2010 CH+D Award for Best Landscape Design: Jeffrey Gordon Smith


When the Sparks-Graham family approached Jeffrey Gordon Smith about designing the landscape for their Los Osos vacation home, the challenge was marrying the style of their country cottage with Smith’s vision, which was inspired by part of the existing landscape. “The first thing you see on the property is a large Monterey pine shaped like a bonsai tree,” says Smith. “I wanted to use that as a focal point to create what I imagined as a Zen retreat.”

Combining the two aesthetics was particularly challenging given the constraints of the long 40-foot-wide lot, which Smith describes as “a bowling alley.” To achieve an overarching harmony, Smith created a bold geometric design and then softened it with colorful native grasses.

Redirecting the approach to the house at a 45-degree angle, Smith downplayed the three-car garage and transformed the front yard into an entertaining space. Now guests coming along a walkway of square pavers are greeted by a seating area, created by an L-shaped firepit and an ipe bench. The shapes and materials at the front of the house are repeated in the backyard. Anchored by a classic redwood hot tub with a subtle water fountain at the back of the property, a wide circular patio is defined by a grid of the same square pavers, bordered by beds of elfin thyme. Another ipe bench encircles the space, offering a place to sit by the hot tub or near a second firepit—delineated by a single square of cobalt glass perfectly inset within the grid of concrete pavers. Ringing this circular entertaining space, plantings of Mexican weeping bamboo enclose the patio and conceal the narrowness of the property lines.

The intimacy of the circle and the softness of the plantings meet the clients’ desire for a cozy atmosphere, while the repetition of simple geometric forms gives the garden a formal appearance.

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