As early landscape designers knew, the yearning for enclosure tends to follow people outdoors. In ancient Persia and Pompeii, walled fountain courts and pleasure groves created private rooms for life outside. Such classic Old World salons--cooled by water, lush with trees--inspired the setting for this Spanish-style Brentwood house, landscaped by the Santa Monica garden-design firm Thomas Batcheller Cox Associates.
The house is large and the space limited, so Cox divided it into leafy retreats that offer a range of moods as well as stunning views from indoors. A pitched pergola crowned with white wisteria and potato vine ( Solanum jasminoides ) marks the entrance to the outdoor living rooms, which are linked by straight, axial paths and a palette dominated by green. Two courtyards, shaded by Japanese maples and alive with the music of fountains, unfold in front of the house, while the back garden is a sunken lawn ringed with exotic pink tabebuia trees ( Tabebuia avellanedae ). On either end of the grass carpet, tiled stairs lead up to children's hideaways: On one side is a playhouse surrounded by roses and daylilies, on the other, a sand pit half-hidden by acanthus. Behind the lawn, visible through an iron gate, is a swimming pool cantilevered over a canyon. "We used every scrap of land we had," says the owner. "Paradoxically, dividing the space up actually made it seem bigger."