Design Excellence on Tour

ArchitecTours Goes Virtual; Showcases Six Local Projects

Casa Pequeña exterior | Credit: Jim Bartsch

I’m always looking for design-savvy ideas to maximize the space of my small house. Pocket doors, vertical shelving, and ultra-high storage are just a few of the stylish efficiencies that I discovered at “Casa Pequeña,” an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) located in Santa Barbara’s Eastside neighborhood. I walked through the home, admiring the designers’ techniques while considering how I could incorporate them myself.

Built on a typical-sized lot, Casa Pequeña is a combination artist studio and guest quarters that was built to replace an older single-car garage. The new construction blends harmoniously into the existing gardens on the property and matches the style and character of the main house. It is also a glowing example of how housing can be added locally without compromising the character of existing neighborhoods. 

Casa Pequeña is one of six properties that will be featured in the upcoming ArchitecTours, a virtual event being presented by the American Institute of Architects’ Santa Barbara chapter on Saturday, October 2. 

The studio is a light-filled space with a compact kitchen, comfortable bathroom, and a free-standing cabinet that pulls out into a queen-sized bed. Large windows, a high vaulted ceiling, and French doors on both ends of the main room combine to provide plenty of cross-ventilation, although a high-tech heating and air conditioning system is also in place if needed.

The backyard at Casa Pequeña is a glorious space where meandering gardens surround a central sunken seating area. The new ADU had to be constructed five feet farther from the property line to meet building codes, without sacrificing sight lines from the garden or the front house. Designed by the architectural firm Ensberg Jacob Design Inc. and built by Jim Shupe Construction, the project accomplished this goal and more, with additional benefits such as improved storm-water runoff that diverts into the gardens. 

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Not to be overlooked is the garage-within-a-garage at Casa Pequeña. One side of the building is designed with vertical wall racks, custom bins, and overhead storage, maximizing every square foot of space. This area has both interior and exterior access.

Five other projects join Casa Pequeña on this year’s ArchitecTour, including a whimsical home built around a giant live oak tree, a religious center in Goleta, and two buildings at the residential Thacher School in the Ojai Valley. The tour will also highlight another ADU — a cabana that was rebuilt after a wildfire and is situated between boulders on a hillside property on Mountain Drive. The tour’s focus on ADUs reflects the attention that these multi-use structures are receiving as part of the solution to California’s intense housing shortage.

This year’s ArchitecTour celebrates the theme of “Design Excellence,” showcasing green building practices and live/work spaces that offer housing options for a changing workforce while remaining in harmony with nature. The tour will offer virtual visitors the opportunity to learn about the people and processes behind each project from the comfort and safety of their own homes. 

The ArchitecTour will be held Saturday, October 2, 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Tickets and more information are available at or by calling (805) 966-4198.

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