Garden's vintage makeover

Craftsman flair enhances a yard remade for outdoor living
Sharon Cohoon

A garden renovation doesn't have to mean a more contemporary look. That's what Marla Koosed and Ron Smoire decided when they relandscaped their late-1940s home. The couple loved their neighborhood ― they'd lived here 15 years ― but not their house. They wanted it to have an older look: specifically, vintage California Craftsman. So they remodeled their home to incorporate the beautiful woodwork and other details from that era.

At the same time, they asked landscape architect Rob Steiner to design a garden that would complement the new-old style of their house.

Steiner realized what the couple needed most was outdoor living space. To start, he designed an open-air "parlor" in the front yard: fairly private seating behind a low wall on the new porch, slightly more public seating in front of it, and a downright neighborly perch on a seating wall in the middle of the garden. "That wall is where the kids on the block love to sit," says Koosed.

In the backyard, Steiner added a gravel dining terrace. And in front of the garage, he turned a portion of the driveway into an outdoor room the owners call the "lounge." The two areas are connected by a large landing whose wide, deep steps double as overflow seating.

Details make the difference
Timeless materials and Craftsman-style details give these spaces the illusion of age. The new driveway, for instance, is paved with broken concrete recycled from the old one, which provided instant patina. The same concrete is used in the entry courtyard.

The new porch wall and seat walls look aged for several reasons: the inherent color variations in the buff-colored concrete; the textured surface; and rounded edges on the caps and steps.

Bidding the lawn good-bye
Although Smoire had to be convinced to part with sections of his lawn for the sake of paved living spaces, now he loves the results. "Our yard's never looked more like a garden," he says. "I don't miss the lawn at all." The design earned Rob Steiner an award in Sunset's 2006-07 Dream Garden Awards program.

Design: Rob Steiner , Los Angeles (323/931-4425). Concrete installation: Joaquin Vergara, Concord Concrete , Northridge, CA (818/349-3992).