SIMPLICITY AND SENSITIVITY are the key-notes to the elegance of Charles de L'Arbre's all-wood dream home in forested Mission Canyon. A canyon resident most of his life, Charles, now 32, built a custom- crafted, energy-efficient home in 1981 that is based strictly upon naturalistic principles of the world-renowned architect and environmentalist Charles Moore. "It was important to me that the house blend in with the area," Charles de L'Arbre explains, "that it be environmentally considerate."

In keeping with simplicity, he borrowed 20 students from his friend Dennis Allen, who at the time was teaching a home- building course at UCSB. "The crew was astounding," Charles says. "They worked steadily for six weeks." The happy and swift results were a garage with a studio apartment upstairs, completely constructed by the students, and a main house built by the class and a professional construction company.


Above: World traveler Charles de L'Arbre's dream house came true not 150 yards from his childhood home, where he first fell in love with the natural beauty of Mission Canyon. The home features a greenhouse entry that brings the woodland feeling inside. Opposite above: Fine craftsmanship in the studio surrounds mementos gathered allover the world. Opposite below: A Xian rubbing in the living room came from a favorite trip to China. The olive wood sculpture in the corner is from Santa Barbara, by his mother; artist Nancy de L'Arbre.

Always sensitive to the environment, the workers saved the sandstone boulders that had to be dug out of a barranca where the driveway would be paved. Some of the rocks eventually became the chimney for the massive fireplace in the house's living room. Others formed the foundation for a garden so tranquil and appealing that it is Charles's favorite "room:'

Based on architectural designs by Santa Barbarans Robert Easton and Larry Dennis Thompson, the house is built completely of wood-Douglas fir, hemlock, and redwood. The windows are double- glazed and double-paneled; the heating is solar with a gas back-up system; and the floors, ceilings, and walls are solidly insulated.

"This is a self-indulgent project," Charles says and smiles, "without any thought for resale or impressing other, people. " As he conducts his tour, he reflects the unpretentious personality and substance so evident in the home. "The public parts of the house are the kitchen, which you follow as it blends in with the dining area and the greenhouse, and then you go down a few steps into the living room. There are no blocks, you see; just flow. To reach the private areas, you have to go into the recesses of the house-to the sunken study and the stairway up to the master bedroom and bath. And then, at the other end of the house, is another self-contained bedroom and bath."

As all dreams should, the home indulges the tastes and needs of its originator. Charles is a bachelor, a part-time actor, a full-time owner of Santa Barbara Travel Agency, and a self-designated 1960s romantic. Upstairs in the master bath are theatrical lights for the actor, and through- out the home are dramatic finds from his many trips-religious icons from Mexico, bird kites from China, soapstone Buddhas from Thailand, masks from the Ivory Coast, meerschaum pipes from the British Isles, and an enormous Chinese stone rubbing that hangs above the fireplace.
The outdoors shows ecological intelligence and consideration for his neighbors, two of whom are his parents, Bertie and Nancy de L'Arbre. "The kind of people who live here are the kind who don't set up fences," Charles says. "We're environ- mentally aware, thoughtful of each other. No one ever seems to get in anyone else's way. The neighbors all share a sense of wanting to enhance and enrich nature rather than to impose our wishes on it."

Surrounded by the rocks and trees of Mission Canyon, Charles de L'Arbre's home unites his beloved environment with his personal dream of beauty and function. With a minimum of fuss and a maximum of self-satisfaction, he has created his own Santa Barbara version of Eden.

Allen Associates
1427 Tunnel Road, Santa Barbara, Ca 93105
Phone (805) 682-4305

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