Montecito Garden Story

Montecito Artist's Garden

Laurel  and Glen dreamed of having an outdoor patio for large gatherings with family and friends, an art studio and a fire circle. Disconnected from the house and overgrown, the garden was largely unused and in need of landscaping. Situated along a creek in the heart of Montecito and surrounded by large old trees this garden remains cool even on the warmest summer days. The challenge was to fit all this gracefully into the space and draw people out into the garden while coping with the contrast of summer sun and winter shade. An artist by training, Laurel was enthusiastically involved in the planning of the garden. We brought in local artist and stone mason Andy Johnson and the design process became a lively collaboration.  We worked as a creative team and, allowing the process to unfold between us, came up with a shared vision we were all excited about. 

Removing the ailing lawn, we replaced it with an arizona flagstone patio. Two circles of decomposed granite delineated the areas for the movable fire pit and seating. To complete this area a curving stone retaining wall and raised bed along the back fence of the property was built. 

The transition from the house to the garden had been an uninviting and somewhat treacherous set of steep stairs which seemed to cut the garden off from the house rather than lead into it. To soften this transition and build a platform from which to view the garden we extended a deck across the back of the house, encompassing the stairs from the dining room as well as stairs from a bedroom and wrapping around the corner of the hot tub which had formerly had no decking at all. Planting for shade with a few bright areas as well as for privacy, we used bamboo ‘Alphonse Karr’, salvias such as the shade tolerant but vivid Salvia chiapensis, grasses, succulents, Kashmir Sage and Agave. Red Fringe Flower, lavender Plectranthus, and variegated New Zealand flax ‘Cream Delight’ brightened up some of the shady spots. 

Laurel’s aesthetic for her art studio leaned toward the boho charm and character of recycled materials. We called in local carpenter Mark Lewis to build the studio which was was fronted with a wonderful odd assortment of old reclaimed doors and windows. The opaque corrugated roofing allows plenty of light in and Laurel dedicated it with her own art work above the lintel. The final result is a lush, jewel box of a garden with generous spaces for Birthday parties, Thanksgiving dinners and music circles.


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