Frank and Debbi came to us after their new garage and parking area were finished, the latter being a sprawling expanse of paving that accommodated half a dozen cars. It was far more than Debbi had envisioned, as their three cars fit neatly in the garage.
Debbi called the office, nearly reduced to tears. She hoped we had some remedy that would transform what didn’t get paved into a garden and home once again. I remember her call clearly: “I have a garden emergency,” she said.
A garden emergency? I thought to myself: what could possibly constitute a garden emergency?
“My husband just put a parking lot in my front yard,” she explained.
“Wow. That is an emergency. I’ll be right over,” I promised.
Frank and Debbi are a fun and lovely couple who would become fast friends, but Debbi was right. The only flat space around the house had been gobbled up by parking. The remaining open ground was fairly well sloped and none too welcoming.
It wasn’t just the use of space that was disconcerting: the layout made wayfinding nearly impossible. The most likely place you’d land as you approached the house was Frank’s smoking patio. Next up was the laundry room. But how to find the front door?
“Can we take out some of this parking?” I asked hopefully. “Nope,” she said, “He’ll divorce me and I’m not ready to go there.”
“Okay. Then we’re going to make this parking lot spectacular—the sexiest parking lot the world has ever known,” I announced. “And we’ll find a way to make the unpaved land into a beautiful garden.” Debbi was much relieved to hear this and hired us on the spot. She couldn’t see how it was going to happen, but she said she had every confidence in us (and was going to keep her fingers crossed to help with the process).
We kept all the parking, using well-placed screening and some “come hither” tricks to create a new context.
There were existing stucco walls bordering two sides of the property and Frank’s smoking patio. Job #1 was to close off the smoking patio so it wouldn’t be mistaken for an entry. We replaced the gate in the existing wall with an antique iron grille, to cordon off the space, without diminishing ventilation.
Next we built a new stucco wall, separating the parking lot from soon-to-be garden space. Thus, the parking lot was transformed into a “motor court” (much sexier already, right?)
A stunning set of antique doors in the new wall and sconce lighting call out the way to the front door. The motor court walls were draped with vines and huge pots with dramatic, sculptural plantings and pebble mulch were arranged along the new wall. Huge olive trees planted both inside and outside of the wall soften the motor court without taking away an inch of Frank’s parking.
Once they saw the completed motor court, both Debbi and Frank declared it a candidate for a coffee table book about gorgeous—sexy, even—parking lots. And we declared it a home run!
Do you have any candidates for The World’s Sexiest Parking Lots coffee table book? We’d love to see this often less-than-sexy-but-necessary landscape element—the lowly parking lot—elevated. Given all the space dedicated to parking in the world, why can’t parking lots be beautiful? And/or productive? And/or ????
Send photos of your favorites — we’ll pull it all together and share it in a future post.
Sneak peak into our next blog post…
Next, we set to work on the newly created garden space… You’ll see how it all comes together in….
My Favorite Gardens: Hidden Valley Part 2 - A Hidden Garden