My son John and his fiancée, Natalie, recently moved to Santa Barbara, and they’re looking for a place to live. They’re not super picky, but they do have a list of particulars: two bedrooms, preferably a house rather than an apartment, a kitchen, a bathtub if possible, and a little bit of dirt in which to do some planting. John grew up in Santa Barbara, but Natalie grew up on a farm in Wisconsin. So for Natalie, being able to work in the garden is a need similar to my requisite daily walk on the beach — a habit that is relaxing, nurturing, and enriching in a primal way. John and Nat aren’t desperate; they have a place to stay until the perfect rental home comes along. But the sooner, the better.
I look at a lot of homes, but John and Natalie’s current rental search gave me a different perspective on my recent visit to the two homes at 3701 Portofino Way.
Hidden Valley is true to its name. Unless one has a specific reason to venture there, you could live in Santa Barbara for years and not discover this gem of a neighborhood. Winding through, one observes how the Italianate-named streets of Hidden Valley like Amalfi, Palermo, Catania, and Portofino sport tidy, ’70s-era tract homes with pretty front yards and a pride-of-ownership air. The home at 3701 Portofino Way is actually a duplex: two separate homes identified as A and B.
Behind a custom gate crafted from horizontal wood planks is a large front yard. A stamped concrete walkway leads to two front doors. The entries beckon visitors with recessed doorways, each with a wood-framed glass door in a subtle deco style.
First up, on the left side of the duplex, is home A. With three large bedrooms and two and a half baths, home A offers a size advantage over its little sister next door. In addition to an extra bed and bath, home A also has a new gas fireplace in the living room, killer custom ironwork on its interior staircase, and the showstopper that will always cement its place as the favorite child: a sparkling, solar-heated pool in the backyard.
Size matters when it comes to living space, so with two bedrooms and one and a half baths, home B, on the right side, will never measure up to its big sister. It’s not a competition, mind you, but if we are comparing these two homes, smaller home B has plenty to brag about itself. An easy-care backyard with both a grassy area and a spacious patio, plus a raised garden bed in the corner, is perfect for barbecues and entertaining. Its bright kitchen has a tiled white backsplash, all-new cabinetry, and a self-cleaning oven with a curved Zephyr hood. Both of its bedrooms have ceiling fans, and both bathrooms have stylish new fixtures and cabinets. The powder room boasts my favorite detail: a dark wood vanity topped with a long, white farmhouse sink that’s almost trough-like in its generous proportions.
All of the bedrooms in both homes have closet-organizer systems to maximize their space. Home A was recently remodeled, and its first-floor living space shows off a bit with an open floorplan, bay window in the dining area, and gleaming wood floors throughout. These homes are both move-in ready, with new paint and designer finishes.
Both homes in this duplex have been owner-occupied for the past 10 years, serving as a family compound. The duplex could also be a perfect setup for an extended-family living situation or for two sets of friends who want to purchase the duplex together. Alternatively, a buyer might choose to live in one side while renting out the other, and of course an investor could buy the duplex and rent out both homes.
I was considering these myriad possibilities as I drove out of picturesque Hidden Valley. If you’d like to buy this duplex and rent out home B, I’ve got a couple of perfect tenants for you. Their names are John and Natalie. They’ll even be in charge of the gardening.
3701 Portofino Way, Units A & B, are currently for sale in Santa Barbara, listed by Dianne and Brianna Johnson of Village Properties Realtors. Reach Dianne at (805) 455-6570 or Brianna at (805) 450-6078 or firstname.lastname@example.org.