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The Best Residential Architects and Designers in Santa Barbara

16 Min Read

Arguably the best place in the United States to go when hankering for a Riviera-style holiday, Santa Barbara offers sights, climate, places, and food reminiscent of the Mediterranean. While some go here for vacation, many make it home, including celebrities who own sprawling properties – especially in Montecito. Santa Barbara streets and neighborhoods reflect Spanish culture, making red-tile roofs, stone walls, and colorful, rich landscapes a common sight. Santa Barbara architects design beautiful properties that not only enhance the area’s natural lushness but embody the community’s culture as well.

This list includes both licensed architects and residential designers who can both design stunning homes but differ in other services offered. Architects are trained in design, engineering, and project management and have passed a licensing exam. Residential designers typically don’t manage projects and plans will need to be approved by a structural engineer. Whether you choose to hire an architect or a residential designer will depend on your project needs and complexity.

Thompson Naylor Architects

900 Philinda Ave., Santa Barbara, CA 93103

Thompson Naylor Architects is a long-running architectural firm based in Santa Barbara. While the firm’s projects vary from contemporary to traditional, they are all equal in quality – all well-designed to be functional, attractive homes. Being committed to sustainable building practices, several of the firm’s projects have received LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council, and both principals are LEED Accredited Professionals.

Project by Thompson Naylor Architects

Dennis Thompson and Susette Naylor are focused on designing beautiful homes for their clients while being committed to the protection of nature and community. Thompson Naylor offers clients in Santa Barbara and Ventura full architectural design services for new construction, remodeling and additions. The firm has received numerous design awards, and founder Dennis Thompson was elected a Fellow in the American Institute of Architects.

Bildsten Architecture and Planning

424 Olive St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101

Santa Barbara’s Bildsten Architecture and Planning is committed to developing sustainable communities that allow for a healthy lifestyle. The firm offers services such as custom new home construction, earthquake retrofitting, home remodels, home additions, and green building options for clients in Montecito, Santa Barbara, Summerland, Carpinteria, and Ventura.

Because of the firm’s status as a local, its architects are fully aware of the complexities in the city’s local building codes, design review, structural and energy considerations, thus making the design faster and more effective. The firm’s projects typically cost up to $1.5 million.

Project by Bildsten Architecture and Planning

The firm received the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Design Award in 2017, the 2016 Santa Barbara Contractor’s Association – Residential Category Award, and the 2012 Architectural Record House of the Month.

AB Design Studio

420 E Haley St., Santa Barbara, CA 93101

AB Design Studio considers factors such as environment, design, and placemaking in their projects. The firm prides itself on being a multi-disciplinary studio which not only offers standard design services, but also takes into consideration the ecological, social, cultural, and aesthetic aspects of the project.

The firm has worked on residential design projects including estate renovations and contemporary houses, along with their work in commercial and hospitality.

Project by AB Design Studio

AB Design prides itself on being a problem solver, and for using innovative techniques on the use of different materials. For their work, the firm has been awarded multiple Honor and Merit Awards from the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and featured in the Noozhawk and the Santa Barbara News-Press.

Anacapa Architecture

235 E. Canon Perdido St. Santa Barbara, CA 93101

The name ‘Anacapa Architecture’ derived from the street where the company was founded; referring to the community that nurtured it.

Anacapa Architecture offers full design service for custom high-end residential works, hospitality, and mixed-use projects for clients in Goleta, Mission Canyon, Santa Barbara, and Summerland. The firm pays particular attention to designing projects using sustainable resources, and received LEED accreditation from the U.S Green Build Council.

Project by Anacapa Architecture

The firm’s works appeared in Dwell Magazine, Santa Barbara Magazine, Conde Nast Traveler, California Home + Design, Wines & Vines, Design Travel, The Wayward Post, Pacific Coast Business Times, Seasons, and the Telegraph.

Cearnal Collective

521 1/2 State Street Santa Barbara, CA 93101

Cearnal Collective has designed a number of stunning Santa Barbara high-end estates. Their works are a fusion between the traditional Spanish architecture and contemporary work with emphasis on landscape.

The firm offers floor plans, custom home construction, home addition construction, and historic remodels in the areas of Goleta, Mission Canyon, Montecito, and Summerland. Their work has won several Santa Barbara AIA Chapter awards and Santa Barbara Beautiful awards.

Project by Cearnal Collective

Its founder, Brian Cearnal, previously served as a president of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Santa Barbara Chapter, and was the former Chairperson of the City of Santa Barbara Architectural Board of Review.

Becker Henson Niksto Architects

34 West Mission Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93101

Becker Henson Niksto Architects is a fully-licensed, full-service architectural design firm that specializes in high-end residential homes. Founder Tom Henson has degrees in both architecture and engineering, and under his leadership, the firm became adept in adhering to various design styles.

Project by Becker Henson Niksto Architects

The firm offers both new home construction and renovation for clients in the Santa Barbara area. The firm’s portfolio consists of Spanish estates and contemporary houses that are top-notch, detailed, and true to the theme’s craftsmanship requirements. Becker Henson Miksto Architects is known for renovating properties in Santa Barbara, including a former movie studio that has been designated as a historic landmark. The firm was the recipient of the Chrysalis Award for its work in renovating a historic residence.

Jeff Shelton Architect

519 Fig Ave, Santa Barbara, CA 93101

Jeff Shelton Architect is a firm that offers quirky, artistic designs and installation in its projects. Founder Jeff Shelton treats these art aesthetics as part of the design functionality, and not extras.

His designs include both the traditional Santa Barbara high-end house style and buildings marked with the quirkiness of his Dr. Seuss-esque art style. The Independent called Shelton as ‘arguably Santa Barbara’s most intriguing architect.’ Shelton is particularly fond of designing and handcrafting tiles.

Project by Jeff Shelton Architect

Shelton’s works are highly-cited and draw a great amount of media attention, appearing in the pages of Dwell, Los Angeles Times, Curbed, Architecture, Casa Bohemia, Santa Barbara Independent, Sunset, Mediterranean Design, Santa Barbara Seasons, Luxury Home Quarterly, Remodelista, and Food & Home.

Blackbird Studios

235 Palm Ave. Santa Barbara, CA 93101

Blackbird Architects is a full-service architectural design firm for residential, work and recreation projects in Santa Barbara. The firm offers architectural design and drawings, home addition constructions, rooftop and deck installation, and green building options.

Founder Ken Radtkey established the firm in 1995 and has since designed numerous residential projects – mostly contemporary in style – that has won awards and citations. Radtkey has appeared as a lecturer in architecture at Harvard University, Columbia University, Esslingen Akademie, Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture, and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

The firm prides itself on putting together a team of architects, landscape architects, engineers, and artists working together to fully realize the client’s requirements.

Project by Blackbird Studios

Blackbird Architects has been awarded the Chrysalis Award in 2016 and 2017, the Master Design Award, the Project Achievement Award, the Merit Award, the Green Business Award from the Green Business Program of Santa Barbara County, and the Design Award for Architectural Excellence by the American Institute of Architects – Santa Barbara.

Pacific Architects

1117 Coast Village Road, Santa Barbara, CA. 93109

Pacific Architects is a full-service architectural firm that has been designing houses in Santa Barbara for more than 20 years. The firm’s dedication to design and craftsmanship, as well as their technical expertise and close collaboration with clients, distinguishes them from other firms.

Founder and managing principal William Wolf has over 25 years of experience in designing. Under his watch, the firm has completed high-end residential and commercial projects, along with other construction projects such as music theatres and recreation spaces. The firm offers architectural design and drawings, home additions, green building options, home extension, and remodels.

Project by Pacific Architects

Pacific Architects was named as Builder of Year in 2006, 2012, and 2016 for new residential construction and remodels, as well as the Santa Barbara Beautiful Award in 2010 and 1998. The firm was also featured in Builder magazine, Dream Homes, Food & Home, and Landscape Architect.

Harrison Design

35 West Haily St. Santa Barbara, CA. 93101

Harrison Design is a firm specializing in high-end architecture design, interior design, and landscaping. The firm, founded by William Harrison in Atlanta in 1991, has since grown to manage seven more offices in the United States, as well as one in Shanghai, China. Anthony Grumbine, the current principal architect for the Santa Barbara branch, has led the firm in maintaining its proficiency in designing functional, luxury homes.

The firm builds home that are well-suited to each of their clients’ personality and lifestyle. The firm’s works are not limited to a single aesthetic – the firm does designs from traditional to contemporary – all the while maintaining quality and finishing.

Project by Harrison Design

The firm’s work has appeared in numerous publications, including The New York Times, Southern Home, Galerie, Aspire Design + Home, Modern Luxury, Santa Barbara Independent, Robb Report, Architect, Architectural Digest, Luxe, and Veranda. The firm has won a number of awards, including the Santa Barbara AIA for Historic Preservation, the Santa Barbara Beautiful Award, and the Chrysalis Award.

Manson Hing Architects

920 De La Vina Street, Santa Barbara, California 93101

Manson Hing Architects is an architectural firm designing estates in Goleta, Mission Canyon, Montecito, Summerland, and Toro Canyon since 2001. The firm offers architectural design, custom home building, remodeling, and green building options, with projects ranging to upwards of $5 million.

Christopher Manson-Hing, founder and the firm’s principal architect, served as a past president and a member of the Executive Board for the Santa Barbara Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), and to the Architectural Board of Review as a chairman.

Project by Manson Hing Architects

His works consist of designing estates, family homes, and contemporary coastal homes. The firm currently has several projects undergoing construction, including a contemporary beachside home, a Spanish colonial home, and a Mediterranean estate, among others. Manson Hing has been featured in Santa Barbara News-Press, Architectural Digest, and The Sacramento Bee for their works.

Tom Ochsner

10 E, Yananoli St., Santa Barbara, CA

Tom Ochsner Architect has built more than a dozen estates in Santa Barbara, mostly in the style of classic Mediterranean architecture. The founder and sole proprietor, Tom Ochsner, established the firm in 2003 after deciding he wanted to work more closely with his clients and be more involved with building projects. Ochsner and his team maintain direct contact and close collaborations with his clients – highlighting that the client’s’ objectives are his as well.

The firm offers architectural design, custom homes, construction of home additions, remodels, green building options, and restorations to their clients in the areas of Goleta, Mission Canyon, Summerland, and Santa Barbara. The firm also handles the design, planning, and permitting.

Project by Tom Ochsner

Tom Ochsner was awarded the 2009 Golden Nugget Award, named Builder of the Year 2006, and has been featured in Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine, Dream Homes, and Architectural Construction.

Don Nulty, LLC

300 E Canon Perdido St. Suite A-2, Santa Barbara, CA 93101

Don Nulty, LLC has designed some of today’s most noteworthy estates in Santa Barbara. The firm is a full-service architectural design firm with a collective project cost of around $500 million.

The firm, in addition to commercial projects, specializes in bringing to life sprawling estates with various European, Mediterranean, French cottage, Spanish, hacienda, and colonial inspirations in Montecito and Summerland.

Project by Don Nulty, LLC

Don Nulty offers architectural design, planning, permitting, and construction administration. The firm’s work is constantly mentioned in publications such as Architectural Digest, Los Angeles Times, Forbes, and Luxe Daily.

Neumann Mendro Andrulaitis Architects

888 Linden Avenue, Carpinteria California 93013

Neumann Mendro Andrulaitis Architects build homes that are not only true to the Santa Barbara lifestyle but also environmentally-responsible and coherent to its surroundings. The firm’s partners, Dave Mendro and Mary Andrulaitis, have more than two dozen years of experience in the local architecture industry and has done work ranging from small remodels and additions to new construction and larger estates – with a mix of modern to traditional work, and everything in between.

The firm offers end-to-end architectural design services, barn design, green building options, restoration, and home addition constructions in the areas of Carpinteria, Santa Barbara, Summerland, Ventura, and Montecito.

Project by Neumann Mendro Andrulaitis Architects

Neumann Mendro Andrulaitis Architects has been awarded the 2015 Merit Award for their work on Coastal Residence, given the 2012 Citation Award and the 2012 Holiday Gala People’s Choice Award for their Carpinteria Foothills Residence, as well as the 2012 Green Home Award and the 2012 Gold Winner Whole House Award. In addition, the firm’s works have appeared in California Homes, Architectural Digest, Sunset, Seasons, Luxe, and House & Home.

Warner Group Architects

1250 Coast Village Road, Suite J, Santa Barbara, CA 93108

Santa Barbara’s Warner Group Architects has made a number of grand, private estates in Montecito and the surrounding area since its establishment in 1966. The firm, currently headed by Thiep Cung, offers services in both architecture and interior design, including master planning, feasibility studies, evaluation, interior design, and detailed cost estimates.

The Warner Group, founded by Jack Lionel Warner along with two other partners, has designed country golf clubs, country clubs, private resorts, and high-end residential properties in the most sought-after neighborhoods in California. Their portfolio also includes a number of international clientele in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

The firm is noted for maximizing potentials of challenging sites, seeing the project through completion, and is adept at working with various architectural and interior design styles.

Project by Warner Group Architects

For their prolific, distinctive work, Warner Group has been included in Architectural Digest’s 100 World’s Top Architects and Interior Designers and featured in California Homes, Hearth and Home, Veranda, Luxe, Robb Report, and Space.


  • Shahe Demirdjian

    Shahe is an Editor at Los Angeles Architects with around four years of experience as a writer and editor in the construction space. Shahe has always had a huge interest in commercial/residential construction and real estate. On top of his experience at Los Angeles Architects, he has two years of experience as a Construction Partner Specialist at BuildZoom and six years of experience as a licensed real estate agent. In his work, he takes advantage of his expertise to take complex technical jargon from those realms and transform them into accessible, engaging content, blending his business administration expertise with a degree from Arizona State University with his experiential insights.  Expertise: Architecture, Home Design and Build, Home Remodeling Key Highlights: Arizona Real Estate - Licensed Salesperson  Education: Arizona State University, Bachelors in Business Administration