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Blooming by the Sea

A harborside retreat in Oxnard marries garden serenity with seaside splendor.

By Karen Lindell

Photo by T Christian Gapen

The glamorous great room provides ample room for entertaining, while the stylish metal-and-glass staircase leads to more private (but equally elegant) quarters.

 

n an Oxnard garden retreat bursting with colorful blooms, a black-and-white image pops out.

On the wall of Adrienne Stone’s greenhouse is a giant vintage photo of her grandfather, Ezra Cohen, taken at his flower stand in downtown Los Angeles during the 1920s. 

“He raised nine children on that flower stand,” Stone said proudly. Cohen, an immigrant from Aleppo, Syria, passed on his green thumb (and work ethic) to Stone’s father, who also owned a flower shop in L.A., Windsor Florist, for 40 years.

Stone remembers tagging along with her dad to ride in a cart at downtown L.A.’s flower mart, and selling cut blooms on street corners. She didn’t go into the blooms biz herself, but continues to surround herself with plants and flowers out of sheer love for anything that grows.

In 2003, Stone and her husband, Artie, at the time living in Encino, bought a second house in Oxnard’s Channel Islands Harbor. They eventually decided to purchase a home in the same neighborhood, and the narrow vacant lot next door, which they devoted to a 4,000-square-foot garden and greenhouse, all with a prime perch along the harbor’s main channel. 

The house and garden flow freely into each other, both physically and psychically — a green growing oasis created in tandem with a blue seaside oasis. If the garden is the earth element of the Stones’ home, the main house is water. 

The 6,000-square-foot, custom-built contemporary home boasts premium waterside views, with ceiling-high windows and decks on both floors overlooking Oxnard’s scenic waterway. Much of the artwork and décor throughout the home was commissioned or designed with water in mind, from glass panels with etchings reminiscent of waves, to a curving glass staircase and photographs of the Ventura Pier and Santa Barbara Harbor.

Throughout, Stone fills the home with flower arrangements created from blooms in her garden as well as cut ones she purchases.

“I can’t be without flowers around me,” she said. 

Stone and her husband, who married just out of high school and began their careers running hair salons, launched the Total Woman Gym + Spa chain in the 1960s, responding to female clients who expressed interest in a fitness center with day spa amenities. They sold the business about 10 years ago. The couple were drawn to Ventura County when a family member who had purchased a house on the beach in Oxnard suggested that the Stones check out the area.

In 2003 they purchased a house in the harbor, then several years later bought the home on the current lot, planning to rent it out. Instead, they decided to tear down the house and build a new one to live in themselves.

Artie Stone died three years ago of cancer. Adrienne Stone lives in Encino for the first part of the week, then spends most Thursdays through Sundays at the Oxnard property with her daughter, Angela.

“Because the lot was so long, the house that was originally there was like a bowling alley,” Stone said. “It was all chopped up into little rooms, and even had a brick fireplace blocking the harbor, which was silly.”

When the Stones tore down the small one-story house and rebuilt a two-story one in its place, they solved the bowling-alley effect by turning the first floor into one giant room with a bar, kitchen and dining room. Upstairs are bedrooms and a media room.

The home’s overall decorative motif is water-ocean-sea, but Stone said she also found inspiration via a less natural muse: classic films.

“I got a lot of ideas from watching TCM (Turner Classic Movies),” she said. “I wanted a 1930s art deco, glamorous look. On the set of a lot of those films, ceilings were tall; doors were big and upholstered; and the furniture was grand.”

Upstairs lighting includes floor-to-ceiling sconces, and many of the doors in the house are upholstered, as well as the front of the downstairs bar.

Artwork includes a chandelier made out of long tubes of glass on cables, and the curved glass-and-stainless-steel staircase. To create the staircase, Stone said, the builders first had to install it using wood, then took it to a workshop to build it out of steel and reinstalled it.

For windows that face neighbors, Stone said, she wanted to let the light in, but also desired privacy — without drapes. So the windows were designed out of frosted glass etched with Asian-inspired images of vines, flowers and bridges.

Outside those windows are the living, breathing plants and flowers that Stone and a crew of gardeners care for so lovingly. The garden includes a cornucopia of fruit trees: lemon, orange, tangerine, pomegranate and apple. Stand-alone rectangular planters are anchored by boxwood hedges and filled with flowers that change seasonally for spring and fall. 

Current blooms include candytuft, lobelia, ranunculus, primroses, hydrangeas, orchids, gardenias, kangaroo paws and roses. In late April, Stone said, she’ll likely plant gerbera daisies, stock and snapdragons.

The light, airy greenhouse, which Stone designed, is filled with succulents and orchids she uses to create flower arrangements.

She doesn’t like throwing away potential creative material.

“When my gardeners cut back roses and leave them lying around in the trash or on the ground, I make an arrangement,” Stone said. “I can’t throw away any of it. Even if it’s a teeny thing with one flower in it, it’s not dead yet. It’s a living, breathing thing.” 

Obtaining a permit from the city to build the 400-square-foot greenhouse, she said, was a challenge — the process took a year.

“They thought we were building a guesthouse, which meant we would have needed a bathroom and other things,” she said. “We then called it a ‘solarium.’ Eventually someone from the city who was interested in plants came here and I explained what we were doing. Finally, he got it.”

Nonliving decorative aspects of Stone’s garden include numerous colorful pots, a glass table in the greenhouse held up by a mermaid sculpture, a wind-chime chandelier made out of iridescent square shells, chairs that resemble seaweed and two benches shaped like butterflies.

Stone’s favorite work of art in her home integrates the interior with the exterior. Inside the front door is an art piece featuring butterflies — real butterflies that once lived at a sanctuary in Santa Barbara — of red, blue, orange and yellow hung on lighted strings. They are placed in a lighted mirror that creates an infinity effect.

“I fell in love with the butterflies,” Stone said. “Anybody who walks in, when I turn the light on, just stares at them.”

The butterflies also remind her of someone who is no longer in the home, or the garden, but still very much a part of both.

“Whenever I see a butterfly, wherever I am, I believe it’s my husband coming to pay me a visit,” she said. 

The greenhouse’s blooming botanicals speak of the soil, but the harborside location is echoed in the seaweed-inspired chairs, shell-like fountains, fish-shaped pots and a table held up by a mermaid.

Adrienne Stone, a florist’s daughter and granddaughter, always surrounds herself with fresh blooms and fruit from her personal paradise.

Floor-to-ceiling windows provide a view to the channel even from the upstairs master bedroom, which boasts its own sitting area.

 

A stone walkway winds through a lush garden, leading to a spacious solarium for dining, entertaining or merely basking in organic serenity.

04-01-2018

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