A Spanish Bungalow's Sophisticated Garden
It’s All in the Details
Published by Les Sechler, ASLA
Landscape architects and artists alike know that attention to detail is the difference between transforming something ordinary into something of great interest and beauty. In re-defining the garden of this 1926 Spanish bungalow in Atwater Village we sought to create a sophisticated landscape while providing a gracious entry, an outdoor entertainment area with pool/spa, and play space for our client’s children. This meant paying careful attention to detail.
We wanted the entry courtyard to function as more than just circulation space between the sidewalk and the front door. We transformed the existing front yard’s lawn and foundation plantings into an intimate courtyard defined by a low wall and four strategically positioned olive trees.
The sequence of design details begins with meticulous board-formed concrete steps rising to a set of custom steel gates that announce the space. A laser-cut Moorish star pattern repeats in each gate and echoes the interior shape of the courtyard fountain. The house number is also laser-cut into the adjacent steel mailbox.
The board-formed concrete is then repeated on the steps to the front door. On either side of the entry two old washbasins—discovered by the owner—were repurposed as planters, each showcasing dramatic Velvet Elephant Ear (Kalanchoe beharensis) succulents. Note the coordinated coloration of the planters and the succulents—it’s this attention to detail that adds interest and makes the courtyard a unique and special extension of the home.
Rather than using traditional terra cotta tile, we paved the patio with a custom-designed pattern of natural cleft, full-color bluestone pavers reflecting the gray-green/blue color palette of the entire project. This also enhances the green clay tile used on the roof.
For the fountain, instead of a traditional plaster finish, we opted to use the exposed board-formed concrete. The juxtaposition of this contemporary/industrial material with the fountain’s star-shaped Moroccan-motif creates drama and provides an exciting focal point for the space. Ann Sacks custom tile was used in both the front fountain and the pool/spa in the back.
The material palette continues into the rear garden. Because the small lot required creative solutions to the challenges of limited space, the pool also serves as a combination spa and formal fountain. A shallow bench provides room for the children to play and the spa itself can be fired up and fully heated within 30 minutes.
The raised wall, clad in custom tile defines the dining/pool area. Water gently cascades from three water spouts offering tranquility. To complement the gray green palette of the front we added bright green citrus trees and olive trees.
Salvador Delgado provided the ironwork on the gates and mailbox and Darin Marten constructed the water features and did the tile and stone work.
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