A small Los Angeles garden has everything one needs for the perfect spring hang.

Pool in a desert backyard
Daniel Collopy

When landscape designer Adam Sirak saw the neglected backyard area outside a new client’s house, he knew one thing it had to have: a place to take a dip—as long as it wasn’t too big, that is. “I’m always championing a small pool,” says Sirak, who’s based in Los Angeles. “I tell clients, ‘All you need is a box of water.’ People think they need these big spaces but unless you’re swimming laps, you’re really gathering in the corner and having a drink and a chat.” Even better, he adds, if the proportions are right, the pool can also look like a water feature.

The house is located in the Hancock Park area of Los Angeles, where the client works as a fashion stylist. “He’s very visual,” Sirak says. “He came with a lot of mood boards, which is unusual, but I love that kind of collaboration.”

Hammock in backyard with cactus

Daniel Collopy

The client wanted a Marfa, Texas meets Morocco vibe, so Sirak “put that through [his] lens” and started where he always does, by figuring out the placement for three important zones: where the client would have a cocktail, where the client would have dinner, and where the pool would be located. “Those are the three key things I try to suggest to the client first,” he says. “People want to know how they’re going to live in the space, because at the core of it, a garden is about transforming the experience of your home.”  

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Sirak says when working with a small yard—this one is approximately 400 square feet—it’s important to include “visual destinations,” so one can imagine where they’d read a book (the hammock area) or where they’d warm themselves and have a conversation (the conversation patio with Corten steel chiminea). Each destination has its own stand-out features. The pool, for example, utilizes blue vintage tile the client found on his own, while the platform daybed behind it gives it a Moroccan feel. (“I wanted a daybed-slip-into-the-pool moment,” Sirak says.)

Back of house with cactus and pool view

Daniel Collopy

The house, meanwhile, got new vintage doors that were painted black and given bronze hardware that matches the Moroccan lanterns, which were found at a Santa Monica flea market. The house, which was originally yellow, was repainted in Shoji White from Sherman Williams.  

Cactus collection in the desert with planters

Daniel Collopy

As for the plant collection on the patio, “The client wanted a cast of little creatures, the weirder the better.” So Sirak bought terracotta pots and he and the client shopped together for euphorbias and cacti. The Donald Judd-inspired custom console table, meanwhile, is an homage to Marfa.  

The plants, Sirak says, “are the medium that creates the emotional experience in a garden.” He says he thinks of himself as an “exterior designer.” (In other words, he’s an interior designer for the outdoors.) “Anyone can look at a couch and be like, ‘I like it’ or ‘I don’t like it,’” he says. “But I can show a plant to someone and they always have an emotional reaction.”

To achieve a tranquil southwest-desert-meets-California-Natives mood (with some Australian natives thrown in here and there), a pair of potted Yucca rostrata flank the pool, playing off icy-blue Acacia podalyriifolia trees and pre-existing bamboo that acts as a screen. Agave ovatifolia and Kalanchoe beharensis are accent plants, while the hammock hangs from a citrus tree.

Perhaps it’s not surprising that, since the garden is owned by a fashion stylist, it feels, well, fashionable. But it’s fun to learn that Sirack once worked in fashion himself as a shoe designer before he started designing landscapes. When he made the switch nine years ago, he says, “It just felt right. I loved the immediate creative control. Fashion is all based on illusion, but gardens and living organisms feel really, really real.”