This Farming Community In California Inspires Mark D. Sikes


On a magnificent property in Ojai, California, designer Mark D. Sikes conjures Orange Hill Farm, a paradise he has long envisioned.

still life of oranges and lemons with blue gloves by Vincent Van Gogh

Photo: Courtesy National Gallery Of Art, Washington

“You feel a strong sense of place when you enter Ojai that’s incredibly alluring. While it’s a historic farming community, it has evolved into a city with a rich history of cultivating the land. I felt immediately at home driving through the laid-back town and rolling countryside, but it wasn’t until my partner and I came across what would eventually become Orange Hill Farm that we really began to dream. Suddenly, our love for the landscape deepened.

A weekend place is always something we’ve talked about—a big parcel to build a house and garden. The first time we walked onto the property we went through an unassuming gate, past a few sheds dotting the grounds and nothing else of which is its real beauty. But then the property unfolded, sloping up a hill with the most amazing citrus and avocado trees. In that moment, I got this sense of the land. It felt like a canvas.

The smell of citrus, the color of the fruit and the plant’s natural beauty is such an inspiration to me, but it’s also very inherent to Ojai. Pixies are the particular citrus we’ll be planting and harvesting. They are an aromatic, petite tangerine that have a sweet, sugary taste. There is so much you can do with them beyond just eating. I’ve been using the fruit in indoor arrangements and conjuring up my own fragrance, as it’s always been a scent I’m drawn to.

I’m looking forward to having a piece of earth to nurture: to walk outside on the weekend, talk to the plants and see something new that has popped up. We’re studying where the sun rises and sets as well as how the light falls across the property at different times of day. Soon, more citrus groves will be planted, and a new phase of life and creative energy will begin to sprout. In a lot of ways, Orange Hill Farm is still a dream, and we don’t have it all figured out. But it’s land that is ripe for something new and exciting.”