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The Secret Garden

Sunset Magazine

April 2006


The Secret Garden – A Zen respite in the heart of L.A.

Opposites attract, but what happens when they marry and move in together? Caitlin Blue knew she would need more than her professional expertise as a Disney set decorator when it came to renovating her first home with her husband, Eric Waterman. “She’s eclectic and funky, and he’s a modernist,” says Julie Hart, the designer who collaborated with Blue on the project. “Everything was a negotiation and a trade-off.” Hart helped transform the 1950s California ranch-style house in L.A.’s Pacific Palisades neighborhood into a vibrant, contemporary home for the couple, who are expecting their first child.

The biggest challenge was color. Blue has a great need for it; Waterman-like his photography collection, which embraces Henri Cartier-Bresson and Walker Evans-leans toward black and white. He insisted on white walls in most of the common areas (with the exception of a single olive green wall in the living room); oak floors stained dark chocolate; and a profusion of custom white kitchen cabinets embellished with sedate charcoal-colored quartz countertops.

So Hart and Blue restrained themselves to splashes of intense color-primarily orange and aquamarine-which became even more striking against the neutral canvas. In the kitchen, they used Blue’s cache of 1950s brightly colored pottery to accent the Shaker-style cabinetry. Hart painted the cupboard interior a vibrant orange.

In the bathroom, working within Waterman’s white-on-white dictum, Blue and Hart added texture with hexagon-shaped marble floor tiles. Landscape architect Russ Cletta designed an exterior side-yard wall to be viewed from the bath-for which Blue unearthed 1950s subway-style tiles in orange, which were juxtaposed with a turquoise urn that Cletta transformed into a fountain. “It’s like a constant sunset,” marvels Cletta, who also installed an outdoor shower and a tumbled blue-stone pathway leading to the pool and backyard.

Flanked by ipe (Brazilian wood) decking, the 50-foot-long azure pool is backed by a dramatic 60-foot retaining wall. Cletta designed an elevated concrete deck with an L-shaped ipe bench softened with cushions covered in the now familiar oranges and blues, along with grays and rusts. At night, the couple roasts s’mores over the firepit. “Who knew you could stare into a fire for hours?” asks Blue, laughing.

Meanwhile, Waterman has started to collect color photography. “The house has taught us so much,” he says. “We’re evolving together.”