Sunset Magazine
January 2007

Small yet abundant: - Clean lines and artful illusion transform a compact garden

By Kathryn Harris

view article - funcional and attractive landscape design

The house lingered in memory. Sleek and modern, it stood out among the more traditional homes in the suburban Los Angeles neighborhood. Seeing it only as a post-Northridge earthquake fixer-upper, Realtor Susan Gordon showed the house to a client, but couldn't forget it. When it came back on the market six years later, she and her husband, Howard, a marketing executive, bought it, and set about restoring it with the help of designer Guy Cnop.

"I felt confident handling the interior spaces, but I was less sure with the exterior," Rechszaid says. So she hired landscape architect Russ Cletta and gave him a list of must-haves: places to eat, to relax, to string a hammock, and to grow treasured root beer plant (Piper auritum), whose scented leaves Quintana uses to wrap cheese or flavor cooked fish.

Cletta-well known for creating functional and attractive outdoor spaces on the modest lots that proliferate in Venice-had just returned from Costa Rica when he took on the project. Impressions from his trip, along with the couple's heritages (Rechtszaid is from Buenos Aires, Quintana from Mexico City), determined the garden's tropical theme.

In the front yard, a hammock sways near lounge chairs. The backyard is for dining and entertaining. The living area features an L-shaped wooden bench designed by Cletta that appears to float atop concrete. At night, when a fire glows nearby, this is a cozy spot. King palms edge the dining area. "When there's a breeze, they sound like running water,"Cletta says.

For Quintana, a busy advertising executive who unwinds in his kitchen, the garden's other draws are its fruit trees.

At a party last fall, the couple gathered 30 friends for dinner in their backyard. On the menu: an elaborate dish of stuffed chiles with walnut sauce that Quintana prepared using many ingredients plucked straight from the garden.