Crafting Simplicity from Complexity
The clients had built a magnificent Italianate 'villa' with spectacular views of the Santa Barbara coastline. They had assembled an impressive array of garden objects from around the world which were to be incorporated into the gardens. But the challenges were numerous.
The Design Challenge
Budget was limited -- While the home was finally completed, construction and the interior design installations had more than doubled the original budget. The site called for a world-class garden, but the budget demanded resourceful solutions.
The deadline was tight -- To complicate matters further, the owners were hosting a black-tie event for 300 people in just two months. The entire front garden not only needed to be installed, but also needed to appear well-established.
Installation would be a touch logistical challenge -- Because the owners were on a tight timeline, major hardscape elements had already been installed prior to the retention of Grace Design Associates, including adjacent driveways, walkways, walls, and patio flooring. Therefore, use of heavy equipment was out of the question. Additional hardscape, statuary and all plants would need to be hand-carried and installed.
Marrying two different styles -- The owners were set on having a Zen-style garden at the entry. How was lead designer Margie Grace to marry the disparate house and garden styles, and create an understated Zen landscape that would not be overwhelmed by the imposing 10,000 square foot house?
Large objects in small spaces -- The statuary, fountains, pebbles, and other decorative objects had been collected from around the world, and spanned different style traditions, cultures, centuries and scales. How could these objects be harmoniously integrated into the garden?
Margie decided to keep the plan simple, working with texture and form throughout.
Repetition of understated plant materials -- Most of the plants were chosen for their effectiveness as a backdrop, rather than as a focal point themselves. This helped to serve as a unifying element throughout.
Hardscape elements were repeated -- The boulders, cobbles, pebbles, flagstones and seating were similar in color -- a soft tone of gray. Margie chose this palette so that the garden would look instantly aged.
Object scale was carefully managed -- The statuary, hardscape elements, and fountains were carefully separated throughout the landscape, in order to de-emphasize the disparate sizes. Objects included a six-foot high Buddha, a 12" high prayer bell, and a massive 1,500 pound stone urn. Additionally, spectacular tree specimens were chosen and carefully placed to provide a counterweight to the other objects in the garden.
Subspaces helped balance the garden -- In order to ground the garden and give it the appearance of larger scale in front of the large house, pathways and grading were used to define three separate spaces. The spaces were also used in classic Japanese style to exaggerate perspective, creating the illusion of a much larger space.
Wall space was maximized -- Six-foot high stucco walls on two sides of the garden were used as an art gallery to display additional decorative objects, including a 400-year old tile dragon and two ancient stone etchings.