Set amidst a grove of mature oak trees with sweeping vistas of the ocean, mountains and channel islands, 875 Knollwood Drive, a magnificent French Country estate presents an uncompromising lifestyle where casual elegance meets sophisticated charm in an idyllic natural setting. Hidden away on a cul-de-sac behind a private gate, this exquisite home was masterfully rebuilt with the utmost attention to detail and with no expenses spared in quality and craftsmanship.

Owner’s Don Johnson and Kelley Phleger generously lent their time for a Q&A about the property and the surrounding area of Montecito with The Agency’s Kathrin Nicholson, Director, Residential Estates.

What made you want to move to Montecito?

D: The quality of life and the setting; this is about as close to being in the south of France without being in the south of France.

K: The perfect place to raise a family. Great schools, great atmosphere, safe.

D: The proximity to the sea, here you feel like the sea is apart of you. I’ve lived all over the world, and I’ve never found a place that had all of the things that make a place memorable and enjoyable on a daily basis, where you get up and say, “God I’m glad I live here.”

Why this house?

D: We looked at basically every house that was on the market and not on the market in Montecito… we spent 2.5 years almost 3 years doing that. It wasn’t until we walked into this house and said, “oh my gosh this is done.” The quality of construction, the first-rate design and the flow of the house.

K: The perfect blending between formal and informal.

D: It is elegant, but unpretentious. There are a lot of ways to live in Montecito and the only reason we are moving from this house is that we found another property and it is a horse property and we want to experience that way of living in Montecito.

What is your favorite room in the house?

D: Well the family room is my favorite room because I get to be with my family. My office is like a sanctuary; I can be on the phone and turn around in my chair and look out at the sea and forget who I am talking to.

The kids would say the trampoline and the media room; they love their bedrooms.

The atrium in the morning time during the winter, the light, it is heaven. I have my coffee out there in the mornings starting around October to May/ June.

What is the neighborhood like?

K: It is a great neighborhood to walk. It is a real walking neighborhood. Our street is very quiet because it is a cul-de-sac, that is another thing that we really love, there is not a lot of traffic.

Kelley you love to ride horses and now you are moving to a horse property?

K: When we moved up here, it is like Don said, there are many ways to live up here, and we just happened to run across a property that is more horse oriented and it is over where I ride. It is the horse neighborhood of Montecito. We love Montecito, Montecito is our home, we just thought it might be fun to try out a new way to live here.

What is your favorite restaurant in Montecito?

K: Mollie’s and San Ysidro Ranch

D: There’s The Hungry Cat downtown

Do you think Montecito is more of a vacation home destination? 

K: No, I think that you find that there are so many school aged children here, that you are immersed in your children and you feel like that’s the only thing that exists. If you are an older couple and you want to go take photography classes at the Brooks Institute, or play golf, or you are in to bridge, or tennis, then there is a whole social system for you. If you are more of the very social, couples-only, wining and trying new restaurants in Santa Ynez, then there is that whole group. If you are a really young family and you are working and have your little baby and it is just the two of you, you have that whole stretch of people. There are so many really enriched communities here that you can be apart of it and feel like that’s all that exists up here.

To learn more about 875 Knollwood Drive, visit its listing page here.