Malibu, California: All that jazz

This garden has a beat of its own
Lauren Bonar Swezey

Vibrant colors and paving in bold, irregular patterns are the first clues that something's spectacularly different about Lee and Carmen Ritenours' coastal garden, designed by Mia Lehrer.

Further investigation reveals a rhythmic row of Mexican fan palms contrasted by an irregular grouping of Queen palms, a series of turf circles skipping across a field of black Mexican pebbles, and fluid lines of turf waving in and around a blue pool. "Stunning!" agreed the jurors. "The garden has a beat of its own," said one.

That this garden is all about rhythm is no surprise--the owners are a jazz guitarist and a Brazilian native. Taking a cue from the owners' backgrounds, Lehrer used musical improvisation awash with vivid tropical colors to inspire her design.

She describes the terrace paving--inspired by Brazilian landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx--as a "geometric pattern of colored concrete." With the dancing palms, the grass "notes," and the spicy orange, purple, and red foliage, the elements form an exceptionally lyrical landscape.

DESIGNER: Mia Lehrer, Mia Lehrer + Associates, Los Angeles (213/384-3844)