The small town of Ojai in the Ojai Valley is one-of-a-kind. Surrounded by mountains and hills, the valley breathes life to vineyards, farmlands, and nature's beauty. For a long time, the region has inspired creatives. Among them, architects have designed homes that complement the environment with timeless dignity. If you're in the market for a piece of Ojai real estate, it's never too early to get an idea of what you're looking for. This guide will help familiarize the architecture of Ojai homes to help you refine your vision.
Spanish Colonial Revival
Before Ojai began its evolution as a town in 1873, the land belonged to important Spanish political socialite Fernando Tico. Just one of the many Spanish benefactors of 21 missions across Alto California, Tico lived in a vast estate, overseeing cattle raised in the valley before they were used for the hide and tallow trade. Estancias such as his were the inspiration for future Ojai buildings.
San Diego architect Richard Requa was hired to design a Spanish-style village that would unify the look and feel of buildings all over the valley. One of his most notable works in Ojai is the Saint Thomas Aquinas Chapel
. It’s a perfect example of Spanish Colonial Revival, which is popular throughout the town. Spanish Colonial Revival follows style elements found in Mediterranean homes and Spanish missions. Architecture from these regions is designed to promote a cool interior when the weather is incredibly hot. A familiar element in these types of homes is exposed wooden beams. The beams were once necessary for structural support. Nowadays, they serve a different purpose as statement pieces. You'll often find them in high-traffic areas, lending to the rustic charm of the home. Exterior walls painted in light colors reflect more sunlight, adding an aesthetic backdrop for any interior decor.
The Craftsman home has a style that is easily recognizable from both indoors and out. “Craftsman” as a name comes from the original intention for the design. How? Thanks to the Arts and Crafts movement, which swirled around the United States after its initial surge in Europe. The movement chose handmade and handcrafted materials over those produced industrially. During the mid-19th century, which birthed this style, people were concerned about the effects of industrial life, especially when they had to uproot their lifestyles to suit the dynamic changes of the time. While people were looking for new livelihoods, the Arts and Crafts movement gave them a chance to apply skills in different ways and contribute to the building of new homes.
These skillsets are still highly evident in Ojai’s own Craftsman-style homes. A Craftsman's appearance has proven to be highly desirable as it never comes across as dated. The use of natural woods, stones, and bricks is at the forefront of this timeless design. Displayed all throughout the home to emphasize the fine details, the materials used show careful thought went into each piece as the home was constructed. Decorative elements such as exposed beams, stone fireplaces, and built-in furnishings allow homeowners to prioritize function over decoration. As Ojai shifted towards ranch-style homes, the Craftsman was practically left behind. But that doesn't mean there aren't a few statement Craftsman homes throughout the valley!
An excellent example of an Ojai Craftsman is the Pratt House, otherwise known as the Casa Barranca. Ojai residents today will recognize the space as a bed and breakfast that is part of the Casa Barranca Winery. The bungalow home places emphasis on its details, which are art pieces in themselves. Now a national historic landmark, this 1909 building was subtly inspired by Japanese architecture. The architects, Charles and Henry Greene, wanted the home to feel unified with the land around it. Drawing on the Shangri-La ambiance of the Ojai Valley, the Pratt House was designed as a source of joy, health, and well-being.
Ranch-style homes have few things in common with their Spanish neighbors, daring to branch out into new design concepts. The popular Spanish Colonial Revival offered homeowners a sectioned layout. But the open floor plan provides the ranch home with unparalleled ease to the main areas. A mid-century home design with a simplistic approach, the ranch home often features a rectangular footprint or a mild variation of one. The living and sleeping areas are placed on opposite sides of the house to increase the feeling of privacy.
Many of the design decisions involved in the ranch home are made with nature in mind. The single-story design makes the home unobtrusive to the landscape. The use of large windows and sliding glass doors in combination with substantial deck areas promotes the inclination towards indoor-outdoor living. This trend has grown in popularity — and for a good reason. Access to these dual-purpose indoor/outdoor spaces increases the home's value and promotes better mental health. A win-win! California and the Ojai Valley are among the best places to utilize this design style, and because of this, ranch-style homes are among the most commonly requested and constructed homes in Ojai.
As Ojai moves into the future of design, homes see more and more inclusion of contemporary architecture. Known as the move towards modern design, the contemporary trends are ever-changing and highly relevant to the year in which they were implemented. These trends seek to break the mold of home architecture while preserving the need to maintain the function, form, and feel of the house. In recent years, this has meant the use of styles that flatter an indoor and outdoor lifestyle. Simple, often open floor plans are the templates for New Age design ideas and principles. These styles often have some type of eye-catching focal point. Whether it’s massive windows for taking in a gorgeous view, a conversation-starting living wall, or striking roof asymmetry, the home is an extension of the owner’s style and a modern art piece to be appreciated.
The contemporary home nods to past design successes without absorbing them completely. In fact, the style itself highlights the innate need to be different from the past. Using materials in new ways to innovate and create a space that is distinctive and irreplicable, contemporary as a style is an evolution of the way people use their homes. Homes no longer need both formal and casual places to eat or separate living rooms to entertain guests. New contemporary homes have removed these rooms from the floor plan to streamline the function of the space. The appearance of the interior and exterior are not sacrificed in this transition.
Victorian homes were known for their extravagance because owners felt the need to decorate their homes to show off their wealth. Nowadays, homeowners value the same elegance, but in another form. Instead of showing off by adding more, we highlight key features by stripping away excess materials. The design of the home is beautiful and unique in construction, without as much need for additional adornments.
Since the Valley of Ojai is nestled inside the Topatopa Mountains, it’s really no wonder why hillside homes have made an appearance. In fact, some of the most spectacular homes in Ojai are tucked on a hill overlooking the valley. It’s no secret the valley is magical in its own right, given the famous Ojai pink moment, and the view is something a number of home architects have sought to capture. If it’s not the sunset, it’s the serene nature that surrounds the area. Beautiful summers highlight the lush greenery while winter deposits snow on the tallest peaks in the range. All of this is to say these photogenic qualities are ideal for the feeling that you’re living in a luxurious location.
The architecture of the home is unique to those built on traditional foundations. Often, these lots are not flat. Instead, there’s a challenge to building homes on a sloped lot. Not only that, you have to take into account how much the soil beneath the structure will move over time thanks to the weather and other natural occurrences. Additional codes must be met in order to assure the safety of the home’s structure. The use of struts and support anchors is necessary to hold the house in line with the foundation in the chance of an earthquake. While Ojai’s chances of an earthquake are lower than most other places in California, it’s best to rest on the side of caution to avoid costly repairs in the future.
Looking for Ojai, California real estate?
If you’re in the market to buy a piece of Ojai real estate
, work with a real estate agent who's familiar with what the area has to offer. Sharon MaHarry carries more than 17 years of experience working in the Ojai market. With the knowledge and experience she’s acquired, Sharon is the Ojai real estate agent who can find you a home in your favorite neighborhood, from the downtown neighborhood of the Arbolada
to the more zen-like orchards of the East End & Siete Robles
. Contact Sharon MaHarry today
for a consultation.