Garden party hot spot

Tips and inspiration for making a garden into a prime party setting
Lauren Bonar Swezey

At dusk, Richard Holden and Sandra Moll switch on the lights in their San Jose backyard, instantly transforming the tranquil garden into paradise.

Chinese lanterns stuffed with sparkling white lights dangle from arbors. A large dining patio radiates a warm glow from the back of the garden. And a dramatic fiery orange light bathes an ancient-looking wall relief.

But the lights are only part of what gives this landscape ― inspired by designer and contractor Cevan Forristt's global travels ― its dazzle and mystery. Each area of the garden is filled with interesting details that invite lingering looks.

To accommodate the 50 to 100 people who attend Holden and Moll's frequent fund-raising events, the garden is divided into "rooms." Guests can circulate freely from the spacious patio, with its raised pond and portable firepit, to the lattice-sheltered buffet table and through the keyhole opening back to the pond.

"Every element has a double or triple function," says Forristt. The concrete table seats 12, for example, but without chairs it makes a perfect buffet table.

DESIGN: Cevan Forristt, San Jose (408/297-8538)