Lenkin Design Inc

Lenkin Design Inc

Pasadena, CA


Parisian Courtyard

The owners of Parisian Courtyard begin their day in the garden, with coffee and the paper. They end it there, too, nursing an after-dinner drink, lingering as the sun sets. The scent of Lavandula 'Grosso' and pop of color from potted Pelargonium 'Vancouver Centennial' enliven the intimate courtyard and serve as happy reminders of France's lavender and geraniums, plants that symbolize the beauty and easy charm of French living and decorating. The Moores have been to their beloved Paris more than a dozen times, and have also fallen for the South, between Cannes and Monaco. If there was ever a garden to fulfill an American Francophile's constant longing, this is it.

While you would never know from the looks of things, this is a rooftop garden successfully masquerading as a courtyard. Landscape architect Heather Lenkin painstakingly waterproofed the 'floor' of the garden and ensured proper drainage and irrigation, all foremost concerns when there is a room down below. The 300-year-old custom-cut stone flooring extends up like beadboard beneath a chair rail, hiding narrow planters in which the irrigation, plants and chase for lighting are put. Other tricks allow this space to function smoothly: for example, new hinges allow the glass doors between house and garden to fold away, physically blending indoors and out. With these practical matters attended to, we gladly forget what happens behind the curtain and take in the show.

A living room on the ground floor opens through those glass doors to the courtyard, while upstairs another living room looks down on it. Because they entertain a great deal, the client asked Lenkin for a space that would flow well with the rest of the house and become the visual center of everything. Wonderful antiques and subdued colors define the interior design, so it seemed right and natural to soften the exterior by aging walls and moldings with shades of burnt umber and pale yellow. The windows were painted a French green, so together the subtle palette of buttercreams, beiges and greens created a soothing backdrop for the couple’s carefully chosen antiques purchased on their numerous trips to Europe, and lovingly placed throughout the garden.

In the classical style, the garden’s centerpiece is a glorious hand-carved limestone fountain, designed by Lenkin. Immense, and a natural focal point, the fountain accounts for the unusual proportions of the space it inhabits: because the clients entertain here, the garden ornament and plants must stay close to the walls. Surrounded by Parthenocistus tricuspidatus (a flowering plant in the grape family) and the feathery leaves of pepper trees whose movement signals breezes, the trickling water of the fountain imbues the courtyard with serenity. 

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Status: Built
Location: Pasadena, CA, US