A Unique Angle on a Narrow Garden: Japanese Cottage in Los Osos, CA
In a narrow yard — only 37½ feet — it can be tough to come up with a creative outdoor living space that doesn’t feel cramped and/or too rectilinear. Fortunately, Jeffrey Gordon Smith had a creative solution: rotate the design 45 degrees. This in turn lengthened the sight lines and gave the garden “room” a visual sense of being wider. From there, of course, everything had to shift slightly: rather than a conventional driveway, there is now a drive-on turf with a substructure that can support vehicles. Patio stones now lead to different outdoor living areas: a fire pit and seating area now rests in the front yard — an unconventional place, maybe, but one that ingeniously takes advantage of the house as a windbreak from the Pacific, giving the owners more use of the fire on windy days.
Moving around to the back yard, we find a hot tub — with a fountain flowing from it, a unique two-in-one focal point — and a second, in-ground fire pit in sea-blue stone, a balance of elements of “fire” and “water.” The large patio area here is rounded off — literally — with an arc of an ipe wood bench and a concentric circle of Mexican weeping bamboo trees. Native grasses, low plantings, and abundant turf between the patio bricks keep the “green” flowing from front yard to back, while the circular patterns in the backyard fool the eye enough to relieve the “bowling-alley” effect of parallel driveways down a neighborhood street. Balanced natural elements, plus a design turned slightly at an angle, work together for a group of cozy outdoor “rooms” that offer the owners plenty of entertaining and leisure space.