1815 Laguna | Credit: Betsy J. Green

I love to write about artists’ homes. They are never ordinary. This home is no exception. It was built by landscape artist Lockwood de Forest, with help from his son-in-law, architect Winsor Soule. There are numerous examples of de Forest’s paintings in Santa Barbara at the Sullivan Goss Gallery, the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, the Santa Barbara Historical Museum, and will also be in the future Chrisman California Islands Center in Carpinteria.

De Forest traveled the world as a young man and became especially fascinated by Indian architecture and design. His former home in Manhattan is decorated with elaborate teak carvings from India. When he settled in Santa Barbara, he constructed a home with simple lines on which to display the elaborately carved elements, considered East Indian Craft Revival style.

Family Stories

Lockwood de Forest, Sr. & son | Credit: Courtesy of Kellam de Forest

I am fortunate that I had written about this house in my book Way Back When: Santa Barbara in 1915. At the time, I interviewed de Forest’s grandson Kellam de Forest, who passed away in 2021. Here’s some of what I wrote with Kellam’s help:  

“Lockwood de Forest, one of the country’s premier landscape painters, decided to build a home in Santa Barbara at 1815 Laguna Street in January of 1915. (Not to be confused with his son, the landscape architect with the same name.) Lockwood Senior (1850 – 1932) made a name for himself early in his career as a partner of Louis Comfort Tiffany designing interiors for the rich and famous in the Gilded Age. He established a factory in India that provided teak carving and pierced brass from India to embellish his and Tiffany’s commissions. The carved details from India that add an unusual touch to the interior and exterior of the home came from de Forest’s decorating business.

As the popularity of ornately decorated homes declined, de Forest returned to devoting his talents to landscape painting. In 1900, he discovered Santa Barbara and from then on spent winters there. By 1912, he had purchased a quarter of a block on the corner of Laguna and Islay and designed a house complete with a basement studio and a cupola on the roof.” 

De Forest Builds His Dream Home

When de Forest bought the property, the local paper wrote, “Mr. Lockwood de Forest, while a man of wealth, has devoted his life to art and architecture, studying both in New York and abroad … Later he followed his profession in Egypt, Syria and Greece. He founded the workshops at Ahmedabad, India, for the revival of wood carving.” (Santa Barbara Morning Press, October 16, 1913)

In January 1915, the building permit for this home showed an estimated cost of $11,000. Other homes on the same page in the old permits book ranged from $400 to $4,500. The home’s original address was 335 E. Islay.

The local paper added, “The owner will use a large amount of East Indian teakwood carving in ornamentation, for both interior and exterior, thus putting to good use some of the vast collections of artistic specimens that he has gathered in past years, from distant parts of the world … this building … promises to be one of the really artistic residences in this community.” (Santa Barbara Morning Press, February 9, 1915)

The home was divided into apartments sometime in the 1950s. The exterior wood carvings were painted green, probably in that same era when seafoam green was popular. About 2011, the house was restored to a single-family residence.

I was happy to see a hitching post in front of the home. It’s one half of a set of posts that formerly supported a bar to hold horse reins. There was only one post present when the 1975 survey was done, so it has been incomplete for almost half a century.

Homeowners Martine Mickiewicz and Greg Hesterberg bought the home in 2016 and are proud of their home’s unique artistic heritage. They also like the ability to walk to the center of the city.

Please do not disturb the residents of 1815 Laguna Street.

One of de Forest’s painting at 1815 Laguna | Credit: Betsy J. Green

Betsy J. Green is a Santa Barbara historian, and author of Discovering the History of Your House and Your Neighborhood, Santa Monica Press, 2002. Her website is betsyjgreen.com.


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