C California Style

Circle in the Sand

by C California Style

A polo-playing family escapes to Carpinteria

The home’s original adobe tower kiva.

The house that Rocio Gonzalez de Narvaez and her family decamp to for the summer, an adobe-walled dwelling set within the exclusive oceanfront enclave of Carpinteria’s Beach Club Road, may be the ultimate manifestation of a bohemian escape. Its front patio—“perfect for cooking asados,” says Rocio—is draped with African weave rugs and appointed with an Argentine leather campo chair; its light-drenched recessed living room beckons leisure-seekers with an assortment of Maison K pillows and a pulled-wool wall hanging by artist Taiana Giefer. Yet she cites the home’s unusual cylindrical blueprint as chief among its attributes. “I love the roundness,” adds the designer behind Rocio G, an accessories line spanning hand-sewn leather bags and shell-encrusted camisoles. It’s a fitting quality for the Buenos Aires native to call out, given the full-circle nature of her relationship to this idyllic corner of Southern California.


My father came to play polo in Santa Barbara in 1980, the year I was born, and since then we have not missed a summer,” she says. When Rocio married Paco de Narvaez (another world-class polo player, who has a 9-goal handicap), he too fell in love with the place. “I have friends with whom I spent summers playing up in a tree, who now have kids who play with mine,” she adds.


In the course of her 38-year pilgrimage, Rocio has inhabited spaces in Montecito and Summerland. Yet something about her current abode, a 1970s-era hideaway known as The Kiva House—replete with exposed wood ceiling beams, cement floors and a structural plan that borrows from Pueblo traditions—has come to mean home. That is, in addition to the couple’s South American properties: a residence in the Buenos Aires suburbs, a polo farm and ranch in the Argentine countryside of Pilar, and a rustic family compound in Patagonia.


Days start around 6:30 a.m.—“and we drink maté until 7:30,” Rocio says. After breakfast, daughter Begoña, 7, and son Paquito, 10, start classes with a tutor while their parents visit the barn to check on Paco’s horses and ride. Lunch follows, as does a beach siesta, and then it’s back to the barn, this time for the children to get their rides in while their father has practice games. “We drink maté after practice, where we meet other players and families. We go back home later, around 8 p.m., to start a fire to cook outside,” says Rocio, adding, “It’s very simple, very nourishing.”


The family’s transcontinental existence is, for Rocio, who is also an artist, a way to nurture her own creativity: “Argentina is raw; California is the wilderness tamed. And both places are beautiful and necessary for my inner balance,” she says. “My inspiration comes from this duality.” rociog.com.

Photography by NANCY NEIL.
Produced by GINA TOLLESON.


This article originally appeared in the Summer 2018 issue of C Magazine.