Appily Ever After On The Bumble Abode

Having disrupted modern dating and stepped down as CEO, Whitney Wolfe Herd’s new Montecito home offers a change of pace

Words by ELIZABETH KHURI CHANDLER
Photography by DEWEY NICKS
Sittings Editor GINA TOLLESON

 

Whitney and Michael with their younger son and one of their Quarter horses. KHAITE sweater, $1,980. Vintage LEVI’S jeans.

 

On a heavy-clouded Santa Barbara morning, Whitney Wolfe Herd and Michael Herd open the heavyset doors leading into their traditional Spanish courtyard. The two square mirrored fountains are bubbling, rosemary lines the shaded patios, and a hint of woodsmoke mingles in the air with the damp fresh smell of green leaves. Already you’re in another world, one of 1845 adobes, olive trees, widow’s walks, and wisteria winding down porches, with a patch of deep blue sea in the distance and craggy mountains to the north. Ask the couple how they found their house and you can almost hear them exhale in bliss. When Whitney walked into the lush, tropical grounds of their Montecito summer home in 2022, she says, “It felt very spiritual — and that’s what I needed at this chapter in my life.”

For a decade, the pages had been turning rapidly for Whitney. The Salt Lake City native cofounded the dating app Tinder in Los Angeles, extricated herself from that organization in 2014, and moved to Austin, Texas, where she developed and founded its hyper-successful competitor Bumble. Centered on female-empowered relationships and kindness, the app lets straight women contact men first — a major innovation in the space at the time. Whitney then expanded to other offerings, including friendship and professional networking. The company became an even bigger success, going public in 2021 and reaching 1.9 million paying users at the end of 2022, which translated to $1.1 billion in annual revenue. It was the fast-paced life of a CEO of a publicly traded company: earnings calls, quarterly shareholder meetings, and board dynamics.

 

 

Meanwhile, in her personal world, she had married Texan Michael, whom she met skiing in Aspen, and had two young boys, Bobby and Henry. When her sons were 3 and almost 1, “I looked in the mirror and I was like, ‘OK. I have 10 years behind me of grind. No sleep, no health. What am I doing?’” she says.

Enter the house. Originally built in 1845 on San Leandro Ranch, the adobe has changed hands many times, even serving as a dairy farm, before being built out in 1917 by insurance executive, polo lover, and Ennisbrook nomenclator Herbert C. Cox as well as subsequent owners, including Ellen DeGeneres. Today two classic fountains bisect a traditional Spanish-style courtyard, enclosed on three sides by the original adobe and two similarly styled buildings. Turnout pastures and an arena frame the southern side of the property. Small outdoor eating areas are tucked in every nook and cranny. Whitney had seen the hacienda online years before and added it to her mood board. It had seemed like a nice daydream, she recalls. When it went back on the market, a friend called and said, “This is the perfect house for you and Michael.”

Tucked away in the folksy Ennisbrook neighborhood of Montecito next to a 44-acre preserve, it felt like a “magical, mystical escape, where you could meditate under a tree,” she says. It was exactly what she had been craving after “living on an airplane for eight years.”

 

“Horses are very empowering. They’re old souls”

WHITNEY wolfe HERD

 

 

But it wasn’t just the charm of the Old California home that appealed to Whitney: She knew that to get her husband on board, horses were key. Michael is about as close to a real-life cowboy as you can get. Hailing from an oil and gas family in Tyler, Texas, he spent most of his weekends on his grandparents’ quail ranch. “You know the show Dallas?” he asks. “Every oil and gas man has a quail ranch.” On weekends Michael worked with an old cowboy (aptly named Hollis) to build out his grandparents’ property. They constructed roads and fences and spent hours doing manual labor; Hollis also taught him how to “rope and ride.” Michael went on to compete in rodeos throughout his college years at Texas Tech and continues to compete today.

When Whitney showed Michael the property, his reaction was equally enthusiastic. To find a property where stables are so close to the house is rare anywhere, they explain, particularly in Montecito. Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi were selling the house for the second time. They had bought in 2017 for $7 million and sold it to Tinder cofounder Sean Rad for $11 million; in 2021, Rad sold the ranch back to DeGeneres for $14.3 million. This time the house was on the market for $21 million. Would Whitney be the second Tinder cofounder to buy that house?

 

The old adobe barn where the Herds keep their three horses.

 

The Herds didn’t hesitate and haven’t looked back. “I went from living in the future — chasing the next greatest innovation, high pace, high frequency,” Whitney says. “This felt old-world.” When they walk into their kitchen their view of the ocean isn’t from a giant glass box, Michael points out, but a simple rectangle, which feels timeless: “It makes you realize that you’re here for a short time, and you have to savor every moment.”

The property’s collection of buildings also adds a village-like feel. One structure houses a primary living area and a main kitchen; another building has the laundry, playroom, and a second kitchen. Still another edifice fits a movie theater and a guest wing.

The Herds spend lots of time curled up in front of the fireplace reading, enjoying family dinners, cooking at home, playing cards, and having lunches with friends. The vibe is comfortable and classic but not too formal. Whitney likes Loro Piana fabrics and clothing, Paris (she attended sixth grade in the City of Light), quality over quantity, a little equestrian flair. The decor needs to have the “kind of furniture the kids can make forts with and the cushions will fit when you put them back,” she says, laughing.

 

“It felt very spiritual — and that’s what I needed at this chapter in my life”

WHITNEY wolfe HERD

 

BODE jacket, $2,800. Vintage LEVI’S jeans.

 

One recent afternoon she held a small lunch for her favorite psychic, Laura Lynn Jackson, the author of Signs and The Light Between Us. “A group of girls came for La Scala salad [one of Whitney’s favorites from the L.A. eatery] and learned about how to tap into our inner knowing and how to channel things,” she says. “We don’t have many serious or traditional events. This is not a ladies-who-lunch home. We gather, hang, and tell stories.”

And her two boys, now ages 4 and 2, run wild. Every morning, they get up at five o’clock, play together for a while, and go outside to pick flowers for their mother. It’s a romantic gesture, which is ironic considering Whitney is considered a feminist dating-app innovator and she’s “engulfed in boyland.” Even the three Quarter horses and three Labrador retrievers are boys.

“We can’t get our 2-year-old off the horse,” Whitney says. Most afternoons they load their Quarter horses in a trailer and drive five minutes to Loon Point Beach, where the whole family can ride along the water. That in itself was a turning point. Although her Californian mother, Kelly, played polo and her sister, Danielle, was an equestrian, Whitney always preferred to sit in the car and read rather than go out riding because she was allergic. She hadn’t really been on a horse until she met Michael, she admits. “I got her on the horse when I proposed to her, though,” he says.

“And now I’m really into it,” Whitney answers, almost surprised. “Horses are empowering. You have to trust them and have confidence because if you are scared, they freak out. They’re incredibly therapeutic, healing. They’re old souls.”

 

“We’re so yin and yang… it’s a beautiful balance”

WHITNEY wolfe HERD

 

 

A year after the couple bought the home, Whitney was able to realize every entrepreneur’s dream of handing off the company role of CEO and becoming board chair. She selected former Slack CEO and technologist Lidiane Jones as her successor. “It’s how the story was supposed to go,” she says.

Becoming chair has opened up opportunities for her to be creative as she helps Bumble expand, and perhaps tell her story in a new format and focus on philanthropy for women’s issues. Meanwhile, her success story has captured the imagination of others; a new movie centered on her life story and the building of Bumble will star actress Lily James. “I don’t quite know how to feel about that,” she muses. “We’ll see it when everyone else does.” Her husband is equally busy in the philanthropic department, running his family’s foundation (which supports higher education, health, and human services) and the family office, and of course competing in team roping (a rodeo event in which two riders rope horses in tandem) in Texas and Colorado. As usual, it all works.

“We’re so yin and yang,” Whitney says. “I’ve been living behind a computer screen for 10 years.”

“And my life has been so offline,” Michael adds.

“It’s a beautiful balance,” she says.

 

HELSA sweater, $258. B-LOW THE BELT belt, $168. Vintage LEVI’S jeans.

 

Styling by EMILY LAFITTE
Makeup by GINA BROOKE BEAUTY

 

KIERNAN SHIPKA wearing CHANEL.

 

Feature image: Whitney Wolfe Herd stands in front of the patio of the original 1845 adobe structure built by Nemecio Dominguez. The original ranchero was 365 acres. HELSA top, $208, and skirt, $278. Archive GIORGIO ARMANI belt.

 

This story originally appeared in the Summer 2024 issue of C Magazine.

Discover more STYLE news.

 

See the story in our digital edition

 


Receive Updates

No spam guarantee.

Stay Up To Date

Subscribe to our weekly emails for the hottest openings, latest parties and in-depth interviews with the people putting California Style on the map.