Unique Rooms #5 – Sweet Sanctuary


Written By: Karen Buscemi

Spread across 5 acres in the tony town of Holmby Hills, California, where legends such as Aaron Spelling, Barbara Streisand, and Hugh Hefner have called home, is a 1950s estate once owned by Gary Cooper. The property, however, wasn’t always this grand. It took the current homeowner’s love for his grounds to inspire him to purchase two neighboring properties and bulldoze the houses, securing him enough land to create a multigarden oasis.

The project, Baroda Garden, was commandeered by Mark Rios and his landscape architecture team at Rios Clementi Hale Studios, based in Los Angeles, and took eight years (as the properties became available) to complete.

The journey begins on the drive up to the house, past a long retaining wall used as an entry art piece covered with a series of abstract sculptures telling the story of the site and the gardens that occupy it. The entire perimeter around the house, which sits transparently on the site, among the design scheme, has this abstract, graphic feel, with a pastoral lawn and defined gardens with minimal plant varieties in geometric forms,a long pool, and two ponds – one with a modern waterfall, the other a smaller-scale koi pond – topped off with a moving sculpture that allows participation with the artwork. As a complete makeover of the original owner’s gardens, which Rios says hadn’t been maintained over the years, the designer took care to keep the spirit of the original garden.

The more rustic areas have narrow gravel paths, rocky trails, and winding stairways that guide the walker around the property, passing bamboo garden, a dense arroyo garden with eucalyptus trees, a California succulent garden, a camellia and azalea garden, and a California grass garden. Along the way are a number of unique sitting areas to spend an afternoon.

A viewing terrace with wood decking hangs over the arroyo and is encased in lush wisteria. The secluded terrace looks back on the house and original gardens.

All the hillsides, which go down to the arroyo, are filled with succulent gardens, featuring different kinds of native California plant materials. And sitting areas are locate here , too, in minimalistic settings on gravel that lets nature take center stage.

And the surprising leisurely area comes at the garden farthest from the house, where a vintage Airstream trailer acts as a garden folly, inviting the walker inside to rest, eat a meal, or enjoy a glass of wine.

Rios says the various resting spots are essential for a garden journey.

Rios says his favorite part of the property is the ability to have so many varied experiences in one place.