Our clients were nearly finished building a magnificent Italianate villa with spectacular views of the Santa Barbara coastline and Channel Islands and wanted to incorporate an impressive array of garden objects they had assembled from around the world. But crafting simplicity from complexity was to be a challenge.
The Design Challenge
The home was nearly completed, but 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.
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.
Because the owners were on a tight timeline, major hardscape elements had been installed before we were called in, including adjacent driveways, walkways, walls and patio flooring. Therefore, the use of heavy equipment was out of the question. Additional hardscape, statuary and all plants would need to be hand-carried and installed.
Despite the Italianate design of the home, the owners were set on having an Asian-style garden at the entry. It was up to us to marry the disparate house and garden styles, and create an understated Asian landscape that would not be overwhelmed by the imposing 10,000 square foot house.
The statuary, fountains, pebbles, and other decorative objects had been collected from around the world, spanning different styles, traditions, cultures, centuries and scales. How could these objects be harmoniously integrated into a small garden space?
The Design Solution
We decided to keep the plan simple, working with texture and form throughout.
Most of the understated 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.
The boulders, cobbles, pebbles, flagstones and seating were similar in color: a soft tone of gray. We chose and repeated this palette so that the garden would look instantly aged.
The statuary, hardscape elements, and fountains were carefully separated throughout the landscape, in order to de-emphasize their disparate sizes and manage their scale. Objects included a six-foot high Buddha, a 12-inch tall prayer bell, and a massive 1500 pound stone urn. Additionally, spectacular tree specimens were chosen and carefully placed to provide a counterweight to the other garden objects.
In order to ground the garden and give it the appearance of having a larger scale in front of the large house, pathways and grading were used to define three separate sub-spaces. The areas were also used in classic Japanese style to exaggerate perspective, creating the illusion of a much larger space.
Six-foot high stucco walls on two sides of the garden maximized wall space, serving as an art gallery to display additional decorative objects, including a 400-year-old tile dragon and two ancient stone etchings.
Association of Professional Landscape Designers, Merit Award 2010
Santa Barbara Contractors Association, Builder of the Year: Best Landscape and Hardscape 2002