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Elegant Ease

Hollywood transplants enjoy refined country living in Rancho Matilija

By Leslie A. Westbrook

Photo by Michael Montano

With red tiled roof, expansive front lawn and verdant landscaping, this West Ojai estate is the picture of refined country living.

Stately homes, many with red-tile roofs and gracious front lawns, face shady lanes in a lush landscape dotted with California live oak, sycamore and palm trees in Ojai’s Rancho Matilija. It’s a gracious, gated community, dotted with country estate homes.

Longtime Hollywood movie producer Howard “Hawk” Koch and his lovely wife, Molly Jordan, who planted their own roots here just three years ago, are equally gracious.

This November, the couple will be opening their home for the Ojai Music Festival’s 22nd Annual Holiday Home Tour and Marketplace. Their passion to help ensure that music is taught in Ojai schools through the festival’s Bravo program was the impetus and inspiration for their participation.

“We’re big proponents of supporting creativity,” Molly noted. Probably because it’s in their blood.

On a different musical note, Hawk spoke enthusiastically of his love of the film scoring process — just one of many aspects of putting a movie together as a producer.

“A movie is dry until the music comes in. When you finally get to hear the score and are on the scoring stage, with 150 of the best musicians in Los Angeles or in Budapest or London, and listening on giant speakers while watching a great composer — and finally get to hear it — it brings the film to life exponentially.”

Before moving to Ojai, the couple lived a rural life in Topanga Canyon with horses, dogs and chickens. So it was an easy transition to Ojai with their two dogs, Willard and Pocahontas, and quarter horses Rusty and Nudge.

The couple met just after Molly had completed a “moving-on ritual” on the two-year anniversary of her first husband’s death. Hawk hiked every morning on the same 160 acres in Benedict Canyon when he ran into Molly as she was coming down the hill from her ritual. He was hiking up the hill with his dog.

“It was bashert, kismet, fate, meant to be,” he recalled.

“This is our third act,” Hawk said, “We never thought we’d live in a gated community, but it’s a great combination of quiet, safety, and we have amazing neighbors. Ojai, with its hiking trails, even has a touch of Topanga.”

“In the front yard, we live in a neighborhood; in the backyard, we live in nature,” Molly rings in.

The 3,700-square-foot home, with extensive interior remodeling thanks to interior designer Bruce Abbott, is as inviting and welcoming, even as whimsical, at times, as the couple that have been married for 22 years. Decorated in the Spanish Colonial manner, the walls are filled with an eclectic collection of art that includes prints by David Hockney and Henri Matisse, sculptures (an owl sits proudly on the living room fireplace mantel) and black-and-white photographs. A commissioned painting that hangs over their bed celebrates the couple’s meeting. The home is also chock-a-block with a fascinating range of personal Hollywood treasures.

A framed piece of sheet music, “Closet Cadenza” from Fibber McGee and Molly’s crashing-closet radio program segments, celebrates Molly’s famous radio program grandparents, Jim and Marian Jordan.

The guitar from Wayne’s World (Hawk produced the movie) hangs in his home office, as does a photo of 12-year-old Howie (his name-change at 50 is another story!) dancing with the very va-va-voom actress Mamie Van Doren.

“That’s when my puberty began!” quipped the producer of over 32 films. Hawk has worked in many capacities on more than 60 movies, including AD (assistant director) on such classic flicks as The Way We Were, Chinatown and Marathon Man and with some of Hollywood’s greatest directors, including Sydney Pollack, Roman Polanski and Francis Ford Coppola. Suffice it to say, Hawk knows everybody in the business. Having grown up during summer vacations as a kid on movie sets, he knows the business itself, inside out.

The couple’s Hollywood roots are shown throughout the memorabilia-filled house, and there are many stories to tell. In addition to Molly’s famous vaudeville/radio show grandparents, her mother was film and television actress Peggy Knudsen (whose credits include The Big Sleep and Perry Mason). Famous rich men (Howard Hughes, Bill Paley and others), who fell for the alluring blonde bombshell, wooed Knudsen. Molly, a former Jungian analyst, inherited her mother’s natural beauty.

Hawk’s dad, Howard W. Koch, was a noted movie producer (The Manchurian Candidate, Airplane!) who was awarded the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award in 1990 — it sits in Hawk’s office. Hawk and his father are the only father/son team to both hold the title of President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Molly is working with Hawk on his memoir in her home office, where a compelling painting that she created (“someone I had to get on canvas”) hangs near her desk. There’s also a yoga room and a healing infrared sauna.

The step-down living room is cozy with a pair of brown velvet couches from Eric Berg’s Early California Antiques. The kitchen has open steel shelving and a giant wok that Molly has yet to master.

The master bedroom boasts peaceful views, a fireplace and a sliding wooden barn-style door personally monogrammed “M” on one side, “H” on the other, to the master bath with a heat-retaining copper bathtub (which also boasts healing qualities).

Lucky houseguests are relegated to the dreamy one-bedroom “pool house.”

If you do go on the home tour, be sure to check out the cleverly designed bathroom off the living room with designer Bruce Abbott’s “homage to Hollywood” — a signature mirror treatment framed by vintage pages from a Hollywood magazine of Hollywood dames. A black-and-white glam shot of Molly’s mom hangs on the opposite wall:

“Her picture is across from the mirror so she can perpetually see herself. She would have liked that!” laughed Hawk. The bathroom sink cabinet was fashioned out of an upside-down wooden cart.

There’s something of a friendly “East end vs. West end” competition among some Ojai residents. Hawk made a solid case for his West end neighborhood.

“It’s cooler on the West end, and easier to get to Ventura, L.A. and Santa Barbara. I think this is the best place to live in Ojai. I just sit out here and look at the views of Old Man Mountain,” the Hollywood legend concluded.

Set on two acres, with a sweet wooden tree swing, saltwater-fed pool, horses in the corrals happily lollygagging in a new sand pit and amazing views of the mountain, Hawk Koch can certainly claim that Heaven Can Wait.

And yes, he was executive producer of that motion picture, too.

The Ojai Holiday Home Tour and Marketplace takes place Nov. 10-11. For more information, call 805-646-2094 or visit www.ojaifestival.org.

The inviting swimming pool offers respite on hot days, and its one-bedroom pool house doubles as handsome guest quarters.

Hawk and Molly both have deep roots in the Hollywood film industry, and their home is filled with homages large and small to Tinseltown. Movie posters, awards (including Koch’s Golden Globe for Heaven Can Wait, a Saturn for Frequency, and his father’s 1990 Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award), magazine pages, film stills and more can be found in the living room, office and even the bathroom.

 

A sizable island dominates a kitchen fit for royalty, which also boasts open steel shelving, counter space for days, tile floors and an enormous cooktop with a curved range hood.

09-01-2018

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