Courtesy Photo

Something about the courtyard at 234 Mesa Lane invites deep thoughts, warm wishes, and second glances. It could be the poem that’s stamped into the walkway as you approach the house, or the gently gurgling fountain that provides background music, or possibly the shimmering sunlight that dances through the dappled leaves of the plentiful foliage all around. Whichever component most strikes your fancy, the end result is a joyous, peaceful ambience that’s sure to put a smile on visitors’ faces.

The house at 234 Mesa Lane is surrounded by an adobe wall, dotted with frilly, friendly plants and bushes. A huge palm tree rises above it like a firework exploding in the sky. Once inside the wall, the delightful sensory experience begins. The aforementioned fountain flows serenely in the center of an enclosed courtyard. To the left is an outdoor living room. Pieces of art abound but blend into the background unless you are looking for them. Tropical plantings provide a lush, exotic backdrop. Although they look like they’ve been transported from a rain forest, the plants throughout this property are native and drought-tolerant. In fact, the beautiful gardens were designed by the home’s former owner, Owen Dell, a renowned landscape artist; a permeable driveway and rooftop vegetable garden were his state-of-the-art touches. His home was his drawing board for many features that went on to be lauded and emulated worldwide.

But the appeal of 234 Mesa Lane is inside as well as out. The main house is a dreamy three bedrooms and two bathrooms, with charming details throughout. I entered through the living room, where gleaming hardwood floors and rough-hewn window frames echoed the garden. Down a hallway to the left are two bedrooms and a bath in the front of the house, a nice-sized laundry room with extra storage in the middle, and the master bedroom and bath tucked privately toward the back. Unexpected pops of color continue the feast for the eyes, and period hardware plus thoughtful touches in every room kept my head turning as I walked from one room to the next.

The master suite was one of my favorite spots. One enters the master bathroom from the hallway by walking through the walk-in closet and into the bath, which is dominated by gorgeous original tilework in the bathtub, in green and orange hues. The tile vies for attention with the window, which frames the private garden outside, and a handcrafted, free-form wood counter and cabinet. The master bedroom carries on this romantic, natural atmosphere. Plus, it has huge French doors opening out to another private, outdoor brick-lined patio, once again extending the living space outside.

In the main area, the kitchen and dining room are open to the living room. There’s enough separation to define the spaces, yet the rooms flow easily from one to the other. Off the cozy dining space is yet another set of big French doors out onto the backyard.

The yard is where this home’s magic really shines. Pathways lead seamlessly from one outdoor “room” to another, showcasing the gardens that Dell planned. He was a visionary in creating organic gardens that are both pleasing and practical. When I commented on the variety of trees and plants in this backyard, and how well they have been nurtured, I was told that there are almost 140 different types of edible and medicinal plants on the property.  

A separate guest cottage sits just steps from the main house. It has two separate rooms, both with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, cathedral ceilings, and lots of natural light. I imagine either a teenager’s dream bedroom, with plenty of privacy, or a cozy place for grandma to stay: in the house, but not actually in the house. 

When I thought I had seen it all, I was directed to yet another secret room off the garage. This hideaway also has high ceilings and beautiful light and would make a perfect music or hobby room. I walked back to the main house along the meandering pathway and let my mind wander as well. Butterflies flitted in the sunlight, and every care in the world seemed shut out of this peaceful garden oasis.

As I walked away, I realized that the adobe wall surrounding 234 Mesa Lane feels much more like it was put there to hold the magic inside than to keep intruders out. I left with a smile on my face and a little more bounce in my step. A bit of 234 Mesa Lane’s magic had rubbed off on me.

234 Mesa Lane is currently for sale in Santa Barbara, listed by David Michael Wieger of Keller Williams Realty. Reach David at or (805) 218-9794.


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