Sheltifying Santa Barbara – The Independent of Santa Barbara
Joy oozes through the walls of every Jeff Shelton project – the fun is in the details. From the Moroccan tile rugs of Pistachio House to the Escher-shaped staircase of El Jardin, the Seussian forms of Ablitt House and the original Vera Cruz building covered in art, touches of her fairy dust are sprinkled around the city. The art and joie de vivre infused into Jeff Shelton’s buildings are hard to miss.
While there is debate as to whether Pearl Chase, Bernhard Hoffmann, James Osborne Craig and the other founders of the Santa Barbara aesthetic would toast Shelton’s evolution from the town’s traditional style or would tear their hair by its Hispano-Mediterranean-Moorish roots, there is no doubt that this native son left his mark on our city. After almost 30 years of “sheltification” of the Santa Barbara cityscape, it shows no sign of slowing down.
Ongoing projects include residences in Mission Canyon, Carpinteria, and Cota Street, as well as the State Street sub-crossing project (expect to see tiled columns and whimsical iron fences guiding pedestrians from the beach to the downtown), and a tequila bar on the corner of Ortega and State.
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“I’m just trying to find good clients,” Shelton said. “It’s no fun with clients who don’t understand the process. I was lucky enough. The customers are the ones who make it work. They pay for everything, but they also have to trust this bunch of crazy people they work with.
Mary Beth Myers, whose Tower House was the first to be rebuilt in Montecito after the 2018 landslides, had nothing but praise for Shelton and her team. “Jeff is just a peach – he’s so creative, he has such a minimal ego and is so cooperative,” she said. “After all was said and done, the building process was an absolute joy. They are like a bunch of happy elves.
The leader of Shelton’s collaboration team – they call themselves a “guild” but have no financial connection – is Dan Upton, the entrepreneur who (along with Leon Olson) proposed Shelton a project at the 1021 Laguna Street in 1994. They have worked together ever since. .
“We’re fixing the problems,” Upton said. “Jeff comes up with these upbeat, fun ways of thinking and these fun ways to build and… we’re just happy to do the fun things. He draws and we say, “Make it as fun and interesting as you want it to be, and we’ll figure out how to build it.” “
For a man who specializes in creating curves and colors, Shelton is a pretty straight shooter. He loves his city, his team and his job – and it shows. As for her way of staying true to her artistic vision and working her way through Santa Barbara’s notoriously complicated approval process, “I just do what I think is best for each building and each lot,” said he explained. “My palette is the code and the site, the city and the inhabitants of the neighborhood. It’s an art, but ultimately no one cares about all of these details at the end of it. They just want to be able to enjoy a glass of wine comfortably and happily at home.
A guide to the guild
“First the tractors come in, and they assess the site,” Shelton explained of how one customer described his guild’s work, “then this happy bunch of craftsmen show up, and they laugh and they enjoy the job, and it’s like until they leave.
It certainly sounds like a joyous process. The Upton Construction team have played an important role in Shelton’s work, with Matt Metcalfe having recently taken over day-to-day operations with founder Dan Upton mostly retired.
Jeff’s brother’s architectural metalwork, lamps and other items from David Shelton Studios are an integral part of Jeff’s buildings. “I’m just like, ‘Dave, I’m going to make a balcony.’ I don’t even have to draw and he knows what to do, ”Shelton laughs.
Jeff’s wife Karin Shelton, a beautiful and accomplished artist in her own right, uses her paintbrush on various architectural projects and also helps with the Shelton line of fabrics, tiles and books. Their daughter Mattie Shelton is also on the team, working on fabrics, tiles and her own line of unique shelters called Shelton Huts. (Their other daughter, Elena Shelton, works as a doula.)
The “merry group” also includes sculptor / mason Andy Johnson; carpenter David Moseley; door and window specialist Royce Woodbury; lampshade by Saul Alcaraz of Santa Barbara Art Glass; ceramicist Linda Hail Godlis; California Pottery & Tile Works; Villa Lagoon tile; Plastering the specialty team; and artists Richard Wilke, Court Johnson, Katie Upton and Ben Ciccati, among others.
For about 15 years, the group has met at the James Joyce on Tuesday afternoons. “Jeff keeps a very accurate count of who shows up to James Joyce and when they come,” Upton said. “And at the end of the year, you get a medal if you were there the most or the least often.”
“I’m a big fan of pubs,” Shelton said. “They should be every half a mile, like a community lounge that’s a place where people of all ages can meet and hang out.”
Upton added, “It has been one of the great pleasures of my life to have this collaboration with Jeff to build the buildings that we have built.”
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