Visions Behind the Structures


"Son Soreno" in Santa Ynez, California, is a tour de force of Contemporary Architecture executed by award-winning architect, Michael Palladino. Mr. Palladino has been celebrated for his work on the world’s most iconic buildings: The Getty Center in Los Angeles, California; the Decorative Arts Museum in Frankfurt, Germany; and the High Museum in Atlanta, Georgia. He has designed a handful of private residences and only one in the bucolic yet sophisticated enclave of Santa Ynez.


How did you react to the unique terrain and setting of Santa Ynez?


Santa Ynez is graced with a stunning mountain landscape and an endless sense of space. The fact that this vast landscape exists so close to the sprawling metropolis of Los Angeles is extraordinary. The opportunity and design challenge was to create a comfortable residential scale, and a seamlessly integrated composition of architectural forms that are in harmony with the natural features of this epic coastal mountain setting.

The Son Sereno property has equestrian facilities and sits amid olive groves, yet its owners have said it is anything but rustic.  How have you updated the "ranch typology"?


The family that commissioned the home understands architecture, but more importantly, loves architecture. They are collectors of contemporary art, they enjoy contemporary music, and the design aesthetic reflects their overall optimism. While the overall design is contemporary, it walks the line of modern, both of which can be cold. I’m proud of this house because while it is contemporary, it is warm and comfortable. A wonderful living space. 

What was the inspiration for the design of the home?


The design of the home is site-specific. The sweeping curves and elliptical forms of the site plan reflect the geology and topography of the property. The site is accessed via a winding private drive that follows the property’s natural contours through a small arroyo shaded by 200-year-old California oak trees and gradually reveals an architecture tailored to this unique environment. The approach culminates in a long, elliptical arc in the road that defines the domain of the house. 

At over 8,000 square feet it is an expansive residence, yet it feels intimate.  How did you achieve this?


From the parking area you walk through a garden courtyard that compresses the overall monumental scale of the mountain setting. Two parallel walls built from local stone define the courtyard and unify the “ranch” buildings to create a clear orientation for the architecture. The living spaces are organized  around the courtyard and offer a range of interior spaces and exterior environments that are orientated, scaled and detailed in response to sun’s shifting orientation throughout the day.  The layered building envelope is designed to modulate natural light and frame vistas to intimate gardens to the south and the expansive landscape to the north and west. 

Architects are not supposed to have favorites but is there one space in particular that you are particularly proud of?


My favorite area is the living room. On one side of this space, floor-to-ceiling windows capture panoramic views, which create the visual effect of a wall of scenery with dramatic forms and colors not unlike a painting. In the opposite direction, smaller windows provide an intimate view to the pocket gardens and courtyard. 

Some of the unique features are the wavelike ceilings and the iconic shape of the corner windows.  Besides being stunning do they provide a specific purpose?


The rolling shape of the ceiling is beautiful, but is also doing quite a bit of work by defining a gracious open volume, but also reducing the home’s long linear aperture to the west, while simultaneously keeping out the direct sunlight. The smaller mitered corner windows support my goal to bring daylight to every corner of the living space.

It feels like wherever you are in the house you are never far from the terrain and weather of the region.


The house is organized around the outside rooms which are used year-round. The architecture and living space is layered, and unified by the views and extraordinary quality of daylight. Being a part of this spectacular natural environment is fundamental to the Santa Ynez Valley lifestyle of hiking, horses, and enjoying family and friends surrounded by this unimaginable backdrop and its soothing onshore breezes.

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