Thomas J. Story
The pool and fountain at the La Jolla mid-century retreat.

A midcentury seaside home’s gardens embody lyrical outdoor living.

Hugh Garvey  – September 10, 2020 | Updated September 14, 2020

After decades of visiting his relatives near San Diego, William T. Georgis felt the call of the West Coast. Living in New York City, Georgis and his late husband Richard Marshall longed for the humbler, quieter counterpoint of Southern California. “Coming here as a child in the dead of winter and seeing fruiting citrus trees was revelatory,” he says. “I have a Greek background and the Mediterranean feel resonated within my blood.”

The couple found a mid-century modern house slated to be demolished by a developer. When it went into foreclosure, Georgis saw the good bones, the indoor-outdoor quality, and the appeal of the lot situated 45 feet above sea level—and saved it.

A round gravel patio, wrapped in pittosporum “Silver Sheen,” is a private nook off the master bedroom.
A round gravel patio, wrapped in pittosporum “Silver Sheen,” is a private nook off the master bedroom.

Thomas J. Story

After opening up the interior floor plan and refining the interior design, Georgis and Marshall hired Judy Kameon, the prolific garden designer and founder of Elysian Landscapes (The Parker Palm Springs, Platform L.A., and Isabel Marant are among her many Southern California projects). Kameon took advantage of the home’s linear layout and designed the outdoor spaces to act as extensions of the adjacent rooms and chose materials and plants that reflected, complemented, and contrasted the color palette of the interiors. As you go from space to space, the outdoor kitchen mirrors the indoor kitchen, the lounge area is an extension of the living room, and a small private seating area with its own firepit sits just off the main bedroom.

More Videos From Sunset

“As you move through those spaces and look through the windows, every room has the opportunity for a heightened experience,” says Kameon. “I want you to feel like you’re immersed in the garden rather than looking at it from afar.” To that end, Kameon surrounded each outdoor living space with lush plantings. “The garden is literally overhead and on all sides, from the bamboo rustling, to the fragrance of the honeysuckle, to the hummingbirds darting through. It’s a whole other level of engagement.”

An old silver Eucalyptus cantilevers over the guest entry gate.
An old silver Eucalyptus cantilevers over the guest entry gate.

Thomas J. Story

Having worked on numerous luxury commercial and residential projects in New York and elsewhere, Georgis is an architect with admittedly strong opinions on all things aesthetic. But he still put himself in the hands of Kameon’s unique vision. “I come from a much more scripted place while she has a more colorful, loose, and lyrical approach to living.”

When you hear Georgis talk about the rhythm and flow of living and entertaining in the space, you can hear that the trust paid off. “You can have cocktails looking down on the garden, and dinner under the trees, or after-dinner drinks poolside. It’s very much that you’re literally rotating through the gardens.” Over the years the garden has evolved, enveloping the property, and becoming a living thing unto itself.

“Judy enlisted living sentient plants that have become actors with serious personalities,” says Georgis. “They continue to transform the place and set the tone.”

Shallow stairs lead to an elevated nook with a generous sofa and vintage firepit.
Shallow stairs lead to an elevated nook with a generous sofa and vintage firepit.

Thomas J. Story

Get the Look

Subdued accessories and furnishings allow the rich, varied green and metallic palette to shine, while enriching the form and function of the outdoor living spaces.


This Story Came From the Fall 2020 Camping Issue—Read It Here!

To read: Click on the right and left arrows at the edge of the box to turn pages; to make the text larger, click on the fullscreen icon in the lower-right corner (desktop) or in the center (mobile).

Get one year of Sunset—and all kinds of bonuses—for just $24.95. Subscribe now!