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Garden Visit: Spanish Colonial-Style Made Modern in LA

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Garden Visit: Spanish Colonial-Style Made Modern in LA

May 25, 2020

Nothing against the Golden State, but there aren’t many things that make me want to pack up my things and move to California. (I’m an East Coaster, through and through.) But I have to admit that costume designer Gordana Golubovic’s luxe, secluded LA backyard has me questioning my pool-less New York life.

When Golubovic, who designs costumes for film, purchased her house in LA’s Los Feliz neighborhood, it was in ruins: “Abandoned for seven years, it was boarded up by the city, ravaged by squatters, invaded by vines and branches. On the day we came it was gloomy and rainy. There were drawings on the wall, stained carpets, the electric and water were disconnected, and with all that it was love at first sight. I could not wait to get started.” Here’s a look at the exteriors and gardens, which she transformed with the help of landscape designer Becky Bourdeau from local garden shop Potted—gravel courtyard, swimming pool, and sunken fire pit included. Consider me convinced.

Photography by Lauren Moore.

Curb Appeal

Boarded up no more. A curving brick staircase leads to the front door.
Above: Boarded up no more. A curving brick staircase leads to the front door.

Golubovic transformed the exterior of the Spanish-style house, painting the facade in Benjamin Moore’s Simply White and planting a front garden. The team worked around several large Euphorbia candelabrum that surround the house: “I think these are the most amazing trees,” Golubovic says. “They are so statuesque.”

Front Garden

The front entryway, up a brick stairway, is hidden from the street.
Above: The front entryway, up a brick stairway, is hidden from the street.

For the front garden, Golubovic chose fragrant plants to welcome visitors: lavender, rosemary, black sage, verbena, yarrow, blue flame agave, velvet elephant ear, artemisia, foxtail agave, and golden barrel cactus. (“I have a plant problem, as you see,” she admits. “I’m always throwing in more.”) She also planted rose geranium, which she adds to salads and cocktails.

By the front door is a secret passageway that leads into the powder room. The team added self-closing hinges so no door handle would be needed on the outside: “It needed a lot of engineering to get it right, but I think its the coolest thing in this house,” Golubovic says.

Backyard Patio

The entrance to the pool area.
Above: The entrance to the pool area.

Creeping fig stretches over the doorway. “It was here originally, but we cut it down almost to the stub because no one had maintained it and it looked bad. The roots were thick and messy,” Golubovic says. Now it covers much of the house, turning the walls into vertical gardens.

 Another entry to the backyard: French doors lead from a first-floor bedroom to the pool.
Above: Another entry to the backyard: French doors lead from a first-floor bedroom to the pool.

The many entryways to the backyard make it feel as though the gardens and interiors are one large, multi-room living space. When all of the French doors are opened, Golubovic adds, “the breeze is amazing!”

Swimming Pool

The main backyard area (counter-clockwise): pool, elevated gravel courtyard, garden, and sunken fire pit. The different levels make each space feel distinct.
Above: The main backyard area (counter-clockwise): pool, elevated gravel courtyard, garden, and sunken fire pit. The different levels make each space feel distinct.

For privacy (the house is built into a  hillside, and there’s a neighbor beside the pool area), the team removed the existing fencing (rotted except for one section) and installed 100 feet of new fencing around the perimeter. (“My lovely neighbors split the cost,” Golubovic adds.) The result feels intimate and secluded.

Gravel Courtyard

Next to the pool, a gravel courtyard is like a luxe mini beach. (See The New Gravel Backyard: \10 Inspiring Landscape Designs for more ideas.) Underwater are built-in ledges for sitting (and sipping on a drink).
Above: Next to the pool, a gravel courtyard is like a luxe mini beach. (See The New Gravel Backyard: 10 Inspiring Landscape Designs for more ideas.) Underwater are built-in ledges for sitting (and sipping on a drink).

Succulents Garden

One raised side of the pool is tiled in Heath&#8\2\17;s field tile in Heron Blue. Above it: a desert garden.
Above: One raised side of the pool is tiled in Heath’s field tile in Heron Blue. Above it: a desert garden.
Looking from the other end of the pool towards the house.
Above: Looking from the other end of the pool towards the house.

Golubovic wanted to make the hardscaping multifunctional. Case in point: the concrete steps leading from the dining room to the pool. “There were these concrete stairs that looked small and not to scale, so we poured these long, deep stairs,” she says. “We love sitting on stoops and having extra seating for guests. We have extra pillows just for that!”

Another clever use of the hardscaping: A low cushion and pillows are positioned against the side of the pool to create a luxurious lounge spot, no furniture needed.
Above: Another clever use of the hardscaping: A low cushion and pillows are positioned against the side of the pool to create a luxurious lounge spot, no furniture needed.

Fire Pit

Behind the house: a low, poured-in-place concrete bench surrounds a sunken fire pit.
Above: Behind the house: a low, poured-in-place concrete bench surrounds a sunken fire pit.

The area where the fire pit is now was not always chic: Before, there was “a deep hot tub with an angel on it,” Golubovic says. The team used the depth of the space to create a poured-in-place concrete bench around a fire pit, with views of LA’s skyline.

Golubovic sourced the simple metal fire pit from an estate sale.
Above: Golubovic sourced the simple metal fire pit from an estate sale.

Outdoor Dining Room

On another side of the house: an outdoor dining room overlooks the hillside, shaded by a giant Euphorbia candelabrum.
Above: On another side of the house: an outdoor dining room overlooks the hillside, shaded by a giant Euphorbia candelabrum.

The outdoor dining room is a high/low mix, including a wooden dining table found on Craigslist and two wooden folding chairs from a junk store in North Hollywood.

 The patterned tile floor is from Mission Tile.
Above: The patterned tile floor is from Mission Tile.
The pool is illuminated for sunset swims. (See \10 Easy Pieces: Underwater Landscape Lights.)
Above: The pool is illuminated for sunset swims. (See 10 Easy Pieces: Underwater Landscape Lights.)

Getting geared up for summer? Check out these covetable swimming pools:

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