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Thomas Ploch Productions

Make Myself at Home: Charming El Caserio

El Caserio, Hidden Downtown Hamlet


My friend Joanne had a group of us over for girls’ night last week at Gracewood Cottage, her charming ranch house in the hills above town. I was smitten with the vintage touches in her turn-of-the-century cottage, but I was just as struck by the notion of having a name for one’s abode. It’s de rigueur in manor houses and castles, but why not give every home a moniker? To add fuel to the fire, immediately after visiting Gracewood Cottage, the very next house I was invited to visit also had a title, and an allure to go with it.

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El Caserio is a group of nine freestanding homes tucked in the center of a downtown block bordered by Garden, East Canon Perdido, Laguna, and East Carrillo streets. If you aren’t looking for it, you’ll walk right past. Even if you are looking for it, you’ve got to look closely. A rustic metal sign on the 300 block of East Canon Perdido marks the entrance, and a gravel road winds up a hill and past each home in El Caserio.

The houses are custom and therefore unique, and were built in the 1940s and ’50s. Unit J is tucked in a corner at the top of the hill, just past the organic,co-op garden. This two-bedroom, two-bath home was built in the quintessential Spanish adobe style. A heavy wooden door with iron embellishments is set into an ivy-covered wall to both maintain privacy and welcome visitors in style.

The door opens onto a large brick courtyard with a fountain, citrus trees, and beautiful succulent plantings. There is enough space for outdoor dining and entertaining, and the ambiance is perfect for a fiesta gathering. In fact, it has the mood and character of Casa de la Guerra or the Presidio just down the street.

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Stepping inside, the authentic atmosphere continues, with arched doorways, saltillo tile floors, exposed wood corbels, and built-in niches. The house has been extensively renovated, but the new portions were constructed to exacting standards so that the old and new mesh perfectly. Even knowing that part of the house is new, it’s almost impossible to tell where the original ends and the addition begins.

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Thomas Ploch Productions

Entering the house from the courtyard, I found myself in the living room, with open-beam wood ceilings, skylights, and a huge fireplace anchoring one side. The kitchen and dining room are to the left and continue the elegant yet unpretentious tone evident throughout the house. The kitchen has herringbone-patterned brick floors; stainless-steel, high-end appliances; rustic wood cabinets to match the ceiling; and floating wood shelves for both function and display. High-tech pullout shelving inside the kitchen cabinets was further proof of the conveniences hidden inside the vintage décor.

On the way back through the living room, I couldn’t help but admire the courtyard; almost all the windows in the house are focused on this romantic view. On the other side of the house, the master suite lies downstairs, with the second bedroom above. Both bedrooms have their charms. If I had to choose, I think I would opt for the upstairs bedroom, with its private balcony, over the downstairs bedroom, with its luxurious bathroom and walk-in closets. The house even boasts a small office and a washer and dryer, so all of the necessities have been taken care of.

Thomas Ploch Productions

This home is the perfect blend of old-world Spanish charm and modern convenience. It is stylish and comfortable, in a perfect downtown location within walking distance to everything, and takes full advantage of our quintessential American Riviera mountain views. I’m told that houses in El Caserio rarely come on the market, and I can see why. The style, location, and ambiance of El Caserio —which translates to “hamlet” in English —encapsulates the romance of Santa Barbara, hidden in the center of town.

924 Garden Street Unit J is currently for sale in Santa Barbara, listed by Chris Kamen of Village Properties Realtors. Reach Chris at 390-1571 or chrisk@villagesite.com.

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