There's not a lot of room in her 20-by-20-foot frontyard, but Barbara Balaban has maximized every square inch, squeezing in a concrete patio with a dining table, a deck with a built-in banquette, even a tiny fountain wedged between the entry walkway and her house's front steps.
"I filled the top with river rocks and surrounded the fountain with a border of broken pottery," says Balaban, an interior designer and contractor who used a basic recirculating pump bought at a home center. "I just wanted the sound of water here."
The creative landscape is one of nearly 30 properties on the Venice Garden & Home Tour, which is running today along the canals, walks and side streets of one of L.A.'s most iconic neighborhoods.
Balaban moved to her canal cottage after her traditional Sherman Oaks house was destroyed in the 1994 Northridge earthquake. Her Venice garden incorporates broken pottery salvaged from that disaster. It's used in mosaics for the fountain, an outdoor barbecue counter and a "welcome mat" at the front gate.
"I reconstituted my grandmothers' and mother's dishes -- and it gives me a big smile to see each piece," Balaban says.
Studio City designers Carol Plotkin and Janet Hoskins helped Balaban rethink the minuscule landscape and incorporate a slim border filled with succulents, Mediterranean plants and whimsical art.
There's a large glass table on wheels for parties that Balaban and her partner, artist Yaacov Aloni, frequently throw. When they want a quiet Sunday morning brunch, the couple lounge on the front deck, where another table on wheels sits in the middle of a U-shaped dining nook.
"It's like having a little sofa outdoors," Balaban says. "We can sit here and be a little secluded from passersby."
Venice Garden & Home Tour
When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. today
What: Nearly 30 gardens and homes
Tickets: $70. Children younger than 12 are free. Proceeds benefit the Neighborhood Youth Assn.'s Las Doradas Children's Center, a licensed child-care facility in Venice that serves working families. Tickets and maps are available at the center, 804 Broadway, Venice.
Parking: Neighborhood parking is available. Shuttles will run along the tour route throughout the day. Biking is recommended.
Information: (310) 821-1857, www.venicegarden tour.org