Make Myself at Home: Backyard Beauty in Bel Air Knolls

Backyard Beauty in Bel Air Knolls

Address: 1515 Manitou Circle | Status: On the market | Prices: $1,559,000
Gavin Cater

Address: 1515 Manitou Circle

Status: On the market

Prices: $1,559,000

Bel Air Knolls is one of those enclaves in Santa Barbara that you could go years without discovering. Tucked between the Westside and Hidden Valley, it flows up and down the mountain that bisects the Mesa from Elings Park and abuts Las Positas Road.

For those of us who live or have lived on the Westside, Bel Air Knolls can serve as a shortcut to Hendry’s Beach or upper State Street via Las Positas. I’ve driven and walked through Bel Air Knolls, and thought I knew it fairly well. But my visit to the home for sale at 1515 Manitou Circle last week still surprised me. It knocked my socks off and showed me a little corner of Santa Barbara that I’d never experienced before.

Set at the end of an idyllic little cul-de-sac, it’s a long, low ranch-style home in subtle shades of brown. The house seems to blend into its surroundings, with beautiful oak trees both in front of it and peeking out from behind, hinting at the magic that awaits in the backyard.

First, I wanted to explore the interior of the house. At almost 2,400 square feet, there’s a lot to explore. The house is bright and airy, with large windows and doors that let the light in throughout.

Gavin Cater

From the front entry, an open hallway leads to the bedrooms on the right wing of the house, or to the kitchen and family room on the left. The dining room and living room are in the middle, and that’s where I decided to start.

The living and dining rooms are up two steps and visible from the entry hallway. This lends a sense of togetherness, whether for family or entertaining, and makes these rooms seem somehow cozy and accessible at the same time. The living room has a fireplace on the three-quarter wall that separates the two rooms, while the dining room sports a large built-in cabinet.

A doorway from the dining room leads into the kitchen, which is laid out in a large horseshoe formation, triangulating the work spaces exactly the way an expert would advise. There’s a sunny breakfast room beyond it and a laundry room beyond that.

Continuing through that side of the house, two steps lead down into the family room. With two skylights set into a cathedral ceiling, this room is spacious yet feels like a hideaway, perhaps because it’s the only one of the common rooms that’s not open to the backyard and the other rooms.

Gavin Cater

I headed back down the hallway, past a powder room tucked near the front entryway, toward the bedroom wing of the house. Off the main hall, the master bedroom and bath are up two steps on the left-hand side, while two more bedrooms share a bath on the right side. A fourth bedroom sits in between, ready to be used as a library or office, or to remain a bedroom, depending on one’s needs.

I must admit I rushed through the bedrooms a bit in a hurry to get out to the backyard. A large back patio is accessible from every room on the back of the house, and it is perfect for entertaining. But the amazing pièce de résistance is what lies beyond it.

A lush green hillside rises gently from the house, dotted with scores of mature oak trees. A pathway leads to the top, crisscrossing back and forth across the hill. I walked up with a sense of adventure, thinking how much my 7- or 8-year-old self would have loved this yard. As I climbed, I mused that my teenage self would have loved it, too. It’s serene and private, and it just keeps going. When I reached the top, I was amazed. As much as I had anticipated a great view, I was still dumbstruck by just how awesome it is.

Gavin Cater

The top of this property is adjacent to the top of Elings Park. The view is incomparable, looking down over the fields of Elings, past the hills, and unobstructed all the way to the ocean beyond. And the area at the top is sizable: plenty large enough for a playhouse, seating area, or gazebo outlook.

Right now, there are a couple of Adirondack chairs pointing toward the ocean and the sunset. Maybe that’s all this setting needs. This house and its backyard oasis are magical enough as they are, and they are waiting for a new owner to make them their own.

1515 Manitou Circle is currently for sale in Santa Barbara, listed by Scott Williams of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties. Reach Scott at 451-9300 or


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