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Courtesy Four Seasons Santa Barbara


Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara

The storied hotel debuts an over-the-top, under-the-radar oceanfront villa.
By Irene Rawlings

Reginald Johnson, one of the most influential West Coast architects in the 1920s, was commissioned for the now-iconic Santa Barbara hotel The Biltmore. The 22-acre resort broke ground in 1927 and soon Hollywood stars were seeking out the retreat and smiling proudly for photographs to be sent back to the movie magazines and papers. Johnson’s cream-colored adobe buildings with red-tile roofs, among stately oaks, swaying palms, and lipstick-pink bougainvillea, served as a recognizable backdrop.

Ornamental ironwork, hand-painted Spanish tiles, and arched doorways recalling the nearby Mission Santa Barbara adorn 206 rooms, among which 12 are standalone bungalows. Red brick walkways echo with the sound of water cascading into Talavera-tiled fountains and are illuminated in the evening by gas lamps. The new oceanfront Ty Warner Villa ($12,500/night) features 4,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor space, as well as an oceanfront plunge pool, two fire pits, and a terrace furnished for dinner parties of up to eight. The front door opens onto the sands of Butterfly Beach, yet seclusion courtesy of the suite’s private, camera-monitored driveway can be used by guests who, unlike those from years past, don’t want their photos showing up in Hollywood rags.

Courtesy Four Seasons Santa Barbara

Courtesy Four Seasons Santa Barbara

Adorned with antique chandeliers, soft Persian rugs, and a soaking tub carved from a single piece of French limestone, the villa was commissioned by Warner (who owns the resort) to exceed expectations. Outside, a jungle rain shower (left), firelit terraces, a heated plunge pool (below), and watercolor views focus on the Santa Barbara coastline. Guests enjoy butler service, a poolside cabana at the Coral Casino Beach and Cabana Club, and select tee times at the recently renovated Montecito Club.

The Art Deco Coral Casino Beach and Cabana Club on the property was built in 1937 and remains an exclusive private club for well-heeled locals with memberships spanning generations and Hollywood dynasties. Hotel guests have daily access to the club and its larger-than-Olympic-size pool, which is surrounded by chaises overlooking the Pacific, Channel Islands, and beyond. The spa also has ocean views and recently revamped its treatment menu. Locally sourced, sustainable botanicals feature in brightening hydropeptide facials and vinotherapy massages. There’s even an exotic rose-quartz gemstone facial therapy. Guests can book an appointment with celebrity stylist José Eber, who has coiffed A-listers for decades.

Drawing on decades of high-profile connections and insider information, the hotel can facilitate unique experiences: a friendly game of beach volleyball with Olympic gold medalist Todd Rogers; a session in the water with surfing legend Tom Curren; a day of making cabernet or syrah with Bion Rice, winemaker at Sunstone Vineyards & Winery. It’s all part of its historic reputation as the place to be. From $895;

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