C., and an 1890s homestead house in Montana. Mr. Nicholson, 70, declined to say what they paid for the Santa Barbara house or what they have put into it. Mrs. Nicholson says they put in many times what they paid for it.

The foyer opens onto the palm courtyard and includes a pair of antique bronze French chandeliers. The floor is the original white Alabama marble. The couple say they are selling because with their work and travel schedules they don’t spend enough time at the house. ‘It’s been a great chapter in our lives,’ says Mrs. Nicholson. ‘We have brought it back to its glory if not even better. We think this house will live on for the next hundred years.’

The library, shown here, is one of the Nicholsons’ favorite rooms. The couple collects books, including many on art; Mrs. Nicholson just finished reading ‘Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune.’ Mrs. Nicholson says their view includes Miss Clark’s former Santa Barbara home.

The living room, shown here, features a curved wall with five sets of mahogany French doors. The Nicholsons had the doors taken apart and restored using the original glass. ‘The indoor-outdoor living is very special,’ says Mrs. Nicholson. ‘These incredible French doors open to terraces all around and an interior courtyard. We dine outside an awful lot.’ The living room also has a walnut burl floor, 18th century French limestone fireplace, Fortuny drapes and 18th century crystal chandelier.

The Nicholsons found the wallpaper for the master bedroom, shown here, in Belgium, though they say it was made in China in the 1820s and hand-painted in France. The master suite also has an 18th century French limestone fireplace, a kitchenette and two televisions. The French doors open onto a terrace with a sunken hot tub. The main house has a total of five bedrooms, nine full baths and six half baths. There is also a guesthouse with three bedrooms.

The Nicholsons like to cook (Mr. Nicholson grew up on a sheep farm near Great Bend, Kan., and is partial to lamb). The kitchen faces the ocean and has two islands, one with a teak counter and one with a marble counter. There is also a Viking range, a salamander, two warming ovens, a dumbwaiter to the office level, two lined silver closets that lock and two pantries. The ceiling beams are blue pine from a hanger in Canada, says Mr. Nicholson.

The kitchen opens onto the family room, shown here. ‘We’ve made it a very contemporary house,’ says Mrs. Nicholson. ‘ The kitchen and family room are for today’s living.’ The family room includes a French limestone fireplace, two televisions and a pair of wrought-iron chandeliers.

The south-facing loggia, shown here, has 17th century Portuguese tiles embedded in the walls. On the second-floor terrace is a jasmine-covered pergola. The property also has an organic vegetable garden, bee hives and a pond for approximately 30 rescue turtles (red-eared sliders, for turtle aficionados). The property also has a bocce ball court, a playground, a koi pond, a green house, an orchid house and a teak Balinese meditation house with a thatched roof.

The terraced rose garden includes 500 rosebushes. Mrs. Nicholson says there are peach tones, yellow tones and a ‘hot cocoa’ rose with a terra cotta tone. The garden also includes approximately 200 fruit trees, including lemon, lime, orange, pomegranate and apple. There are 16 varieties of banana trees. Joyce Rey of Coldwell Banker Previews International and Harry Kolb of Sotheby’s International Realty share the listing. The house was first listed in September 2013 with an asking price of $57.5 million. The price was lowered to $49 million in December 2013.