Star quality

Wallace Neff was one of the first architects for the stars of Hollywood, designing a number of Southern California’s most important homes including the Pickfair estate for Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, the Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston of the 1920s. Pickfair was the first Beverly Hills celebrity mansion, the long-time hot spot for Hollywood’s movers and shakers, had the first residential swimming pool in Los Angeles, and was compared to the White House by Life magazine.

Although Pickfair was demolished in 1990, Neff had a long home-designing career from the 1920s until his death in 1982. He is often credited with creating the California style of homes with vaulted ceilings, courtyards, lush landscapes and lots of glass. Neff was a favorite of celebrities who bought his homes including Charlie Chaplin, Darryl Zanuck, Bob Newhart, Madonna and Diane Keaton. One of his later designs was the Straus House built in 1970 for Macy’s department store heir Robert Straus. Restored, expanded, and modernized over a 10-year period, the Straus House is now for sale. Previously priced at $32.75 million in 2017, the listing agency has not yet publicized the new price, it is only available by request.

Eye catching with a black circular driveway paired against the stark white of the building, the Straus House is located in the small and highly regarded equestrian-and-seaside community of Hope Ranch in Santa Barbara County’s Montecito neighborhood. Behind the stylized wrought-iron gates that open to a courtyard, the hacienda-style house spans 14,000 square feet in an ‘H’ floor plan on one floor and big ocean views. The center section is a massive gathering room with a vaulted ceiling of floor-to-ceiling glass facing the Pacific with the Neff-designed raised fireplace. There are five bedrooms and five baths divided between the two wings, a completely refurbished chef’s kitchen, a dining room with ocean views, theater, wine cellar, and a den with fireplace. One of the home’s most interesting features is the guest house that is under the back lawn’s first level, which leaves the view completely unobstructed.

Mr. Strauss had previously been living in a home in Bel Air that Neff designed in the 1920s, and they liked it so much that they hired him for their Montecito home. Almost 50 years later, the current owner worked closely with the Santa Barbara historical committee on all aspects of preserving the integrity of the design and inspiration of Neff’s work while simultaneously creating an estate of comfort and luxury.

Montecito, sometimes referred to as ‘Beverly Hills North,’ has surged in both price and popularity in recent years, the hometown for big stars including Oprah Winfrey and Ellen DeGeneres.

The listing agents are Weston Littlefield, Dalton Gomez, and Aaron Kirman of the Aaron Kirman Group at Compass.

Spectacular mansion
Known to country music fans as the King of Country, George Strait is selling his bespoke adobe mansion in San Antonio on a 12.2-acre hilltop. Designed by sculptor-turned-architect, Bill Tull, the adobe mansion took two years to build. George’s home is priced at $7.5 million.

A powerhouse in country music, Strait has received more awards and honors than one can count. He holds the record for the most #1 albums and singles, gold albums, platinum albums and multi-platinum albums in the history of country music. He is also the only performer to have the largest number of number one songs and top five songs than anyone in music history and is the only one in any music genre to have songs in the top 10 for 30 years in a row. In 2006, Strait was elected into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Strait and his wife, Norma, bought the land in the upscale Dominion Country Club neighborhood of San Antonio in the mid-1990s. After deciding on sculpture/architect Bill Tull, Tull moved his staff to San Antonio where they resided for the two years the home was under construction. The 7,925-square-foot mansion, with its scenic views, has 14 hand-sculpted fireplaces, four bedrooms and seven baths. The main residence consists of three bedrooms and six baths plus a fully self-contained casita with one bedroom and bath, living room and kitchenette. Each main house bedroom is en-suite with its own fireplace. The master suite has separate his-and-hers bathrooms and closets and two fireplaces. Additionally, there is a chef’s kitchen, gym with separate bath and sauna and multiple venues for dining and entertaining large groups, both inside and outside on paved terraces. Views over San Antonio and the Texas Hill Country from the infinity-edged, glass-tile pool and spa catch the sunset and twinkling lights below. The home has undergone almost a complete update from the roof to new windows since 2020. Outstanding design features include stained-glass windows, artist murals, earthy saguaro cactus rib shutters, and walls of imported adobe.

The listing agent is Tamara Strait, George Strait’s daughter-in-law, with Phyllis Browning Co., Boerne, Texas.

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