Ranch, Refined


By Nancy D. Lackey Shaffer | Photos by Mathew Broughton

This is my favorite view,” says Jill Cox, standing on the porch just off her living room and gesturing toward Sulfur Mountain in the distance. “This is what sold me on the property.”

A very attractive feature, certainly. But there’s plenty more to recommend these beautiful eight acres nestled in Upper Ojai. The long, gated driveway leading up to it is lined with pepper trees. Decades-old oak trees dot the landscape, their majestic trunks supporting long limbs that twist picturesquely in every direction. To the east, there’s an extraordinary view of the Topatopa Mountains. (For husband Jeff, it was this view — and that famous “pink moment” at sunset— that called to him.) And while the property is smack-dab between Ojai and Santa Paula — nearly equidistant from both towns, in fact — it feels a million miles away from civilization.

Mountain Oasis

When the Coxes purchased the property in 2001, Jill says it was essentially “a field” — unimproved land that needed everything, including a well. They spent two years clearing and developing a portion of it — much has been kept wild — to create a true oasis in the hills. Contractors helped carry out his vision, but most of the landscaping was designed by Jeff himself.

The “enchantment” begins in the front yard, which has a series of meandering rock paths traversing redwoods, oaks and willows to follow a trio of manmade recirculating ponds connected by narrow “creeks.” The impressive water feature is constructed to take advantage of the natural terrain and vegetation: The first pond is set at the highest point, and feeds down to the others below. The creeks wind harmoniously through the brush, occasionally punctuated by small “landings” filled with colorful flowers. At the lowest pond, adjacent to the front door, the elegantly arched branches of willows dip towards the water.

One literally hidden gem is the gazebo, which is nearly imperceptible until you stumble upon it while following the path up. It’s a romantic element in this most magical of tableaux.

A gently climbing path leads to a high plateau with a sunny pool deck where a large rectangular pool, a hot tub and an inviting fire pit all beckon. It’s an entertainer’s dream, and with six children (aged 10 to 31) as well as numerous friends in the area, the Coxes have had many opportunities to put it to the test.

“We have had so many gatherings here,” Jill sighs contentedly.

Windows Onto the World

The wide, long, covered front porch is the perfect vantage point from which to enjoy the gorgeous, shady pond and creek. But once inside the ranch-style home, the first thing that stands out is the view — Sulfur Mountain and the surrounding hillsides rise in the distance. The west wall of the living room is, in fact, all window, to let the natural light and glorious vista soothe the senses.

A large fireplace, made with natural stone from the area, dominates another wall. (Beloved family dog, Cabria, often beds down here.) Prefer to take in the view en plein air? Head out to the patio, where comfortable seating and a fire pit allow you to fully bask in the beauty. Cox says that sitting out here in the evening, at sunset, is one of her favorite things to do.

Jeff is all about the Topatopas, and made sure that the east side of the house had an unobstructed view of them. Large windows in the kitchen let in morning light as well as that pink moment at sunset. In addition, there’s a cozy breakfast nook with bay windows, where Jeff and Jill sit on plush, comfortable chairs to enjoy their morning coffee while watching the sun rise.

Fabulous Farmhouse

The home itself is 3,484 square feet, decorated in vintage farmhouse and contemporary style. Simple, quality and comfortable furnishings are found throughout, along with natural woods and muted tones.

The newly remodeled kitchen sports a large island and a bright, white color scheme. The most distinctive feature is the pantry, which Jill designed to resemble a barn — it even has a shingled “roof.” Nearby is the laundry room, with lots of shelving, storage and surfaces for folding.

All told, there are five rooms and two-and-a-half bathrooms. The lovely main bedroom has an en suite bathroom and an attached office for Jeff, who uses this as his home base of operations for his company, Vanguard Printing, opened in 1990. There are large windows in this room, too, looking towards the rock creek and the orchard — a small cluster of fruit trees that provide apples, apricots, lemons, nectarines, oranges, peaches and pluots.

Red Barn Happy House

A separate, smaller but no less charming structure also sits on the property. Up a gravel walkway and over a dry creek from the main house is Red Barn Happy House, a two-bedroom, one-bath bungalow. It gets its name from the cheerful red-and-white exterior.

The farmhouse style is continued into the interior. And, like the main home, the Happy House has a large kitchen and lots of windows throughout. It’s a warm, cozy and comfortable space. Originally designed as a home for Jill’s parents, who moved to the area from San Francisco in 2015, it has been used as an Airbnb since 2019.

And a popular one at that. Jill says that while she has had guests from all over, many of them come up from Los Angeles — particularly since March 2020. “They just want to get out.”

Guests are drawn to the remote-yet-accessible location, where the views, the quiet and the wildlife — including birds, deer and rabbits— create a woodland respite from city life. Jill also says they love the spacious outdoor patio with its circular fire pit, noting that renters will spend hours every day around it. “It’s such a peaceful spot.”

Another big sell is the fully equipped tennis court. Over time, the Coxes added lines for pickleball — which has grown in popularity through the years — and a half-size basketball court. Anyone craving more recreation will find numerous hiking trails a short drive away: the Punchbowls are about 2.5 miles away, Steckel Park is just a little further and Sisar Canyon is less than a mile away.

In many ways, this Upper Ojai estate has it all: A beautiful, well-designed home; graceful landscaping; a pool and tennis court; and even a popular rental property — all surrounded by extraordinary views and natural beauty. And yet, both Ojai and Santa Paula are an easy drive away. For those who like the best of town and country, you couldn’t pick a better spot.

This property is for sale through Coastlands Real Estate Group. For more information, contact Eric Baucom at eric@coastlandsgroup.com, call 805-795-2001 or visit www.coastlandsgroup.com.