COTE DE TEXAS: John Saladino Is Moving Yet Again!?!?!?

John Saladino Is Moving Yet Again!?!?!?


Are you obsessed with John Saladino’s design work?  Do you know his houses inside out and could probably find your way around Villa di Lemma in the dark?  Well, if so – this story is for you.  It took a while to put it all together and figure it all out – so, go grab that proverbial cup of coffee and enjoy!!!


I was surprised to see that John Saladino was on the move, again.  I vividly remember reading about the sale of Villa di Lemma to Portia and Ellen DeGeneres – and being shocked at that news.   After all, he had spent years restoring his Montecito estate and had written one of the most beautiful design books about the process.  He spent almost 10 years there and decided, in the end, it was “too big” for him.  Did he not realize how big it was when he bought it?

News of serial house buyer Ellen getting her hands on the Villa was upsetting, to say the least.  I love Ellen’s taste – her recent houses have all been fabulous - but her style is casual and slightly rustic, sometimes leaning to the mid-century.  How would she ever make the Villa better than it already was?  Unless Saladino was her decorator (he’s not) – I don’t think it will ever top what he did there. 

So, where did John and Betty move to after the villa?   I had heard rumors that Betty was no longer with John.  Really?   He had  dedicated his book Villa to his muse.

Before we get to the end, to where Saladino moved to after the Villa, let’s start at the very beginning – to paraphrase Maria von Trapp – it’s a very good place to start…



1969 House and Garden – an early apartment of John Saladino.  It’s very 70s and doesn’t yet have the well-known“Saladino look” – but there are a few signs of things to come such as the pale antique rug and the modern art.   The metal table next to the leather chaise shows up in later Saladino houses.  And, most important – the art over the mantel is seen again and again  - most importantly in the living room at the Villa.

Besides always keeping an apartment in NYC, Saladino and his wife had a second house in the country.  



I found this 1981 photoshoot on the blog ‘Kitchens I Have Loved’ HERE – from House Beautiful’s special edition Home Decorating.     John and his wife restored this old icehouse, turning it into a guest house.  Later Saladino referred to this as The Forge. 



Inside, there is a large room with the rafters now exposed.  A textured rug covers the floor.  This is Saladino’s American Country period.   In the corner is his famous Saladino lamp.



Looking the other direction at the dining table with a fabulous comb back antique chair.



Another view of the fireplace – with the Saladino lamp in the corner.  The chair at the very left is an antique campaign chair, one of a pair, that he bought while in school at Yale.   He still has them today.



This photograph is from Style - with little Graham on the stairs in his pjs.



The bedroom with a loft sleeping area – perhaps this is where his son slept?



In 1994, Metropolitan Home showed this house in the country that Saladino had restored.  Here is the original exterior.



In the 1950s, the house looked like this with a new wing extension. 



And finally, John built two extensions, a screened in porch and a bedroom.



Inside the screened in porch.  The white tablecloth will show up again and again through the years.  Surrounding the table are the two antique campaign chairs.



In the great room – with rafters and beams exposed – the interior still looks a bit American country – but bits of sophistication show through.


The kitchen is a mix of country crocks and stainless appliances.  The layering of the rug on the table is a hint of things to come.



The master bedroom – American country.



“I don’t know if you remember the Santa Fe look we all survived. If you build a house with beautiful quarter-sawn white rift oak floors that have been bleached and maybe rubbed grey, which is like a floor in one of Vermeer’s paintings that the maid has scrubbed until it is the color of silver driftwood; you will never tire of that. And the plaster wall is real, it is not going to have mold in it, it is solid plaster.”

And this:

“I am really kind of against this standard 6″ thick wall because it so pervasive now. These villa mansions that are built now don’t really look like villas to me, because villas have these beautiful deep-set windows. These are little suburban McDonald villas. So I do like thick walls and tissue-thin-feeling glass.”



In the early 1980s, after renovating their country house, the Saladinos found a new property - a 1929 Georgian house located in Norfolk, Litchfield County, which they named Robin Hill.

The secluded estate, on 20 acres,  is bordered by over 5,000 protected acres of forest.   The house is large – over 10,000 sq. ft, and originally included a wing for servants.   

  Until his move to Santa Barbara, Robin Hill was Saladino’s biggest personal accomplishment.  He even commissioned the architect to produce a hand painted map of the estate which he included, at great expense, in his book - Style.

The Georgian house marked a turn in Saladino’s aesthetic.  Gone were all the American country touches which were replaced with classic elements such as moldings and mantels.

After his beloved wife Virginia died, he remained at Robin Hill for a few years – his son Graham became engaged there and in 2000, was wed there, with a reception that had long banquet tables covered with amethyst silk. Natch!



The book Style shows many views of the gardens and landscape at Robin Hill which Saladino designed.  Recently the house was sold again and photographs of how it looks now were posted on the internet.  My heart fell when I saw how different the once glorious house and gardens are today.  It all looked a bit neglected and overgrown with not so beautiful interiors. 

Below are then and now photos of Robin Hill:



NOW:  The pergola that John installed still looks pretty today



NOW:  A view of the shed.



NOW:   Spring flowers.



THEN:   The fountain installed by John, along with the hidden sitting area.




TODAY:   it just looks a little run down.




THEN:  Saladino loves gravel – here the view overlooks the open meadows.




TODAY:  A long pool was built off the living room.




Today:  At the very left of the house is the sunken living room.   A center hall runs from the living room to the foyer to the staircase down to the garden room with its beautiful windows.  At the right is the garage wing with the original maids quarters.




THEN:   The front door opens to this view – with the large urn in the middle.  Saladino had murals painted on the walls.  To the right is the long hall in the older part of the house that leads to the garden room.  To the left is the sunken living room.

The beauty of the house is the site line that runs from the living room to the garden room.  At each end there are beautiful windows with fanlights.   Additionally – there are more French doors with fan lights that are placed at strategic rooms, such as the dining room.



NOW:   The beautiful stairs extend through three floors.



NOW:  The view from the third floor looking down.



THEN:   The gorgeous living room at the end of the center hall that runs through the house.  It appears that the living room was added at a later time.  This is a gorgeous room as decorated by Saladino and it shows his changing aesthetic.  Many of the items in the room are still used by him today – such as the large screen that is divided into two pieces.  The French cane chair is another much loved piece.

I’ve always gotten a giggle at the wing chair on the left with its trim that needs mending! 



THEN:  The view of the fireplace – here you can see that flanking the mantel are two niches that hold urns and have murals painted on their back wall.  The painting above is still used by Saladino today.




THEN:  Behind the sofa is the piano and here you can see the niche with its painted mural.



NOW:  This is how it looks today – it’s really hard to believe that the owners have let the house go like this!! 



NOW:  The beautiful windows that today overlook the long pool that they installed. 



NOW:  The living room – and the pool. 



THEN:  A closer look at the two screens, which unfortunately were hidden behind plants.  Up the steps is the foyer with the center urn and at the end of the grand hall is the garden room.



THEN:  The dining room was equally beautiful with pale amethyst walls and white Saladino chairs.  The fabulous painting by Cy Twombly is still owned by John.



The mantel is beautiful.  Notice the pretty fan lights.  The tablecloth is reused from their previous house.



THEN:  Closeup of the marble mantel and gorgeous urn.



NOW:  Today, the dining room looks like this.  Same mantel. 



NOW:  A different version of the room today.



NOW:  The view from the dining room down the main hall to the living room.




THEN:  At the end of the main hall is the garden room, which can be seen from the living room at the other end of the long hall.




THEN:  Closeup of the garden room with the painted ceiling.  Love the plates above fireplace.  It looks like there is a fountain of some kind at the window which is at the end of the long hall’s site line.




Then:  The winter living room - remember this table from the first apartment?  The antique cane William and Mary chair shows up again and again too.



TODAY:  the kitchen with its tiled walls.



THEN:  Saladino’s bedroom with his famous upholstered headboard/screen.



NOW:  The master bedroom today.  Just so sad.  Looks like the shades from Saladino remain today. 

Robin Hill recently sold and hopefully the new owners will restore it to its former beauty.



During the years the Saladinos were at Robin Hill, they finished the renovation of a new apartment in a 1927 Gothic building – the space was once part of Jay Gould’s five floor penthouse that had been divided up into smaller apartments during the 30s.  Saladino called it his opus – he used it as an interior design laboratory – a place to show reluctant clients how much he was willing to experiment with design.

The building is quite famous.  Each apartment is different and many are quite beautiful.  The penthouse that was once Jay Gould’s squash court is now for sale and is worth seeing HERE.



The history of the gothic apartment building is fascinating and good reading HERE.



Here is the building at street level.  It’s so pretty.  I tried to find the windows that matched Saladino’s apartment, but couldn’t.  Apparently Lee Radziwill lives there now.

From the pictures of the building and it’s romantic history, it’s easy to understand why the two designers, John and Virginia, were drawn to it.   Their grand living room was three stories tall – almost a double cube.

Each area of their apartment had a totally different feel – the living room was rough textured as if it were a crumbling Italian ruin, the bedroom was smooth as glass lacquer, while the entrance was matte metal with a pale amethyst ceiling that looked like an upside side reflecting pool.  In the entry he played with classical Roman orders and proportions.  The front door was 18th century – Robert Adam.

The living room walls were created using his famous scratch plaster – he mixed the plaster with instant coffee and dried it with the radiators.   The mantel was a copy of the Salon de Dianne in Versailles.

The tall space also gave him a chance to demonstrate his theories of proportion and scale.  The hanging quilt brought the space down to a more human scale and cozied it up, while giving the room a medieval feel. 

He mixed fine antiques with everyday items, like inexpensive linens.  The effect was stunningly beautiful and solidified his position as a first rate designer.



The foyer with the oversized column.  The wine tasting table is still used today as is the table made with a lone leg salvaged from a statue.  The door is18th century, Robert Adam.



NOW:  Years later the door is now at Saladino’s office, perhaps waiting for a new owner?



THEN:  Double doors open to the large ballroom.



Saladino’s Shelter Sofas face each other.  At the back wall is a large painting that is in John’s NYC apartment today. 



Showing the opposite wall – there are large windows on both sides of the sofa.



And facing the door that leads to the master bedroom.  In the corner a screen hides something – a trick the John frequently employs.   At the very right of the photo is a close up of one of a pair of the beautiful lamps that are now in the NYC apartment.  To the left of the Versailles mantel is the antique William and Mary cane chair, still in use today.  Additionally – the antique chair to the left of the sofa is seen in all his subsequent spaces.



The view of the the grand piano – showing the arched door that leads to the master bedroom.



The master bedroom was set up as a sitting room.  The rug is still in use today.  Notice the shades – these were a treatment he liked to use then.



In the bedroom were a pair of beautiful antique Regency chaises.



Years later – the Regency chaises showed up in a client’s bedroom, now upholstered in a dark fabric.  I like the white fabric better!



John’s wife died in 1987 and with it came some changes.  He sold the fancy apartment and moved to a charming carriage house in a Historic District.  The area is filled with these types of houses – two, three, four story structures with garage doors at the façade.  Most are now restored and the neighborhood is a highly valued place to live. 

Saladino chose a five story house with a garden out back – a completely different environment from the Gould ballroom apartment – and mostly likely a nice place to raise his son. 



Here is his carriage house with the green garage door.  Above is a set of windows that were his guest room.  This townhouse was sold a few years ago and is still under renovation today – judging by the Google Map image.



Saladino’s carriage house today – behind the plywood walls.  Most of the other houses on his street are already renovated. 



THEN:  Here is a photoshoot of the carriage house – showing the living area which overlooks the back garden.  Here is the antique chair that was next to the sofa in the Gould apartment.  He reused the coffee table from that apartment.   There is a Fortuny skirted table is still in use today.



THEN:  Behind the sofa is the large canvas from the back wall of the ballroom apartment which is now in his current NYC apartment. 



THEN:  Next to the fireplace is a settee – the dining room is behind it.  At the back are the distinctive stairs. 



NOW:  The carriage house was recently sold.  Again, it was a real mess and looks nothing like it did when John lived here.  It is being renovated now.    The distinctive original stairs remain the same.  



THEN:  The bedroom, against a brick wall.  At the left is one of the pair of beautiful lamps from the ballroom apartment.



THEN:   The magazine shoot of the master bedroom.




NOW:  Here is the second floor which was the master bedroom and which overlooks the back garden.  You can see the amethyst silk curtains that he installed in bedroom are still there today!




THEN:  The guest room with the gorgeous leather and cane antique French chair from Robin Hill’s living room.  He wrapped the walls with linen, which has been removed today.



NOW:  The second floor windows are where Saladino’s guest room were, overlooking the front street.



THEN:  A tiny picture of the back garden – John painted the wood fence amethyst and he installed a retractable ceiling made of fabric.



NOW:  Like what happened to the gardens at Robin Hill, the carriage house’s back garden has fallen into disrepair.  It will be exciting to see if the new owners will publish the renovations.



At the end of the 80s John Saladino went to Santa Barbara to buy a house and meet new clients.  He bought one house and then briefly remarried.   He and his bride then bought a large piece of land upon which they were to build a house which was sold in the divorce a year later.  He then bought a third house that was photographed and was a large part of the Style book.

After Saladino bought the larger Villa di Lemma, he sold the smaller house which was then totally renovated.



The Santa Barbara house is on 1 1/2 acres with beautiful Pacific views.  Here is the satellite view of the house.  The house was completely renovated and expanded after Saladino sold it.



The views of the Pacific from the house.



THEN:  The house is surrounded by terraces.  Inside the house had terracotta tiles which extended outside. 



NOW:  The new owners had the tiles outside replaced with 800 year old stone from Cyprus – much prettier than the terracotta.  Love the lions added to the wall.   



THEN:  One of the prettiest spots on the terraces – Saladino painted the fence in his signature color.



THEN:  A more private terrace.



TODAY:  There is now a swimming pool where the private terrace was.



THEN:  Saladino’s open air terrace.




NOW:  Gorgeous landscaping and beautiful outdoor furniture.  Love this Kubu rattan!




NOW:  The view of the Pacific from the swimming pool terrace is stunning.




NOW:  The photographers that take the real estate pictures for Santa Barbara are fabulous.  This is pretty enough to be in a magazine.



THEN:  The beautiful stone table.




NOW:  Not sure if Saladino left this table or if the new owners bought it.  Regardless, it’s perfect for the setting, especially with the chairs – how it looks on the gravel.  Gorgeous landscaping!!



NOW:  The outside – with the glass front doors.  This is a new entrance – added after Saladino moved.



THEN:  The entry.   Saladino’s trademark tapestry with the painting on it.   This chest was later in the living room in the Villa.



NOW:  He reused this tapestry in this Kips Bay Showhouse here.



THEN:  You can see in this view where the front door used to be.  Additionally the new owners have removed the terracotta tiles and put down light wood floors in the Versailles pattern.  Notice the white tablecloth – used again, from the small Connecticut house to Robin Hill to Montecito!



NOW:  Such a difference.  The new front door has been moved.  The terracotta floors are now gone replaced by Versailles pattern light hardwoods.  New mantel. 



The new entry is to the right.  This room is part of the new addition.  Wonderful metal doors and windows.



The long hall leads to the new master bedroom.



THEN:  At the time the master bedroom was upstairs.  Beautiful antique settee and chair.  The wood ceilings are now gone and the stairs were also completely redone.



THEN:   The master bedroom.   Notice the set of prints.



Years later, those same architectural prints showed up in this client’s house.



THEN:  The guest suite.



THEN:  The guest room sitting room – with his original antique, bought at college, the campaign  chair.



NOW:   The new master bedroom with sitting room  - now on the first floor.



NOW:  The new master bathroom.


While Saladino was selling this house and restoring Villa di Lemma – he was busy with real estate in NYC.




The NYC apartment gets a little confusing.  There is an old one and a newer one that look incredibly alike.  First is the older one – a smaller version of Saladino’s current apartment.  Here, the main difference between the two is the older one is carpeted (shocking!) and there isn’t a proper dining room.  The rug here is familiar, it was in the guest rom at the Carriage House.  The pair of lamps have been in all NYC houses since the Ballroom.   In this view, Saladino uses the curtain at the end of the room to create the illusion there is another room there. 



Toward the entry is the dining area. 



Some of the prettiest antiques he owns are here – the mirror from the Carriage house, the painted chair first seen in the ballroom apartment, the pair of lamps, and the table.



The entry with the sculpture leg from the ballroom apartment.



The dining area with the wine table from the entry in the ballroom apartment.



The guest room with a beautiful screen.   The table is set in front of the sheer curtain to fool the eye that there is another room there.



The master bedroom with the large painting from the ballroom apartment.




The layout seems very similar to his former apartment – but this one has wood floors and a dining room.



Here in the entry is the wine tasting table which is behind a mesh curtain, giving the illusion of a separate space.



Beautiful chinoiserie table along with the French caned and leather chair from Robin Hill.  The famous 3 legged coffee table is a new addition.



The painted French chair – with Saladino’s iconic quilted fabric.



The apartment was photographed several times – each time with different dining room styling.   The rug is from the guest room at the Carriage House.   Here there is a sitting area behind the table.



And here, the sitting area is cleared out.   The console holds his beautiful glass collection.



And here, the table is removed.  This is a great Saladino sofa.



Here, the table makes another appearance – as does the William and Mary chair.



The master bedroom has the Fortuny skirted table seen in the Carriage House – and the famous Saladino lamp.



In the bedroom is this piece of old metal roof cut into an urn shape.



And yes!  It’s the same urn seen in what is probably Saladino’s most iconic dining room!  You can match the paint spatters up.



Or do you consider this his most iconic dining room?




And then there is his masterpiece.  The Montecito – Villa di Lemma which Saladino spent years and a fortune completely restoring. 



The drive is a 1/4 mile long – very pretentious – which caused John to give the silly name Villa di Lemma to the estate to make it more accessible.



Everyone knows about the estate – the book is popular and many blogs have retold its story.



Still, it’s hard to do a story about Saladino and not show photos of the most beautiful project of his career.




I love to study the layout of the house – how the two master suites are across the courtyard from the media room at the front of the entrance.  And I love how the swimming pool is behind the living room and the master bedroom.  I especially had so much fun spending hours and hours over the years putting the house together in my head – if I ever was a guest, I would certainly know where I was and how to find every nook and cranny.  I think that is called an obsession.



The view of the Pacific is stunning – as is all the landscaping.



The living room overlooks the pool through this window.




The most gorgeous landscaping – all the French inspired gravel off John’s bedroom.  He prefers Del Rio gravel.




The entrance with its tiny fireplace and the statue in Betty’s honor.



At the front door – the Saladino tapestry.



The living room.   That window overlooks the pool.  To its right – is the way into the bedrooms. 



And looking the other direction – here you can see the Cy Twombly – seen in the dining room at Robin Hill.



Some of the furnishings here came from Robin Hill – like this carpet and a few of the chairs.



The vignette behind the sofas in the living room.



Gorgeous dining room – with his collection of ironstone.  The white tablecloth, again!!!  This time he used leather slipcover Saladino chairs.



The kitchen.



The walkway to the bedrooms.   To the right is the terrace that leads to the atrium and entrance porch.   This painting was first seen at the Robin Hill living room mantel.  Betty’s room is up the stairs, John’s is to the left.



John’s bedroom. 



And the screen – last seen in Robin Hill’s living room.



Looking from the poolside straight through to the atrium entrance courtyard.



Betty’s bedroom.



Outside her bedroom is his marble foot of Mercury which shows up again later.



The media room – with the stack of red chinoiserie boxes that Saladino likes to use.


As everyone knows – shockwaves hit the real estate news when it was announced that Ellen DeGeneres had bought “Saladino Villa” as it is now apparently called by her.  WHY?!?!?!?

While Ellen has wonderful tastes and a slew of beautiful houses nicely decorated – the thought of taking the villa apart and starting over seems unthinkable.   After all – after nine years – the estate was absolute perfection. 

Saladino simply said – it was too big.  Well, sure.  We all knew that – he didn’t?!?!  And isn’t that the point of an estate anyway?

The price tag was large enough to tempt anyone and I’m sure Saladino was ready to recoup his investment.  Although there’s some fuzziness – did Ellen buy it from Saladino or had he already sold it to another who sold it to Ellen as implied by some news accounts? 

Last year the NY Times teased a few pictures of some changes Ellen has made at “Saladino Villa” (I hate that name!)



BEFORE:  Here is the entrance porch under Saladino.  There are sconces flanking the door, a bench and wood chairs.



AFTER:  Under Ellen – the sconces are gone but the bench and chairs remain.    The other main change is the wood man.  Not sure why Saladino left the outdoor furniture – but there is NO way that wood man standing next to the chair was John’s.  Nope.  No way!



THEN:  The next view was a picture of the living room taken where you enter the bedroom hall.  Here is how it looked when John lived here.  The hallway to the bedroom is seen at the very left.   You can see in that hallway there is a painting and a console underneath it with a lamp.


THEN:  Saladino added a chest in what appears to be a doorway or a niche.  The porterie adds texture and romance, while the star chandelier adds a bit of folly.


NOW:  Here is a snippet view of the living room how Ellen and Portia have decorated it.  OK – that is a Basquiat.  OK.  Well – what is that underneath?   Not a vignette Saladino would have.  The star chandelier is gone, as are the curtains and the chest AND all the romance and beauty of the villa.   This view of how it might all look is so disappointing.  The Basquiat would be better placed in her new L.A. house.  And yes, Saladino used contemporary art, it’s just this particular canvas is so jarring.  Kill me – I’m sure you are rolling your eyes at my derision of Basquiat.  


This hallway leads to the two master bedrooms.  There is an entry hall – which opens to the entrance courtyard. 



THEN:  Outside – past the entrance porch on the left, the steps in the center lead up to the master bedroom wing.



THEN:  Closer look.  The steps lead up to the terrace which leads to the bedroom entry hall.



THEN:  The bedroom wing – from the entry hall, Betty’s bedroom is up the steps while John’s is to the left.  The Robert Courtright is one of my favorite pieces of his – after the Twombly. 



NOW:  Ellen and Portia’s bedroom entry hall.  An antique chaise that looks like a reject from Restoration Hardwood’s infamous deconstructed line.  Lord, this is scary and the worst nightmare realized.   When it is all finished and published – I suspect it will resemble their last country estate – which was great for THAT property.  This estate though is sophisticated and chic, at the same time cozy and welcoming.   As my Yiddishe grandmother used to say – Oy Vey!! 



So where did Saladino go after he sold his masterpiece to Ellen and Portia?  What  happened to him and Betty, his companion to whom he lovingly dedicated his book Villa?  The pages of Villa are filled with references to Betty:

The portrait she commissioned of him, her ideas for the herb garden which proved to be so valuable, her bedroom which he designed in her favorite tones, her marble bathtub which he installed with extra plumbing and heaters so that she could have her preferred hot water, her private garden, the sculpture in the entry hall dedicated to Betty – the references to Betty fill the pages of Villa and all the interviews he gave.  The NYC apartment was bought because between he and Betty they had so many grandchildren… 

Recently Betty wrote a letter to the editor of a local Santa Barbara magazine – she said she had lived at Saladino’s villa for 9 1/2 years and was currently living in New York – and that she loved reading about all her old friends that still lived on the west coast.

Judging from some remarks made on social media, it doesn’t look like this was an amicable split, which is so sad. 

While Betty came back to the east coast – Saladino stayed west for at least part of the time, living in a smaller house.  He said he would be looking for something extremely modern and on one level – but the house he ended up with certainly isn’t modern.  Located on a golf course, it has nice mountain views, but none of the fantastic Pacific views that both his previous houses had.   And most surprising is his new house is now on the market. 

First let’s look at the new house before he moved in and then, after.   Truthfully, after the villa, it’s a bit of a let down.  After you have had perfection – everything else seems a bit lacking.   Which is silly, because it is a wonderful house and one that most would give anything to live in, and it does seem much better suited for an elderly gentleman who lives alone.  


The house was built in 1969 and is located on the Birnam Wood golf course.  European styled landscaping leads up to the house.



The front porch with beautiful stone pavers and antique planter.



The golf course out back has views of the mountains, but sadly, no views of the Pacific for the first time in all of Saladino’s west coast houses.  Also, there is none of the wild Provencal-style landscape found in his other two houses such as:



The view from the terrace at Saladino’s first Montecito house. 



Beautiful landscaping in the acreage around Saladino’s first Montecito house.



BEFORE:  When Saladino bought his new house – the pool and yard looked like this.



NOW:  Saladino added a covering to the terrace that immediately gives the pool area a European feel. Notice the changes in the landscape.  Only Saladino can take a boring looking bed and make it look fabulous.  Wow.  What a difference.  Just by adding a few light colored plants and some silver algave, he woke this dull space up!  Also, notice he removed all the pointed bushes.  So is that the key – light and silvery hues next to the greens to make a beautiful landscape?  Thanks for the tip!




Notice how the posts looks like old limed oak.  Not sure why he put the posts in the pool, but I’m sure he has some reason having to do with proportion and fooling the eye tricks.  Notice he added a porterie to the sides to create a room on the pool terrace.



BEFORE:  The house before Saladino remodeled it is very pretty.  Here is the living room.  The furniture needs to be rearranged – the sofa needs to come to middle of the room to fill it out – but it’s very pretty furniture, antique chandelier, and rug.



BEFORE:  Another view.



AFTER:  Saladino painted the room a warmer ivory and then brought over the villa furniture here.   This room must be huge because it swallows two sofas like they are pincushions.    It’s very pretty – love the screen – but all I can think about is the stone walls at the villa and how much they added to the living room!  Along the left wall is a long library table – probably the one in the villa’s living room.  It’s possible the Cy Tyombly is on that wall, too.   The rug is still in use – from Robin Hill.  Its age only looks better with time.   Notice outside he placed an urn that becomes a focal point.



BEFORE:  The dining room was pretty.




NOW:  The dining room is so beautiful now – Saladino had an artist paint the ceiling and it gives the room a bit of romance.  The white table cloth!!!  He moved the black chairs from the living room at the villa to this dining room.  The curtains were in the villa too.  I’m not sure if he added that focal point outside, but it is very effective.  The pair of lions were last seen in the entry at his first Montecito house.  The console was in the villa and his first Montecito house and the white urn?  Remember it from Robin Hill? 



The artist posted this beautiful picture of her painted ceiling.  I love how the chandelier was never electrified.



BEFORE:  The paneled study was decorated quite beautifully.  I love the way they used the Peter Dunham Samarkand fabric HERE.



NOW:  Saladino used some of the media room furniture here – along with the beautiful cane chair from an upstairs guest room.  Hall chairs to the left came from the villa’s entry hall.  Above the sofa looks like a canvas that he painted – HERE.



BEFORE:   The master bedroom – overlooks the swimming pool.   The bedroom is wallpapered.



NOW:  It looks like Saladino turned his bedroom into part bedroom/part sitting room.   It appears he is using Betty’s half bed/half sofa here.   Saladino kept the wallpaper.  The gray painting was in the villa’s living room next to the fireplace.  It looked almost small there – but here it looks huge, a sign that shows how grand in scale the villa really was.  Remember, this painting was seen in one of his first apartments ever photographed.   Porteries at the door to what looks like a study.

What a huge undertaking – deciding what to use from the villa and what to ship back home.  There were at least six bedrooms completely furnished at the villa, here there are but two!



BEFORE:  The kitchen is so pretty!  Love it.



TODAY:  From the other direction.  Saladino added his extensive collection of white ironstone.



THEN:   The guest room.  Love how this is decorated!!!



NOW:  He used the furniture from his former bedroom here.  



THEN:  This looks like a closet or office – there is no picture of this room from today.



THEN:  The master bathroom.  Love the Swedish sink cabinet.  No picture of this from today.



THEN:  One other room, not seen on the current real estate brochure.



Remember the marble foot of Mercury in Betty’s algave garden?



TODAY:  The marble sculpture is now in the golf course house.



This photograph from Style inspired…



Saladino to commission the artist to paint a “statue” behind the orange trees! 



So pretty!



John Saladino reports he recently completed several large international jobs and shows no signs of slowing down.  It will be interesting to see if there will be yet another Montecito house in his future.


  1. Wood man at front door now owned by Ellen, looks like a St. Francis, and a 'gift'.

    Had a client ask me last week about a much too generous garden gift she was given. No way she can 'not' have it in her garden, considering the 'giver', a daughter-in-law.

    Guidelines developed over the years, gift must be displayed at least a year somewhere 'good' in the garden. After a year it can have an 'accident', but really taken to goodwill 3 towns away, or, gift remains, lushly grown over with evergreen vining plant, creeping fig or duck foot ivy perhaps.

    Garden & Be Well, XO T

    1. My yard is filled with "gifts." I didn't know you could move them after a year!! hahaha!!! too funny.

  2. Joni:
    Excellent research post on a true master. I've had the pleasure of visiting three of his properties - the E. 72nd street apartment. Robin Hill and the NYC carriage house. I can tell you, photographs do not do them justice. His spaces are even more beautiful in person. A bit of trivia only you will enjoy - artist David Braly and I painted the niche murals in the living room at Robin Hill during a week long stay there. John is a gracious, dear man as funny as he is talented. Greg

    1. Greg - You painted those!!!!! wow!!!! I'm impressed. I would love to visit his houses - you are so lucky to have seen 72nd St. in person!!!

    2. That 72nd St. salon is, to this day, the most beautiful room I've ever stepped foot in.

    3. It must be one of the most serene spaces known to man!

  3. Wow...what a post! A giant cup of coffee, two scones, and my Saturday morning was made! I love that Saladino continues to evolve and surprise. There is always something new to learn from him! Ellen has good taste, but can't begin to compare to the Master.

  4. Joni thank you for taking the time to write this post. Every John Saladino project is a delight for the senses. And yes I would live in the golf course home in a red hot minute.

  5. Great! Now you're back to your old style, the one I loved and made me visit you everyday. You are my favorite blog. You spend so much time giving us the details. Can't wait for your next one.

  6. I am absorbed! I am suppose to be running errands... I couldn't, I read every single word and studied ever photograph. AMAZING post! Sssh, don't tell my husband, I am going back for a second look - he probably thinks I am working. ;) Rié

  7. Thank you Joni....such a wonderful look at Saladino's homes over the years. Maybe the work and upkeep of the Montecito estate was too much. The new house in the Birnum Wood area is really pretty and is also very desirable real estate in Santa Barbara. He may just view it as temporary and an investment?! Always love to read your blog! ; ) kelley

  8. Joni, you are incredible!! What a gorgeous post! I am sure it took a lot of time and energy to put all things together! I am so very pleased you shared this post about John Saladino (one of my absolutely favorite designers!) with us. Thank you so much!

  9. Joni, this was quite a journey with Saladino through the years! His style is so unique and design aesthetic so discerning!
    Does he enjoy golf for recreation, just not sure how he ended up on a golf course without an ocean view. I will look forward on your update of his next home! Love Greg's additional comment about painting the murals. This was a 2+ cups of coffee post!!

    The Arts by Karena
    Ceramic Artist Leah Bowring

  10. Great post, I was bored with ironing my sheets, much better distraction. I love how you always research everything so thoroughly. It makes me think about how my decorating style has evolved.

  11. As an English literature major, my heart goes "pitter-patter" for the photos of bookcases filled with books! Lovely photos!
    Michelle from
    P.S. Drop by my blog for a couple of FREE printables in honor of Christmas in July! :)

  12. He certainly was an major influence on McAlpine, Booth and Ferrier!

  13. Absolutely wonderful and thorough post, Diane! All his houses make sense now thank to your exhaustive and marvelous research. He allowed me to photograph his 'vegetable' garden at Robin Hill for a book, probably in the early '90's. So good to know now what the interior looked like! Agree with you so on the demise of the Villa. Sad, but he moves on well.......thank you!

  14. Who takes a metal roof and cuts an urn out of it!!!!!! This man is more than marvelous. You have done him justice!!! franki

  15. Absolutely fantastic post! There is so much to learn from John's designs. He is a master. His "no color" colors on walls are beautiful at all times of the day. I can't even believe that someone painted over all those beautiful rooms in white paint.....and those murals in the niches. Sheesh!!!

  16. Bravo Joni!!! What a post!!!! My fav designer by my fav blogger!! Seeing his beautiful pieces moving from home to home should inspire one to invest in a few quality pieces..I will read this post agin and again..THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  17. An amazing post!!! What a talent! irI recently bought some of his fabrics for my home redo! LOVE THEM! His sense of color is quite amazing! Thanks as always for doing so much research and writing such informative posts!! xo Leslie Sinclair

  18. Saladino is an amazing designer. Thank you for posting photos of his work and homes

  19. Very entertaining way to spend the morning. Thank you. I'm going to go through his book again now.

  20. Thank you for an amazing post. The moral of the story is buy the best antiques you can get and hold on to them !!!

    who needs mags and books when we've got you!

    Best, Herts

  21. Fabulous compilation of his homes. I feel like the Villa furniture isn't at home in it's new environs. The house is lovely but I have a feeling this is just a stopping off place for Saladino. It doesn't have the heart and soul of his other homes.

  22. Joni, just had to the antique Savonarola chair pictured in the current bedroom/sitting room the same chair as seen in Saladino's private bath at Villa di Lemma??

  23. He's just beyond stylish. he stays with the times but isn't trendy - a genius.

  24. Not really surprised that the Birnam house is on the market. To go from the Villa, which was remote, removed and quiet to the golf club is a huge change in privacy. At Birnam it is a constant stream of gardeners and construction trucks updating and maintaining houses plus the club members and staff on the grounds. I loved seeing the inside of the house though, lord knows I have hit it a few times with my pink golf balls. Probably another reason he is moving ;)

    THAT MAN in the entry .......the first thing I thought before seeing YOUR words........THAT wasNOT his!!!!!!!

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  28. There is so much un-edited material on Saladino on this page as if you threw in everything and the kitchen sink. It is hard to focus on anything. Yet, when I scrolled back up to the top and read this, " Portia and Ellen DeGeneres" I just laughed and stopped. This appears to me to be well placed PR and nothing more.

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  32. Thank you SO much for compiling this info and including the great pictures! I saved every one.