Roman Holiday

Posted online: June 2017

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By Jennifer Blaise Kramer Photographs Trevor Tondro 

After two years away for work in San Francisco, Alina and Bernardo de Albergaria were eager to return to Santa Barbara with their three kids. Before moving to the Bay Area, they’d sold their beloved Upper Eastside home and wanted to find something with as much heart, soul, and history. The couple shares a storied past of living in historic areas from the Venezuelan Andes to Bath, England, to Rome, where Bernardo grew up next to the Spanish Steps. So when their realtor showed them not one but four George Washington Smith homes, they found a star along the American Riviera in a 1928 French Normandy ocean-view abode. “Because I spent nearly a decade of my youth in South America and Europe, I’ve always had a strong predilection for Spanish colonial and Old World architecture,” Alina says. “George Washington Smith houses seemed like a natural fit, and while I can’t say we knew we would live in one, they have always been at the top of our dream list.”

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This 5,700-square-foot, two-story, white-stucco home boasts dramatic rooflines and is dotted with original peek-a-boo windows painted the classic Santa Barbara green. French doors open up to a back patio overlooking the ocean with century-old olive trees. The previous owners recreated the gardens in the spirit of Lockwood de Forest—the property’s original landscape architect—with hedges, roses, lavender, magnolias, and espaliered lemon trees.

For the interiors, Alina lightened everything, turning the “basketball orange” wood floors to a light, beachy stain and painting the walls and beams white. As a jewelry designer and founder of Designs by Alina, she used her same method of mixing materials to juxtapose the soft and romantic with dark, rugged textures. Just as a statement necklace of hers melds hand-worked leather with pale, brilliant pavé diamonds, her dining room pairs dark hides on white floors and white seats with shiny black lacquer. “Whether I am designing a piece of jewelry or a living space, I am drawn to unconventional blends,” she says. “Combining diamonds and pearls with leather, for example, is as natural to me as infusing heirloom furnishings with modern pieces.”

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New and old is at every turn with generations of art and furniture woven into their home, hinting at all the scenes of their lives. Upstairs, photographs of the kids—twins Dario and Gisella (14) and daughter Tessalina (10)—are printed on stainless steel and chronicle their travels to Argentina, Morocco, Spain, and New York. In the sitting room, an old tapestry from Bernardo’s childhood home hangs near black-and-white photos of his mother modeling in the late 1950s. “Not only was I surrounded by architectural gems at literally every corner in the neighborhood, but my mother was also an avid antiques collector,” says Bernardo, a tech executive. “We still have pieces from my family homes in Rome and Portugal and we’re now able to marry old European pieces with this amazing example of New World history.”

Having taken the director’s seat for the interior design, Alina made sure their house is a real representation to who they are and how they live. “When I set out to design a space, I begin by trying to imagine how life would unfold in it. Our lifestyle is very relaxed, so even though we have antique pieces, which would look quiteformal in another setting, we make certain that they reflect us,” she says.

Screen Shot 2017-03-22 at 2.50.01 PMEnter the craze of life with two teens, a preteen, two dogs, and multiple languages being chattered around the dinner table. Any formality in furniture gives way to impromptu pool parties, a rowdy garage-turned-game room with Roman-themed wallpaper,  cocktails with friends on the deck, and weekend spins in the Fiat. On weekends, they pile into the book-lined library and light a roaring fire for family movie night. In effort to keep this room free of TVs and wires, Bernardo uses up a projector to screen films such as Up or Life is Beautiful on the wall.

Over the years, and many moves later, they’ve always named each house Casa Ventalia—a marriage of “Venezuela” and “Italia.” However Alina’s mother prefers Villa Alegria, which means “Happy Villa” because she says that everyone in it is always happy. Adds Alina: “A home to me is like a character in the movie of our lives, one that mirrors the personalities of the very people it embraces.”

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