Ojai Valley Inn: Reworking the Past

After an 80-million-dollar upgrade the Ojai Valley Inn and Spa remains true to its vision

By: Susan James

In 1922 Ohio glass manufacturer Edward Libbey commissioned Los Angeles architect Wallace Neff to design a clubhouse for his new golf course in Ojai Valley, Calif. Neff chose to build in Spanish Colonial style, complete with white stucco walls, red tile roofs and handcrafted ceramic tile accents. The club eventually became the renowned Ojai Valley Inn and Spa, and since May 2003 it has undergone an 80-million-dollar-plus renovation guided by Santa Barbara architect William Mahan. Mahan has stayed true to Neff’s original vision.

A new two-story lobby with wood-beamed ceiling, generous arched windows and decorative wrought-iron balconies makes an impressive gateway to the inn’s renovations. Rimming the back nine holes of the lush green golf course, a curving line of new buildings house spacious rooms (all with fireplace and terrace) and bring the total room inventory at the inn to 310, 25 percent of them suites. Yet the new buildings look as if they have stood under the 200-year-old oak trees since the beginning of the last century.

The serpentine roofs and liberally used wrought-iron decorations manufactured in-house have an antique feel and the rooms themselves, decorated in white, adobe, persimmon, blue and gold, mingle traditional ambiance with modern comfort. One of the most attractive of the new room layouts is the spacious 600-square-foot Shangri-La, with four poster beds, painted Spanish armoire, corner fireplace and luxurious bathroom with separate tub and shower.

The newly expanded herb garden with adjacent recreation field has views of chaparral-covered hills and has been used as a focus for a set of 17 independent mini-suites incorporated into three new buildings on the hillside above the garden.

The new and unique Hacienda Suite, located only steps from the redesigned main swimming pool area, is a special suite whose lavish 2,000-square-feet and $2,000 per night price tag is well suited for visiting movie actors and rock stars. It features a bedroom, living room, two bathrooms one with a fireplace at the head of the tub a partial kitchen, oversized furniture, Spanish Colonial-inspired woodwork, Malibu tile accents and views out over rolling, unspoiled California hills.

For golfers who come to play the newly reconfigured 1923 George C. Thomas golf course, there is now an extensive pro shop and golf valet. The front and back nines have been reversed and the new layout ensures easier access to the first hole.

The multi-million-dollar renovations have also added a new relaxation room to the already substantial 31,000-square-foot Ojai Spa Village and the new 6,000-square-foot Hacienda Ballroom, which can double as a conference and service center and can be incorporated with the preexisting 4,500-square-foot conference center for major events.

The main pool area has had a make-over as well. The two original pools have been blended into one and private cabanas hav been added. These can be rented by the half-day ($100) or full day ($150). They are stocked with a host of amenities, mist sprayers, drinks, newspapers, playing cards, and are refreshed throughout the day.

The inn’s new signature restaurant, Maravilla, under the command of Chef Bret Pafford and sommelier Jon Mahoney, now offers candlelit evening dining with live music in three private dining rooms. The restaurant offers clients hillside views and a taster’s menu ($105) featuring local produce. Chef Pafford is particularly adept at producing a succulent rack of Colorado lamb.

A second new restaurant, Jimmy’s Pub, features boutique beers on tap and a brick pizza oven which turns out homemade thin crust pizza.

Ojai is still the same exciting resort destination it has always been and after renovations, everything old is new again.

Hotel Checklist:

Ojai Valley Inn & Spa
Country Club Road
Ojai, CA 93023

A young, eager, attentive staff.
A superb signature restaurant, Maravilla.
A George C. Thomas classic golf course with extensive pro shop and golf valet who will polish your golf shoes and realign your clubs if necessary.

Sauna and steamrooms at the spa but no cold plunge.

Rooms are located in multiple buildings scattered throughout the property. Chauffeured electric carts are on call to transport guests around the property.

The spa is for clients aged 16 and over, and women’s and men’s areas are clothing optional.

Caters to couples and families. Various packages encourage small group bookings.

Room rates from $400-$550; suites from $525 to $5,400.
Price categories are generally based on size of accommodation and view.

10 percent is standard but higher commissions may apply at management’s discretion during low occupancy periods.