The Ultimate Beach House
Owner Nina Terzian Collaborates With Architect James Mayo Macari To Create A True Paradise On The Ocean

Text by Vanessa Kogevinas
Photography by Dominique Vorillon

On the shores of an inlet in Montecito an aptly named private property, Sandcastle, blends Pacific Rim-inspired architecture with bountiful drought-resistant landscaping—think Canary Islands date palms and succulents.

The unmatched views of the Pacific Ocean are captured from an extensive terrace that runs the length of the ocean-facing side of the house. Birds-of-paradise in large colorful vessels and orchids infuse the space, while plentiful seating and dining areas beckon to stop. Monarch butterflies fill the air with their brilliant orange and black, white-spotted wings, dolphins and sea lions play in the water, boats sail by.

This lush oasis is the creation of Nina Terzian, who together with architect James Mayo Macari, built the main house on the one-acre oceanfront property, which when Terzian purchased it, had just a modest guesthouse and two cabanas on it. “I wanted to be surrounded with serenity,” says Terzian. “It’s peaceful, Garden of Eden-like.”

The 3,500 square foot, 3-bedrooom, 3.5-bath main house has an unencumbered flow. Dark cherry wood floors unify all the spaces, including bathrooms. Even the decking is the same shade. “There’s no break,” notes Terzian. “It’s continuous. It’s California. We live outside.”

A well of energy, selflessness, creativity and humor, Terzian cherishes every bit of her paradise. She handpicked each one of the succulents in her 1,500 square foot ‘coral reef’ garden. “I’ve been working on this labor of love for about ten years,” she notes. She sprinkles sand from the beach over the dirt and scatters seashells throughout to emulate ocean reefs.

She also raises endangered Monarch butterflies on the property. “I have my own little habitat where I raise them,” she says. “I give everyone that visits a milkweed plant to help rehabilitate the species and I also give tours of the butterfly garden to children.” In fact, this year she was named Citizen of the Year at Montecito Association’s 31st Annual Beautification Day for her work.

“Nina has a very active design mind,” says Macari—a well-known local architect specializing in green building who has worked on several of Terzian’s residences over the years. “So once the spaces were created, she added intrigue with various finishes and with Asian furnishings.” Red lacquered cabinetry pops in the kitchen, an enormous hand carved wood 1800s Chinese lotus piece hangs in the dining room and a sari artfully creates a canopy in the master bedroom—to name a few examples.

Her ingenuity and attention to detail spans from architecture to construction to interior design. Exterior marble steps are embedded with fossils and all of her fireplaces have tempered broken glass in them. “ I call them fire and ice.” She chose azure blue tinted glass windows and doors to help cut the brightness of the sun, while intensifying the color of the sky and ocean. A sand-painting technique for the two cabanas’ decks and exterior steps was selected in keeping with the locale.

The feeling one gets at Sandcastle is spiritual, just as intended. “It’s like falling in love,” says Terzian. “The beauty takes over.”