Fran Collin

Steel Home Illustrates ‘Living with Water’ on Architects’ Tour

Magnificent Steel Home in Toro Canyon

I found myself sipping espresso with Barton Myers and his wife, Vicki Myers, last week on their sunny veranda high above Montecito, listening to the rustle of the wind, and admiring the view. Every care in the world seemed to be miles away as the infinity pool in front of us melded into the ocean view in the distance. Barton Myers, a world-renowned architect, and both the designer and the owner of this home, brought me back to reality with the observation, “You’ve got to remember that this is a dangerous place to live. If you’re going to build here, you’ve got to be smart.”

Myers’s steel-and-concrete home in Toro Canyon is one of the properties on the upcoming ArchitecTours. The area branch of the American Institute of Architects is hosting the ninth annual event, which offers tours of six properties that showcase the theme “Living with Water.” From a Greek-inspired home on the bluffs above Isla Vista to the MOXI museum downtown, the six sites offer inspiration and education and are open to the public. Myers’s home is a feast for the senses, and water is a central component. I was invited in for a sneak peek of what tour-goers will see on the October 7 event.

Fran Collin

The idyllic setting in Toro Canyon co-exists with the very real hazard of living in a wildfire zone, in a canyon that hasn’t burned in more than 50 years. When Myers bought these 40 acres 20 years ago, he designed this home to be resistant to both fire and erosion and to take full advantage of the naturally beautiful canyon surroundings.

Myers’s long list of architectural honors and awards recognizes his renown for using steel components and connecting houses with nature. His home at 949 Toro Canyon Road shows his commitment to both of those ideals, which makes it a highlight of the upcoming ArchitecTours event.

The house is absolutely stunning. It is made up of four steel buildings on three terraced levels. Bright-red gates welcome visitors to the first level of the property, comprising the garage, a car park area, and a guesthouse. A short flight of stairs leads up to the next level, which holds the main residence and is on the same plane as the roof of the guesthouse below. This view reveals the true magic of the construction of this home: The roof of each building contains a shallow pool of recirculating water, creating both one of the most striking visual characteristics of the entire property and its practical, fire-retarding component. The water from each roof’s pool spills into a surge tank or holding trough, providing a backup reservoir for fire protection, insulation for the buildings, and a lovely sight and sound.

Fran Collin

The main residence is 2,800 square feet of steel and concrete with soaring ceilings and open walls covered by huge roll-up shutters. Myers demonstrated how easily these shutters manually open and close, completely “cocooning the house” and providing insulation and fire control, as well as a distinctive look. The entire front half of the house is an expansive great room, with kitchen and living areas divided by a half wall. Myers walked through the room, pointing out architectural elements left and right that serve both aesthetic and functional purposes. He showed off the flow of the kitchen, pointing out how he and his wife each take charge of one side of the room and “meet in the middle” and calling this kitchen design the secret to a happy marriage.

Beyond a wall lie the bedrooms and baths, providing much more living space than originally meets the eye, including a spacious master suite with a soaking tub right in the bedroom. The garden views are showcased through the glass walls, and clerestory windows throughout take advantage of the ocean breezes.

The top level of the property holds an office studio, which was abuzz with activity the afternoon that we were touring. But Myers focused our attention more on the variety of trees and plants on the property. Prized blood oranges, beautiful succulents, pomegranates, and more were lovingly pointed out along the hillside adjacent to the house.

This home astounds from start to finish and will be but one of six sites to captivate and educate on the upcoming tour.

949 Toro Canyon Road is one of six properties to be featured in the ninth annual ArchitecTours on Saturday, October 7. More information about the tours is available at or by calling 966-4198.

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