Plain And Simple


– Nancy D. Lackey Shaffer

hat do you get when a renowned architect becomes his own client? A dream house of extraordinary vision, as seen on our cover. Scott Johnson created a “country house” in Ojai that is vastly different from the ornate manses one might picture, thanks to Downton Abbey.

For one thing, it is shockingly contemporary: a long, slender rectangle on a cardinal north-south placement, with walls facing directly east and west. From one side, it resembles a wall — hence the moniker “The Wall House” — and from the other, it’s an expanse of floor to ceiling glass, to take full advantage of every ray of natural light (not to mention the views). It’s also a modern ecological masterpiece, with solar panels, sustainable materials, thermal separators that radiate heat away from the interior, rain collectors and more. There is no excess here; every inch is thoughtfully planned for both style and function.

This idea of elegant simplicity is a hallmark of OHI Home as well. The Ojai-based home staging company specializes in making houses for sale beautiful, welcoming and desirable to prospective buyers. And a key to that is, in a word, less. Getting rid of clutter, being thoughtful about what to keep and where to put it, understanding the meaning behind one’s attachments to things . . . it’s all part of a philosophy built around “home styling for conscious living.” Founder Lila Francese speaks at length about this — and how the principles can be applied, even if you’re not selling your home — in this month’s Conversation.

Descanso Gardens is a lush, living, diverse place. One would hardly call it “simple.” But it does call back to a simpler time. The botanical garden in La Canada Flintridge is dominated by an extraordinary collection of coast live oak trees, some more than 300 years old. Visiting these 160 hilly acres is an opportunity to imagine the greater Los Angeles area before it became a concrete jungle, and the surrounding hillsides were covered in native plants and trees. It was once wild and free and simply natural; distinct from today’s urban hustle and bustle . . . and undeniably elegant. We spotlight the splendid Descanso Gardens in our Travel feature.

Centuries-old oaks, a world that predates urban sprawl, pared-down décor, a wall of function and style, less stuff, more life. Our Home and Garden issue this month showcases a beautiful way to live, plain and simple.