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How to Give Special Yard a 'Real' Feel

Laguna Niguel home, which will be open for public tours, accents ocean views and nature.


When Carole McElwee was asked to design the landscape of the Perry home in Laguna Niguel, she quickly saw that a traditional lawn-and-tropical-plants landscape wouldn't do.

The property--which will be open to the public Friday and May 13 during the Philharmonic Society of Orange County's Festival of Homes and Gardens--overlooks a nature trail, filled with native chaparral, and the ocean.

"I had to create a landscape that would naturally flow into the native terrain and wouldn't try to compete with the ocean, which is an impossible feat anyway," the Capistrano Beach-based garden designer said.

In the garden, she used drought-tolerant Mediterranean plants that have a chaparral-look and stand up well to the constant ocean winds. Some choices include euphorbia, lavender, leptospermum, melaleuca, Lobelia laxiflora, yarrow, statice and Jerusalem sage.

Though the long, rectangular garden precluded having an expansive, open landscape, McElwee was able to incorporate current landscaping trends and create small, intimate spaces within the yard. There is a pool and hot tub, a seating area, a garden section with a path, and a secret garden.

While designing the garden, McElwee looked out a second-story window to decide on the natural path.

Larry Froemmling, a Laguna Niguel interior designer, did the 3,000-square-foot interior and was responsible for the exterior flooring, hardscape, and accessories. He also strove to create an outdoor environment that reflected the native terrain and sea.

"Because they sit outdoors on the cliffs overlooking the ocean, I did the entire pool and Jacuzzi area in a sea-blue tile," Froemmling said.

To reflect the terrain, he included dark-brown iron furniture with a tree-limb motif. Sun umbrellas are a dark chocolate.

To optimize views and provide a windbreak, the designers installed glass walls between the seating and pool area and along the property edge.

Though the home overlooks the ocean, the owners couldn't hear the soothing sound of water, but wanted to. So Froemmling added fountains throughout the landscape, including one off the master bedroom and another in the secret garden.

Froemmling said the water features have become popular and accessible in recent years.

"It used to be that a waterfall was the centerpiece of the outdoors, but now that we are creating small, intimate spaces, many people have found that it's possible to successfully and tastefully have several smaller fountains in one landscape."


Home and Garden Tours Underway

The Philharmonic Society, in cooperation with the American Society of Interior Designers/Orange County, will offer tours of custom landscapes and home interiors.

Proceeds from the Festival of Homes and Gardens series will benefit the society's youth music programs, which offer more than 1,500 free presentations for public and private schools.

Tickets are $40 per day.

Here are the tour dates:

* Friday and May 13: Five South County homes, including the Aliso Rock house in Laguna Beach and the Perry Home in Laguna Niguel.

* May 18: Four homes in Lemon Heights and Cowan Heights in North Tustin and Orange Park Acres, including an 8,000-square-foot manor decorated in romantic Southern style and a 4,800-square-foot home that blends styles from Spain, Guadalajara and Monterrey.

* Nov. 16: Laguna Beach homes, from beach retreats to homes with views of the coastline.

* Dec. 1-2: Newport Beach homes decorated for the holidays.

For more information, call (714) 840-7542 or visit

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