I grew up in San Diego County, first in two neighborhoods of Clairemont and then in Solana Beach when I started high school. All three of our houses were tract homes, built in the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s, respectively. Each tract had a name, as did, of course, our streets, so in high school, I lived on Sun Valley Road, in Santa Fe Hills, in Solana Beach.
Our house was on a corner lot bordered by two golf courses, and in the evenings, my dad and I would walk our dogs through the neighborhood. Santa Fe Hills was built in phases, so we’d walk from one phase to another, each in progressive stages of maturity. Our street was completely landscaped, every house occupied with families who had been there a couple of years. Then we’d reach streets in the next phase — some houses were occupied, some weren’t, the yards spotted with fledgling bushes and plants, trying to look established. A few blocks later, model homes were furnished and pristine, but everything else was empty and expectant, waiting to be claimed by their first owners. Because there were a finite number of floor plans in Santa Fe Hills, you could tell at a glance if a particular house was the three-bedroom with the atrium entryway, like our neighbors’, or the four-bedroom with two bedrooms on each side, like ours.
We’d peek into each house as we passed, gauging the progress of the construction or assessing the decorating decisions of families who just moved in. Dusk was prime time, for lights were turned on but not all curtains drawn. Especially along the edge of the golf course, we’d see living rooms with their lamps glowing and families sitting down to dinner. One December evening, we saw two different families decorating their Christmas trees.
Seeing behind the façade of the homes in our neighborhood to glimpse the lifestyles of the people within was a game to pass the time as my father and I walked our dogs. But I’m still driven by that curiosity: to see inside homes how they flow, and how the people who live there make themselves comfortable in their most intimate surroundings.
Having lived in Santa Barbara for more than 30 years, I’m told that I can now call myself a local. I’ve lived downtown, on the Mesa, on the Westside, and on the Riviera, and had the requisite multiple addresses in Isla Vista during my Gaucho years. I’ve been a renter, a homeowner, a buyer, and a seller. I’ve loved every neighborhood that I’ve lived in and the many more that I’ve visited. In the same way that I imagine living in every city and country that I visit, I love imagining living in a cottage on the beach in Carpinteria or on a ranch on the rolling hills overlooking Los Alamos.
The Santa Barbara Independent is distributed every Thursday, from that beach in Carpinteria to those rolling hills of Los Alamos. In this column, I plan to take a look at these homes, from modest to mansions, that we find in those towns and all of the neighborhoods in between. Some of the houses will be for sale, and some might not.
I’m not a realtor, and I’m not in the market to buy or sell right now, but I still like to peek behind front doors every chance I get and imagine myself throwing a party, reading a book, cooking with friends, or just admiring the view. So I invite you to come on in with me each week, take a look around, and make yourself at home.