sectionheading

Ahead of the Curve

Rounded walls and nonlinear architecture bring a Zen-like balance to an Ojai retreat.

By Karen Lindell

Photo by Two Fish Digital

Flagstone paving and gently curved beams seen at the entryway are employed inside the house as well, creating a sense of continuity between outdoors and in.

 

uman beings build things with sharp edges. But nature is all about curves.

Jerry Jones, a deeply spiritual man who loved the outdoors, decided to make the world go round when he designed his home in Ojai.

The first thing you notice about the secluded home, nestled off Creek Road on Kenewa Street, is that . . . you don’t notice it.

The serene home, on sale since Jones died last year, appears to be part of the landscape, rather than atop it. With curved white walls and rounded roofs, the nonlinear main house and two smaller buildings blend into the landscape and look almost like a cluster of mushrooms. Or, as Jones’ daughter Shannon describes the structures, they appear “Hobitt-y.”

The home, however, takes up far more space (and height) than the tiny space inhabited by Frodo and his Hobbit brethren. 

At 4,873 square feet on 45 acres, the estate is spacious, but the human-built parts don’t take up a massive footprint. The split-level main house boasts three bedrooms and 4.5 bathrooms. The detached guest quarters have two bedrooms and two bathrooms. There’s also a smaller building once used by Jones as a meditation room.

The only massive aspect of the estate is the view of the Topa Topa Mountains and Ojai Valley in the distance, along with oak trees and other flora (and fauna) surrounding the home.

The impressive estate was designed by Santa Barbara architect Bob Easton, with substantial input from Jones and his wife, Kristayani. A native of Portland, Oregon, Jerry Jones was a businessman, philanthropist and spiritual seeker who died of cancer in 2016 at age 81 while living in Ojai, after Kristayani died of breast cancer.

“My father never had the same energy after my stepmom died,” Shannon Jones said. (Kristayani was Jerry Jones’ second wife.) “It broke his heart. They built the house together.”

Shannon, who lives in Oregon, said her father wanted to study architecture in college, but felt responsible for helping with his family’s home and remodeling company, so he majored in business, with a minor in architecture. He sold the family business in the 1980s and formed the J.G. Jones Company, which managed and developed properties in Oregon, California, Texas and the Caribbean.

Kristayani was from France, Shannon said, and “always found Portland a little bit damp and cold. They were on the hunt for a sunny place to build another home where they could live during the winter.”

They considered a home in France, she said, but within one month, “three people told them to check out Ojai. They went to Ojai for the weekend and thought it had exactly the right feel.”

The feeling that the couple sought wasn’t merely California warmth, however.

Char Michaels of Keller Williams, the listing agent, said Ojai and the home the Joneses built “embodied the Zen essence they were trying for.”

Jerry started meditating in the late 1970s, Shannon said, “as a way to combat stress. He had spiritual experiences because of the meditation” and devoted decades to studying and teaching the practice. He traveled frequently to India, and was the co-author, with Anne Cushman, of From Here to Nirvana: The Yoga Guide to Spiritual India.

In 1988 he founded the So-Hum Foundation, which funds numerous U.S. and international charities. “So hum” is an ancient Sanskrit phrase meaning “That am I,” a mantra that recognizes the oneness of all beings. Jones’ Kenewa estate, with its gentle architectural curves, serene landscaping and understated but elegant simplicity, exudes so hum spirituality.

Michaels, who knew Jerry Jones well, said he “was soft, gentle, kind and generous.” That same spirit suffuses the house and landscaping.

Tibetan prayer wheels are encased in a low stone wall along a path from the driveway to the front door.

“The idea is, you get out of your car, then turn the wheels so you send good prayers out to the world as you go into the house,” Michaels said. 

Everything about the contemporary home is understated, from the mostly unadorned curved white walls to the fir, stone and granite trimmings. The feeling is warm, however, not austere. The clean, simple look also belies the complexity required to build an entire house out of curves. Even the windows, closet doors and outdoor railings are curved.

Shannon said she thought the home’s curves “were representative of Kristayani, and my dad wanting a feminine feel to the house.”

Defining the “shape” of some of the rooms is impossible. Neither circular, rectangular nor square, they simply flow, with few straight architectural lines.

An incubator of natural light, the home also features numerous skylights and floor-to-ceiling custom glass pop-out ventilated doors and windows.

The interior of each room blends seamlessly with the exterior. The ceilings, for example, are held up with arcing wooden beams that could be extensions of tree branches into the house. A circular stained-glass window features images of the sun and moon. Rippling waves decorate tiles in the shower. Both inside and out, light-colored flagstone flooring has a natural glow. 

The main room, or “great room,” is a space with high ceilings connected to a large kitchen.

“You feel a little like Jonah inside the whale, with the curving beams and rounded walls and ceiling,” Shannon said. “The room has an organic aspect, but it’s also contemporary.” 

Shannon said her father drew and pored over plans for the house, “looking at the angles of the sun, and where they landed.” The home’s new owner will have access to her father’s detailed drawings, she said. “I kept them because they show the artistry and joy my dad took during that process.”

Outside, oak trees surround the property, and an enclosed courtyard adjacent to the main house and guest house is abloom with crepe myrtles, pomegranate trees and perennials. An infinity pool blends into a stone wall and hills at the courtyard’s back edge, and a covered patio features an outdoor kitchen.

Resident wildlife, Shannon said, include bobcats, squirrels, a huge owl and many other birds.

Roofs on all the estate’s structures are unusual. The mushroomlike toppers are completely smooth, made from waterproof, rubberized, stained decking material. The unique look and nontraditional roofing materials, Shannon said, “were purely aesthetic; they didn’t have any special function.”

Jerry and Kristayani both died peacefully at the home.

Michaels said she thought the home would be ideal for a person “who is a visionary, inspired by nature, fueled for creative imaginings — and in need of inspiration or healing.” 

 

Luxurious touches, such as an infinity pool, exhibit a certain modesty.

 

With its gentle architectural curves, serene landscaping and understated but elegant simplicity, the Jones estate exudes so hum spirituality.

The combined living room, dining area and kitchen create a large space with high bowed ceilings, wave-shaped beams and curved walls all around. Standing in the great room has been described as being “like Jonah inside the whale.”

09-01-2017

Back to top