To capitalize on California-style entertaining, the owners of this backyard in Calabasas, Calif., made sure they had the essentials: a massaging spa, two hippo statues and a bar counter that twinkles at night.
Landscape designer Scott Cohen designed this half-acre space with these elements and more in mind. To create vignettes perfect for entertaining, Cohen integrated different levels into the sloped landscape. What starts as a pool wall becomes a raised spa, which becomes a bar counter. The surrounding landscape is lush with ficus, 'Tropicana' canna, queen palms and giant bird of paradise. "The key to any backyard design... is that you want to be able to maximize the space," he says.
The project took about seven and a half months to complete and was heavily influenced by the homeowners' love of outdoor living, not to mention the heat. The area sometimes reaches 105 degrees F in the summer, so Cohen installed a mist system around the pool and pavilion to cool the area by 15 to 20 degrees. In the pool, the Baja shelf, an elongated step about 18-inches deep, provides another relief from the heat. "Most people spend the majority of the time on the first or second step of the pool," he says.
Sited next to the 48' x 24' pool, the spa includes a six-jet, five-foot deep massage area with a shoulder-massaging waterfall. A landscaper who likes to find environmentally-friendly solutions, Cohen used crushed, recycled wine and scotch bottles backlit with 500 fiber optic cables for an extraordinary bar counter. A kid favorite, two hippo statues blend into the foliage — per homeowner request — serving cleverly as pool-water recirculators.
For the adults, Cohen created a more private space. "When you entertain, people naturally break into smaller groups," he says. To pull people into different areas of the yard, he designed a freestanding pavilion set in the center of an 18' x 18' fountain with an outdoor fireplace and seating area. The floating patio makes for a more private area.
"The only way to get there is to walk across the pads," he says, "so it gives the sense of being isolated from everything else."
Scott Cohen is president and supervising designer of The Green Scene, Inc., an outdoor design and construction firm in the Los Angeles area. As a ceramicist and sculptor, Cohen frequently uses custom made tiles and statues in his designs. Cohen has been featured on HGTV's Landscapers' Challenge, Designing for the Sexes and various specials, and has been featured in Better Homes and Gardens and The Los Angeles Times.