Drew Barrymore Buys Big House in Montecito


CORRECTION (January 4, 2010): This is not, as it turns out, the house that Miss Barrymore bought in Montecito, CA. While we stand buy our impressions and opinions about the architecture and design of this house, it was not–we repeat–it was not purchased by Miss Barrymore. For information on the house she actually did buy, please see our correction here.

BUYER: not Drew Barrymore
LOCATION: Montecito, CA
PRICE: $6,900,000
SIZE: 11,026 square feet, 6 bedrooms, 5 full and 3 half bathrooms

YOUR MAMAS NOTES: Listen, hunnies, we do not recommend any body actually do it but a person can not swing a damn cat in the wealthy seaside enclave of Montecito, CA without knocking a rich, famous or rich and famous person upside the head. High society types and other people of monetary means have flocked to the scenic coastal community since the late 1800s when they came in search of winter sun, salty sea air, mesmerizing vistas of the Pacific Ocean, and a near perfect Mediterranean climate.

An incomplete accounting of the lengthy list of current property owners with notable names in the fancy-pants Montecito area include Beanie Babies billionaire Ty Warner, actor/comedian/commentator Dennis Miller who recently put twenty million clams worth of Montecito area real estate on the market and actor Rob Lowe who recently had his newly built 20-room manse in Montecito photographed for Architectural Digest. Long time residents of Montecito include cinematic near-diety Kirk Douglas, actress and scion to a multi-billion dollar French fortune Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Seinfeld, The New Adventures of Old Christine) and the singular and sensational gingy comedienne Carol Burnett while newer homeowners include former vice-president/global warming crusader Al Gore bought big digs in Montecito just prior to the announcement of his separation from wife Tipper in June of 2010. As far as Your Mama knows–and we don’t know much of anything–the current and undisputed reigning Monarch of Montecito is media tycoon Oprah Winfrey. In 2002 the multi-billionaire spent more than forty million dollars to convince the owners of a 23,000 square foot mansion–that was not actually for sale–to part with their fully landscaped 40+ acre spread that La Winfrey now calls The Promised Land.

The star studded community’s newest celebrity home owner is–according to Montecito Journal‘s resident celebrity gossip Richard Mineards–child star turned wild child turned movie making mogul Drew Barrymore. According to Mister Mineards, Miss Barrymore recently snatched up an historic and may-jer Mediterranean Montecito mansion first listed at $7,900,000 and last listed with an asking price of $6,900,000.

An informant we’ll call Bea Aman kindly and generously provided Your Mama with listing information for Miss Barrymore’s new crib in Montecito that reveals it was designed by renowned ladee architect Lutah Maria Riggs and built in 1937 for Baron and Baroness Maximilian von Romberg. In 1938, shortly after the house was completed, the polo playing, car racing and plane flying daredevil heir to a Massachusetts banking fortune met his Evil Kenievil in the Sky when his airplane went down in the North Shrewsbury River near Red Bank, NJ.

The Baroness, née Emily Hall of Butte, MT, went on to marry American industrialist Burton Tremaine, Sr. and together they amassed a vast collection of 20th-century contemporary art. Miz Tremaine was an early and avid collector of Andy Warhol and the Tremaine’s much hailed collection included significant works by blue chip artists like Piet Mondrian, Mark Rothko and Jasper Johns. The couple, who lived in New York City and Connecticut, didn’t just have a thing for art but also for architecture. In a addition to commissioning famed architects Frank Lloyd Wright, Buckminster Fuller and Philip Johnson to design a myriad of mostly un-built projects, in the mid1940s Mister and Missus Tremaine hired brilliant Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer to design an amorphous and ambitious but sadly unrealized beach house on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Montecito.

This was, of course, well after architect Lutah Maria Riggs designed a mansion in Montecito for the late Miz Tremaine, when was still the Baroness von Romberg. The von Romberg’s Riggs designed residence sits on 3.5 acres in the heart of Montecito and property records show the multi-level and multi-winged mansion measures in at 11,026 square feet. Listing information indicates there are 6 bedrooms and 5 full and 3 half poopers. For what it’s worth–and it ain’t worth a thing–we count 2 primary bedrooms, 2 secondary staff/children’s rooms, another two bedrooms behind the kitchen and garages perfect for the live-ins and a total of 6 full and 3 half poopers. Whatever the bedroom and pooper count, it seems like a lot of damn house for a single ladee.

A gated drive curves through lush, mature and somewhat disheveled landscape to a circular drive that wraps itself around a monumental oak tree and bends up to the imposing and somewhat forbidding front facade comprised mainly of forbidding solid masses and vast white planes. Wee glimpses of arched colonnades and the tippy-tops of a few palm trees that peep over a tall wall seductively hint at the eclectic and and somewhat eccentric interior spaces. A carved wood door, the only punctuation of the front facade, marks the entrance to the house. Or does it? The door actually opens into a shady loggia that leads to the actual front door and unfurls into a large courtyard with boxwood lined dining terrace.

The substantially scaled public rooms pinwheel off the entrance hall in a promiscuous but far from arbitrary manner. The capacious 750+ foot formal living room has hardwood floors laid on the diagonal, a bank of French doors to slide open to the rear terrace and a wood-burning fireplace, the first of five in the house. A banquet hall sized dining room has floor to ceiling windows, tight dentil moldings, and a perfectly framed view of a 40-foot long reflecting pool. The office/library offers a fireplace and a detailed wood beamed ceiling. French doors on one side of the room slide open to the entry loggia and on the opposite wall multi-paned glass panels slide back and open the room a second courtyard and swimming pool. A door to one side of the fireplace in the office/library opens into a secret built-in wet bar with an even more clandestine spiral staircase descends into a wine cellar and ascends to a tiny mezzanine level office space and on up into a walk-in closet in one of the two master suites on the second floor.

A room-sized passageway connects the entry hall to the living room and gives way to a second loggia that overlooks the swimming pool and leads to a perfectly private guest suite comprised of small entrance hall, private terliting and bathing facilities and a large bedroom that opens on two sides to terraced gardens surrounded by mature Oak and fragrant Eucalyptus trees.

There are, Your Mama suggests The Children note, two discreet powder poopers off the entrance hall. This means, of course, that male and female guests of a gala need not tinkle in the same terlit. A short hall leads back to the service and staff areas of the sprawling mansion where a butler’s pantry larger than most people’s kitchens holds all the linens, china and silverware. The fitted pantry connects the dining room to the kitchen where a short hallway extends to the dining courtyard at the front of the house and another stretches past the back stairs to the massive motor court on the side of the house. Six garage bays surround two sides of the motor court and a well-located half pooper in one of the garages is a savvy doo-hickey that keeps the landscaping personnel from traipsing through the house with dirty hand and muddy boots when they’re seized with the urge to do their terlit bizness.

A attached apartment off the kitchen and behind the garages–comprised sitting/dining room, two generously proportioned bedrooms, shared split bath, laundry facilities, and a private walled courtyard–makes for unusually generous staff quarters that, sadly, most live-in household help can only fantasize about.

Above the kitchen and (staff) wing, on a mezzanine level midway between the first and second floors, two additional bedrooms and another shared split bath are suitable for either children or, for the really pampered, more live-in staff. The mezzanine also encompasses, a hallway that connects the wing to the main staircase, a bedroom-sized linen storage chamber and an even larger trunk room for storing all the various vacation valises, traveling cases and wig boxes that rich and famous types require when they go a visitin‘ abroad or, in the case of the very spoiled, across town.

Two masters suites located off the gigantic second floor hall landing each have a large bedroom with fireplace, over-sized private pooper and 20+ foot long dressing room. Both dressing rooms open to a shared sleeping porch for sweltering summer nights and both of the bedrooms have a staircase that leads to extremely private and even secret rooms.

A spiral staircase hidden in the back of a walk-in closet in one of the master bedrooms twists and turns down into the (aforementioned) secret wet bar in the office/libary and continues down to the wine cellar. It also leads up into a pair of small windowless rooms that Your Mama thinks would make for a terrific panic room and/or a place to hide jewels, cash and dead bodies. A winding staircase in the other master suite climbs into a tower where a sitting room with fireplace provides access to a large roof terrace. Floor plan information provided with the listing shows a bathroom on this level and the stairs continue up to a puzzling, unnecessary and whimsical tower mezzanine sitting/storage room.

Listing information suggests that the two master suites can be used in combination to form a particularly posh master suite with three sitting rooms plus a bedroom, three poopers, three fireplaces, a pair of dressing rooms, two terraces and one sleeping porch.

At first view the layout created by Miz Riggs–that would be the accomplished and smart ladee architect who designed the dwelling–feels eccentric, non-linear and disturbingly haphazard. A closer inspection reveals something far more rigorous, clever and, ultimately, architecturally persuasive with clear traffic patterns and conscious delineation of how the many rooms and wings work in harmony both together and separately. Not only is there ample space for a large family to occupy and fill every nook and cranny of the huge house but entire wings can be closed off and opened up as desired or needed by empty nesters. A snake like and still grand but very cozy crib perfect for a couple can be created by closing off everything but the second floor bedrooms, main staircase, entry hall, office/library, kitchen complex and hall that joins the kitchen with the rear entrance and motor court.

Your Mama can easily see why an effervescent, foot loose and fancy free woman like Miss Barrymore would find this particular mansion appealing. Like the house, Miss Barrymore can seem irregular and sometimes messy on the surface but a deeper and longer look reveals an astute, extremely successful, quirky but well organized businesswoman in full control of her sometimes be-boppy and air-brained public image. This house and Miss Barrymore are, in essence, two unconventional peas in a pod.

Since April of 2002 Miss Barrymore has lived primarily on a private promontory in the celebrity choked hills above Hollywood. Records show she shelled out $4,350,000 for a palm-tree dotted compound with a 7,756 square foot multi-winged ranch house with 4 bedrooms and 6 poopers. Her nearly neighbors in Los Angeles include Jason Schwartzman, Hayden Panettiere, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Holland Taylor, Adam Brody and Sheryl Crow.

Your Mama has always imagined that Miss Barrymore maintained a pied a terre in New York City but iffen we’re being honest, and we always are, we’d admit that we have no specific knowledge of rumor or evidence that is the case. We just think it makes sense but we also think it makes better sense to make a cake from a box mix than scratch.

listing photos and floor plan: Village Properties Realtors

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