explore the gaudí-inspired architecture of southern california's 'whale house'

explore the gaudí-inspired architecture of southern california's 'whale house'

a gaudí-inspired home in santa barbara, california


Nestled amidst Santa Barbara‘s quiet landscape of oak and sycamore trees, the so-called Whale House stands as a truly unique work of architecture. The project was conceived by the visionary designer Michael Carmichael in 1978, who took inspiration from the nature-based works of iconic architect Antoni Gaudí. This influence can be read clearly through the home’s organic, billowing forms and softened edges — the avant-garde Catalan style translated through an American lens with a skin of undulating cedar shingles. Thus, the house appears to camouflage into its wooded site. Now that is has just been listed for sale, Sotheby’s International Realty shares images of the Whale House, inviting viewers to explore its one-of-a-kind interiors.

whale house santa barbaraimages © Scott Gibson



step inside the whale house


With its hypnotic exterior of waving cedar shingles, the Whale House harmonizes with the natural backdrop of its Santa Barbara site. Its homogenous skin seems almost an extension of nature itself. Visitors are drawn inward through a unique entrance, which is sculpted to suggest the mouth of a whale. Once inside, visitors are immersed in a series of psychedelic spaces which span three levels, each revealing unexpected moments of organic architecture — from the stone-clad elevator shaft to a spiraling stairwell that connects the interiors with the fresh outdoors beyond.


Tree-filled views are framed through 270 Belgian leaded and stained glass windows, while the undulating walls are finished with Venetian plaster. Other noteworthy elements to be discovered include an interior bamboo courtyard, an outdoor shower, and a 75-foot lap pool that flows into the grotto of the whale’s tail.

whale house santa barbarathe home opens onto a bamboo courtyard

whale house santa barbara
the skin of cedar shingles fluidly engulfs the curved windows and doorswhale house santa barbara
generous windows follow the home’s unexpected contours whale house santa barbara
the structure includes massive wood columns and beams alongside rusticated stone walls


sculpted walls are finished with Venetian plaster

whale house santa barbaracontinuing along the interior, the shingle skin blurs the boundaries between outside and in


a 75-foot lap pool mimics a natural grotto



project info:


project title: The Whale House

architecture: Michael Carmichael

location: Santa Barbara, California

completion: 1978

status: listed for sale by Sotheby’s International Realty

photography: Scott Gibson

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