She’s Selling It–Her Forever House



So, earlier this week, I was getting ready for a quiet evening at home.   We had ordered Chinese Food because my parents had ordered it on Sunday and I was really, really craving some old fashioned won-ton soup.  It was a good news day:  the FBI hearing in Congress proved to be much more exciting than I thought it would be and I was looking forward to see what all the talking heads on TV were going to say about it.

In short:  Chinese food and politics.   It doesn’t get much better for me these day.

And then….

There it was.

A one sentence headline seen on the internet, that changed my plans. You would think I had just read “Joni Webb is selling her house!”

(Well, that’s a dream!!)

But, no, it wasn’t me of course, but Ellen and Portia.   And they weren’t selling their L.A. abode, they had just done that a while a short while ago.


They were selling Villa DeLimma, the Saladino renovated stone castle in Montecito. 

There went my quiet evening watching TV.  Instead my head was back in Santa Barbara, hurriedly writing a new blog story. 


You know their house.   The one that Ellen & Portia had claimed was going to be their “Forever” house.  Knowing Ellen, “forever” means about five years – on the long end. 

Ellen bought the villa in 2013.  2013.  For $26.5 million.  That’s four long “forever” years.  It’s on the market now for $45 million.

These excessive figures must give Saladino a bad case of angina just thinking about all the money he left on the table, selling too quickly, for too little.  Saladino had sold the villa to Tom Sturgess and his wife, who a year later sold it to Ellen & Portia for 26.5 million.  And now, three years later, the price has almost doubled.

Saladino spent years taking a ruined rubble and turning it into a masterpiece.  He almost went broke doing it.  He claimed he was selling it due to all the steps around the house and he wanted to downsize.  From this once in a lifetime project, he received satisfaction and critical acclaim and he produced one of the most gorgeous design books written.

What does Ellen get when she sells it?    

I’m not sure I’ve ever heard about a more restless person.  With all the money in the world, having lived in some of the most gorgeous houses ever built – can’t she just settle down and be “at home.”  Honestly, it’s the weirdest thing.

I know creative people get bored after they finish a project and look around and say – what’s next?  But she didn’t really create this.  She paid for it and then went shopping.



After researching Mar A Lago last month, I learned that Marjorie Merriweather Post actually helped to create the fantastic houses and country estates she lived in.  And, she seemed to hold onto her property for decades; her children and grandchildren have written about their happy family memories of growing up at Mar A Lago and Camp Topridge. 

  What did Marjorie M. Post have that Portia and Ellen lack?  Why can’t these two put down stakes and feel content? 

It must be children, I suppose,  children and their friends fill up a house with laughter and love, creating memories.  It’s not about just buying the hottest vintage piece of furniture that your decorator can charge you for.  It’s about permanence.


Ellen wrote a design book about this house.  It was shown in many photoshoots, where she talked about how much they loved their forever house.  It’s no one’s fault if they believed what they said.


Earlier in 2012, the couple owned a nearby Malibu beach house once owned by Brad Pitt.  They sold it after a year because it just wasn’t “right” even though it was so close to L.A.

They also owned a fabulous ranch outside of LA in Hidden Valley which they could get to quickly and Portia could ride her beloved houses.  She had stables for them, which was stuffed to the rafters by Ellen and her decorator.


They published the ranch in a moody Elle Decor spread.  But the writing was on the wall.  It was over by then – the story was really a Real Estate advertisement.  They were on the move.  When I heard their landing spot was Saladino’s old spot – I thought that they will be there for a few years, they will spend a fortune changing a perfectly perfect villa, they will then get it published, probably write a design book about it, and then they will move on.

  “Forever house.” 

I wonder why they even feel obligated to say that.  A three year Forever House.  And, when Ellen’s design book came out – she never once mentioned John Saladino’s involvement.  Not once. She only discussed the original 1920s architect Wallace Frost.  She repeats this in the new real estate brochure.  I’m sure Saladino loves that.  It’s as if he didn’t have anything to do with the Villa at all.  


And so…it’s for sale.  They were selling it because “they don’t spend as much time in Santa Barbara as they would like.”  OMG.  Seriously?

I could have told them that years ago and saved them all the hassle, expense, and humiliation. 

Ellen says:  "If you think of your home as a canvas – regardless of its style or architecture – you can put anything on it. I tend to keep painting the painting until it's so done, there's nothing left to do. That's when I sell the canvas and buy a new one." 

Except a house is not a painting.   

The last time I wrote about the house where I showed the new photos of it from Ellen’s book, I swore it would be the last time.  But I knew it probably wouldn’t be.  There have been whispers and rumblings.   Gossip Cop claimed a story which OK Magazine printed was a lie:  it said Portia was “livid” with Ellen because she put their Hollywood Hills up for sale because she “craves stability” and “doesn’t want to pack up and move every six months.” Gossip Cop claimed that although they did sell their house last August, they “aren’t moving yet again.”  Huh?  OK.  The house sold but they aren’t moving? 

Then an Australian real estate probable-huckster claimed that the couple were interested in a house Down Under.  Portia is from the country and when the couple make their next trip there, they have an appointment to see this “fabulous” property with a custom built house:


So, let me understand this.  Montecito is just too far from L.A., so they are now going to buy this estate in Australia????????


And no offense, but has the Australian real estate agent seen the Villa they are selling???????   I mean, come on!  No way this story is true.  I  mean, I wouldn’t doubt it that the wacky couple would buy a new house in Australia for a quick get away, but it’s not this house.

And there is the decor style line, ED, that Ellen developed with Thomasville and she sells it HERE at BBB.   I have to say her line is fabulous.  It all makes sense too.  The launch for her goods was March 7.  Just in time that photos of the house filled with the original inspirations for her line.  My head swims.  

When I last wrote about the Villa, of course I missed the John Saladino interiors.  The master of antiques and textures, known for deep colors contrasted with lilacs, the genius had created a perfect house – with not a missed detail.

Of course I couldn’t stand what Ellen did to the house. But, with time, and a new series of stunning photographs, with new styling and editing, I have to say this:  wow.  It really looks good.  Within reason.   Maybe it’s because it’s so new.

Ellen built a new guest house/pool house on the property  - it’s contemporary but it’s a perfect ying to the yang of the original stone villa.

I’m anxious to see if you will soften to Ellen decor like I have.  It’s also amazing to see how much has changed in the house in just three years.  Some rooms look so different than it did when they first moved in.  I don’t know the current designer.      

But it looks good, the only thing it lacks is the pitter patter of tiny feet!!! 




  The front gates.  A winding road of 1/4 of a mile takes you to the villa.


  I’m noticing things in this new collection of photos I’ve never seen before – like, the red tiled roof through the gateposts.  Was that house always there or is it new?


John’s incredible agaves. The eucalyptus trees are original.  



The front court.  The interior of the area to the left of the arch is finally seen, later.


BEFORE:    When Ellen first moved in, she filled the loggia with an accumulation of wood and bronze pieces.  And she added these gates to keep her dogs safe, I suppose. These gates were one of the biggest changes she made.


TODAY:  the space has been edited and looks much better.  It’s Japanese in feel.  The hanging plant is wonderful.  It looks good.


At dusk, it’s even more  romantic with the dining room window open.  



BEFORE:  Originally Ellen styled the courtyard with bright colors that were garish looking.


Today:  All the styling is now gone and what remains is an interesting collection of outdoor furniture.   Up the stairs is the terrace off the master & “Betty’s” bedroom.


Today.  Not my first choice, of course, but I have to say the furniture is great looking.  That stone chair!  The table!  The umbrella!


  TODAY:  The entrance.  The dining room and kitchen is to the left while the living room and master bedrooms are to the right.    A fountain is on the site line from the front door to the back side of house and the breakfast room.




  BEFORE:   The Saladino Living Room which is one of my all-time favorite living rooms.   I’m not sure there is more perfection in design than this.


BEFORE:   Earlier for Ellen’s book, she designed the room with her paintings and her collection of furniture.


  TODAY:  More editing.  The coloring of these photos is really beautiful.  I like the rug, a lot.  It’s like a soft wool neutral version of a seagrass.  It’s a good alternative to one.  I love the table piled high with books – it warms up the space.  I still hate the art work, but the room does look better and it fits the house.


And looking the other direction – with its more colorful view.  


BEFORE:    The foyer between the living room and the master bedrooms.   This is how the space looked under Saladino.


Before:   Originally Ellen used French antiques in this foyer. 



  Today:  Styled by Ellen for her book, this room looks completely different.  Very sophisticated with a Moroccan rug and a contemporary light fixture.


And there is this:  Strangely, a few photos of the house showed up on the internet, with furniture that obviously wasn’t Ellen’s.  It’s possible she rented out her house to be photographed for a furniture collection.



  BEFORE:   The master bedroom under Saladino with its double wood doors that open to the front courtyard and the back yard. 


  TODAY:   Here, the bedroom is a sea of taupe and gray, very soothing and very pretty.  I’ve never seen this angle of the room showing its fireplace, before.  That was interesting to me.  


  TODAY:   And here you can see the view of the ocean from this room.  So beautiful.  Additionally are the two doors to closets – those weren’t there before. 


  BEFORE:  Under Saladino, the master bedroom was furnished with a combination of antiques.  Those candlesticks! 


Today:  Here, it looks rather good, still.  The windows and that tiny fireplace. 


Off the master bedroom is the gravel terrace that overlooks the pool and the Pacific.   Sigh.   I would live out here!


And the view towards the Pacific.  I love all the agaves that Saladino planted.  They are such a fabulous addition to the landscaping with their velvet gray color.   


The view from the master bedroom terrace down towards the swimming pool.


BEFORE:   Past the master bedroom foyer is the second master bedroom, this one was Betty’s suite- all in greens. 


Today:  A view of the bedroom with its tiny corner fireplace.   This bedroom is much larger than it seemed before.


BEFORE:  The Saladino dining room.  Oh, it was beautiful.  So pretty.



Before:  When Ellen first moved in, she used curtains like Saladino.  I never understood this.



I’m  sorry,  I just never liked the bug sculpture in the corner or the art or the lighting fixture.  The light is there because it’s a chic name, not because it adds anything, certainly not beauty.  It’s too small.  It’s too white. 


Today:  And then there is this weird photo that showed up, of her house with other furniture in it.  It’s pretty – I like it so much better than Ellen’s decor.  The chairs and table are chic.  I just wish I could find more of these photos and why were they taken? 


The kitchen.  Perfection.   Through the back faux refrigerator door is the upstairs office.


Today:  The  dining  room. 


BEFORE:  Ellen styled the area outside the breakfast room and leading off the foyer – with bright colors.


Today the area looks much starker and grayer.  Upstairs are the guest bedrooms.



The fountain off the foyer and breakfast room.    The trees are just incredible.



BEFORE:  The gravel terrace off the foyer and breakfast room – under Saladino.  Gorgeous.  Why does his trademark periwinkle look so great here???



Today:  The same gravel terrace off the entry with its open doors, and the guest rooms above.  I always liked Saladino’s table and chairs better.


The same view at dusk.



BEFORE:   Off the entrance loggia and kitchen is this sitting area, under Saladino.


  Today:  Here it is under Ellen.  I rather like this. A lot.  I like the rug.  This is just perfect.  I even like the art work!



  BEFORE:  Under Saladino, the office off the kitchen faux door.


Today:  Portia used this as an art studio.


BEFORE:   Above the dining room and kitchen area is the row of the guest rooms.  Saladino used the only carpet in the house in these rooms. 


Today:  Ellen uses this a sitting room for guests.  It looks like she keep the Saladino curtains.


The  guest rooms are all pretty.  I like the soothing colors and I like the bedding – which is similar to the ones sold in Ellen’s line.


BEFORE:  One of the rooms decorated by Saladino.


TODAY:   The same room by Ellen.  Most of the furniture seen in the house came from her other houses – you start to recognize the pieces, the art, and furniture.   This is my favorite of all the guest rooms.  I love this decor – it’s warm and inviting and cozy.  I love the antique portraits.


  Today:  this large room that has never been seen before.  


BEFORE:   The media room that is off the front courtyard as decorated by Saladino.


Today:  The media room by Ellen. I never had seen the floor before – it’s interesting.   Love that art work!! 


  Terribly bad Bing Earth map – but #1 shows the Villa.  #2 shows the new guest house Ellen built and #3 shows the tennis courts.  Before, the area where the guest house/pool were built – it was in a clearing which is probably why this spot was chosen.    Apparently, the estate is now almost 17 acres – two additional properties were acquired to add to the property.


  A view of the guest house in the clearing with the sunken tennis court in the forefront.


I knew they had built the guest house – they said it was the one of the things they wanted to do.  Not sure why they needed even more guest rooms when they never had enough time to use the house to begin with, but it was beautifully designed.  In front is a long lap pool encased with stone like the Villa.


And the view towards the Pacific.  Must be a gorgeous way to spend the day by this pool!!!


A stone terrace leads to the porch with its metal roof.   The house is called Jordan Hall.


Inside the covered porch. 


Past the porch the guest house reveals itself.  It’s very large space with a pool table in the center and seating on each side.   Like the Villa, the walls are stone and the ceiling is wood.   The stone was excavated from the property.


Looking the other direction at the bar, which is a piece of sculpture.  Notice the glass shelves behind the bar!  What a great party house!


The bar is a pure work of art.  It’s incredible.  I’m sure it’s a geometrical shape, but since math isn’t my thing, I”m not sure which it is. 


In the back section, the roof and wall change.  The back opens to a focal point terrace. 


  I’ve never seen so many flatscreens!!!!

Isn’t this beautiful?  I really love the guesthouse – it’s a good addition, especially if a family with 10 children buys the house – just kidding!! 


The back garden – with a gorilla focal point.  I think.


The kitchen, is weathered wood and contemporary stainless.


The outdoor kitchen.  Now this is a great table and chairs for the Villa!  Wonder why she didn’t have one up at the main house?   That’s a pizza oven, naturally.


The eucalyptus trees.


The bathroom.


  With its outside soaking tub.

It all really does have a Japanese vibe.


  Below the house is the sunken tennis court.


How can you leave this?   I don’t know.  I really don’t understand it.  In search of better or bigger, good luck.  This 1920 house has a charm that few do.   I have no doubt the couple have already either bought another house or have one in mind.  Closer to L.A.  Their “forever house.”   Really, really this time.


To order Ellen’s HOME book, click on the above photo.




Go HERE to see Ellen’s large home decor line.  I love the bedding – it’s just like at her Villa and the rugs are great too, especially the prices!  HERE



Here is Rustic meets Industrial which is what Ellen’s look really is.  Go HERE.


Ready for spring?   Darling umbrellas HERE.