Architecture Digest: Inside John Mellencamp's Remote Montecito Home

AD By Elizabeth Quinn Brown

On his 1983 album, Uh-Huh, John Mellencamp sang, “Little pink houses for you and me, oh yeah, for you and me.” But, in 2022, the iconic musician is humming about a little white house in Montecito, California.

“Quite honestly, I see it as a place for me to go with an invited guest,” he explains, from his suite at the Hotel Bel-Air in Los Angeles. “It does have a very romantic feel to it. I’m above the clouds. The view is like, wow.”

Put more specifically, the former ranch is positioned on one of the peaks of Santa Barbara’s Toro Canyon, a perch which yields bracing views all the way out to the Pacific Ocean. Situated on six acres, the retreat is a remote one. “You get this thing, particularly at night when the winds blow. . . it takes a certain kind of colorful person to want to be up there [at the very top].”

Mellencamp recruited his roadies to redo the three-bedroom house in three weeks, repainting the interiors in fresh white (including the brick and the wood beams). A storage room was reimagined as an art studio for Mellencamp, whose paintings explore Americana through a lens influenced by the German expressionists of the 1900s. (“That’s what I do, I paint,” he says. “I’m a singer-songwriter, that’s my real job, but I paint every day. I’m very lucky, I’ve lived an artist’s life.”)

As with his other homes (which include residences in Indiana and New York), Mellencamp collaborated with his friend of 45 years, Trevor Goff. Here, Goff recreated his signature lived-in interiors: masculine, shabby furnishings with scatterings of industrialized references (for example, the Ridley motorcycle in the living room). Some of the pieces were sourced from Mellencamp’s three warehouses of furniture in Bloomington, Indiana, while others were purchased from purveyors such as L.A.’s Big Daddy’s Antiques. “They have really odd, old, one-of-a-kind pieces of furniture,” Mellencamp explains. “Stuff you don’t see everywhere, [and] Trevor knows what I like.”

Mellencamp is particularly fond of his Montecito living room, which is decorated with brown leather chairs and tattered rugs. Dark details, like hanging steel lights, punctuate the space. Some of the musician’s works can be seen on the walls, interspersed with softer pieces of art. (For example, a modern impressionistic painting by Donna Schuster can be seen above the mantle.) But the defining characteristic of the interior is a projector and screen setup. “It’s fantastic,” Mellencamp says. “I spend a lot of time watching old films. It’s really [cozy] at night. During the day. . . you don’t even see that it’s there.”

Fittingly, it was a 1961 western starring Marlon Brando that inspired Mellencamp’s Montecito home purchase. He remembers discussing it with Goff, who was the one to locate the charming property in the first place: “I said, look, there’s a movie called One-Eyed Jacks and, in the movie, Karl Malden lives in this little adobe right on the ocean. And I said, I’ll tell you what, if you find that little, teeny Spanish house. . . I don’t want a great big house, I’ve got enough of those.”

John Mellencamp’s home in Montecito, California, is situated on six acres of land at a mountainous peak within Santa Barbara’s Toro Canyon. “All my houses are art projects,” Mellencamp reflects.

The interiors of this aerie are eclectically decorated—from a Ridley motorcycle to vintage mannequins, which were sourced from Big Daddy’s Antiques in Los Angeles.

The art collection includes works by artists such as Marvin Cherney and Tim Okamura. The custom track-arm sofa is decorated with an assortment of pillows.

Designer Trevor Goff honored the house’s bones when thinking of his own decor scheme. The kitchen’s island and nearby light fixture came with it, as did the stained glass window.

The primary bedroom nods to the house’s Spanish influence, in part thanks to the iron canopy bed. This room’s items were sourced from John Mellencamp’s three warehouses in Bloomington, Indiana, Big Daddy’s Antiques in Los Angeles, and The Well in Santa Barbara.

As in the kitchen, the bathroom’s light fixture came with the house, although it has been refreshed with filament bulbs. The white brick and tiles work in contrast to the dark wood details.

John Mellencamp’s own paintings decorate the window of this second bedroom. It features custom upholstery in shades of blue, which are reminiscent of the musician’s denim jackets.

The dark wood pieces in this room include African sculptures, which were sourced from John Mellencamp’s three Bloomington warehouses.

John Mellencamp has an art studio in each of his houses. His paintings have been influenced by the German expressionists of the 1900s.

The deck is rustic, furnished with chairs and tables from The Well in Santa Barbara. The limestone spheres help make for a statement.