The calm and peaceful feeling of seclusion from noise and neighbors envelops all visitors to LA jeweler Kathleen Whitaker’s sprawling and lush garden in the midst of the hustle and bustle of Echo Park, her urban Los Angeles neighborhood. This leads us to believe that she has it all—the energy and stimulus of urban life coupled with the convenience of instant respite on her doorstep. “The piece of land was a huge selling point for us,” she says. “Living in Southern California is all about bringing the outdoors in—whether it’s the lush surroundings or the beautiful LA light.”
Photographs by Nancy Neil.
Above: From her living room, Whitaker has a view of her garden and can see her guests coming up the walk from the gate, which has been painted Benjamin Moore Olympus Green.
Above: With a view of the entrance gate in the distance, Whitaker takes advantage of the various microclimates within her garden and creates a shaded seating area under the cover of oak, pepper, and toyon trees. "The canopy of the oak tree lets in a bit of dappled light, making this area comfortable for every hour of the day, including evening cocktails," she says.
Above: Whitaker and her cinematographer husband set out the small patio area with existing flagstone pavers and filled it in with pea gravel. A small potted ficus tree introduces another layer and scale of planting.
Above: The outdoor furniture set is a mix of Ikea chairs (discontinued) and a rattan love seat found on Craigslist, both sprayed with a custom color of saffron yellow, which Whitaker had mixed in her local paint store. She recovered the cushions that came with the love seat in a navy and white poplin cotton. "We picked up the coffee table at a local antiques store," Whitaker says. "It is super weathered and a perfect counter balance to the buttoned-up, traditional New England-style rattan seating."
Above: The hillside of the property faces north and receives indirect light, which is easy on the plants—a mix of ground cover, succulents, jade, and a large toyon. Before the sod was laid, the couple installed an in-ground sprinkler. "Yes, grass is hard to keep alive in LA," Whitaker says. "This is a small patch, which we water conservatively at night."
Above: Whitaker places drought-tolerant succulents on the sun deck behind the house, which is unshaded.
Above: The existing stepped terrace is planted with a mix of coleus, heuchera, xanadu philodendron, asparagus fern, star jasmine, and variegated vinca.
Above: "With the stepped terrace, we started over and ripped out the existing overgrown mash-up of many plants," Whitaker says."Our new plantings bloom beautifully in this climate and will continue to fill in."
Above: A Cotton Hammock from LL Bean made from natural fibers fits seamlessly into the Southern California landscape; $109.
Above: Whitaker brings her garden inside with a cutting from her split leaf philodendron, which has been put into a vase by ceramicist Bari Ziperstein.
Above: Potted plants on the front porch straddle the interior and exterior worlds effortlessly. After struggling in the ground, a Norfolk pine is much happier in its basket weave terra cotta planter from local nursery Echo Garden. A rubber plant sits in a ceramic planter by local artist and designer Kelly Lamb, whose house we also visited in House Call: High on a Hill in Los Angeles.
Above: As inviting as the garden is, Whitaker's welcoming porch tempts you to tour her house in A Minimal Jewelry Designer Goes Maximal.
Above: Whitaker's sketches out the points of interest in her garden.
Yearning for the tropics but limited to your less than agreeable winter weather? Erin solved the problem by visiting her local Botanical Garden. Or visit another garden in Southern California, LA Confidential: A Private Courtyard Garden Goes Luxe on a Budget.