Builder Crush: Shane Mahan of Kitchell Custom Homes

1. How did you get your start in the industry and how did your career evolve by the time Kitchell Custom Homes came into your life?

Growing up in Hawaii, I was exposed to the design and build industry through friends and family.  I enjoyed drawing and working with my hands.  Originally, I thought I wanted to be an architect, but ultimately realized my passion was building. I joined up with Kitchell out of college and was fortunate to work on a project that I. M. Pei designed as well as a seismic retrofit to a Frank Lloyd Wright building in Northern California.  Kitchell Custom Homes, our luxury residential division, was asked to restore and renovate the famous Four Seasons Biltmore in Santa Barbara and I was asked to oversee the project.  Although this was a commercial project in terms of scale and time-lines, the quality and detailing were very high-end and custom. This, along with the personal relationships with the client and Four Seasons, are why I fell in love with luxury residential building.

2. The firm works on luxury homes throughout California, Arizona, Colorado, and Hawaii; what’s distinct about California style and Santa Barbara in particular?

California is an amazing place. There aren’t too many places where you can be at the beach in 70-degree weather and in the snow a few hours later. Our clients not only build amazing living spaces but also invest heavily in their outdoor environments to take advantage of this climate.  One home Kitchell Custom Homes built that exemplifies the Santa Barbara sensibility is Villa Della Costa. Featuring the architecture of Jock Sewall and interiors by the noted luxury design firm Mark Weaver & Associates, the home, which combines timeless ranch-style architecture in a modern Mediterranean context, sits perched high in the hills of Santa Barbara overlooking the Pacific Ocean on 106 acres.  Fine craftsmanship, including premium woodworking, cabinetry, and custom lighting is displayed throughout the residence. With vaulted ceilings and oversized windows that capture the entire landscape, the breathtaking Santa Barbara Gaviota Coast can be appreciated from every perspective.  Outdoor features, in addition to the pool and hot tub, include a pool terrace, cabana, outdoor kitchen and shower.

3. How do you strike a perfect balance between aesthetics and durability?  

My approach is solutions based. I try to give as many options as possible to the architect, interior designer and client that we feel can achieve the aesthetic goals of the project and stand the test of time.

4. Tell us about the renovation of the Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara.  

We partnered with the client and Four Seasons (operator) on a historically sensitive renovation to the Biltmore Hotel in Santa Barbara which was originally designed by Reginald Johnson in the 1920’s and was considered the “jewel” of the 18-hotel Biltmore chain. It took us 3 years and 12 phases, while the hotel remained under operation, to finish the project.  The owner was very passionate about the quality and details of his “200-room custom home” and wanted a partner that shared his passion and expertise to execute.

5. Who is your dream celebrity client and why?  

Our clients tend to be very low-key and private. I haven’t built for a celebrity…yet.

6. Describe your ideal vacation.  

A combination of exploration and relaxation at a place I haven’t been before.  Last year my wife and I spent two weeks in Thailand and it was amazing.  What a beautiful country.

Lightning round!

7. Pancakes or waffles?  

Pancakes…with crispy edges. My kids love the lemon-ricotta pancakes from Scarlett Begonia in Santa Barbara.

8. Classical or classic rock?  

Classic Rock.

9. Netflix or night out?  

Good one! Mid-week, I like Netflix and weekends I prefer a night out.

10. Dance machine or wallflower?  

WALLFLOWER!