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Architecture of a garden? Let me explain. First, there is nothing but an enormous Fig Tree. Eventually, on the same spot, a water-wise enchanted oasis appears. Yes, its structure, circulation, and lighting are designed with practical functions in mind. But it has a higher purpose. In addition to satisfying utilitarian demands, it elevates the quality of life. Above all else, this garden is intended to artfully sustain heavenly experiences.

The garden was just photographed by John C. Lewis. He did an amazing job!!! With his fantastic photographs in hand, I’ll be putting together a new ideaBOOK. This blog post is the first installment in a series of four.

garden, architecture, structure, circulation, lighting

Paul Goldberger writes: “Architecture is balanced, precisely and precariously, between art and practicality.”

An outdoor room, it connects living quarters with the studio/workspace/sauna, aka “garden room.” In addition, it serves as an entry court/porch ushering guests who are visiting the home office. It extends the interior spa outdoors by accommodating two chaise lounge chairs under the branches of the Fig Tree arching overhead. Moreover, it sustains a shaded, shielded, and screened place for meditation, scented architecturally with the fountain.

The garden is my private retreat. Its architecture is a carefully considered composition that impacts my everyday life, lifts my spirits.

Here’s how I’ve done it.

garden, architecture, structure, circulation, lighting


Perimeter Hard Edges comprised of buildings and fences enfold the garden. An enclosure approximately 8-feet-high performs a routine function of binding the space and maintaining privacy.

Yet, this collection of eclectic “façades” is designed to be more than an inconspicuous container. Disparate elements, such as stucco, brick and timber walls, reclaimed wood fences, and re-purposed steel tubing, are brought together to make a place, to evoke feelings.

A banal enclosure is re-imagined as an art installation. Upright planes with depth and texture complement a grid of different pockets or clusters occurring on the ground level. Horizontal and vertical surfaces happily co-exist. The result is a three-dimensional network for anticipating (inviting) magic to unfold.

garden, architecture, structure, circulation, lighting

Dining Patio demarcates a room within a room enveloped by five slender aluminum columns that double as outdoor lamps. Softened natural light tumbles in through a translucent glass ceiling, defining the volume intended for a casual meal, tea, or conversation.

garden, architecture, structure, circulation, lighting

Bench Canopy shelters a bench that conjures up tranquility and fills me with dreams. It’s a spot to soothe the eye with appealing sights, such as a buzzing hummingbird or a blooming flower. It invites pensiveness, gives room for introspection, a sense of contentment. I don’t want to move and break the spell.

garden, architecture, structure, circulation, lighting


Three Types of Paths offer distinct choices that unfold in a sequence. Architecture here is a form of communication, a way to establish order; no signage is necessary.

First, there’s an obvious “public route” from the gate in. Next, one arrives at the crossroads and is presented with an opportunity to make a decision.

garden, architecture, structure, circulation, lighting

To the left, there sprawls a meandering passage of stepping-stones, to the right — an almost monumental walkway that compels you to move in a straight line.

Irregular moss-covered slabs make up a squiggle-shaped narrow approach that culminates with the 9-foot glass sliding door of the master bedroom. Pre-cast concrete pavers lead ceremonially to the blue front door of the garden room. Either way, there’s a sense of flow and discovery.

Anchors in the form of assertively sculptural succulents rising up from the fabric of ground cover draw you in. Disseminating additional clues leading to cohesion, these beauties can be thought of as guiding posts visually spanning the space, as if a fluid connecting tissue.

Cheryl Lerner helped me with this part of the design. She calls them “stars.” They are so sumptuous to look at! On the one hand, they are Nature’s elaborate works of art. On the other hand, they serve a pragmatic objective of weaving or tying together diverse elements. They create a narrative.

garden, architecture, structure, circulation, lighting


Even more sensual than by day, the space comes alive with the help of subtle illumination. Hidden light sources make shapely trunks and foliage glow. Lit inconspicuously, the expressive stars of the garden truly shine. It’s startling.

The more time I spend here, the more engaged I feel. Garden lighting as well as structure and circulation are but a few examples of how architecture has the ability to balance between art and practicality. It takes my breath away.


  • June 7, 2017


    Your “garden room” is really beautiful and the thoughts you express in this blog post fall right in line with what I have been thinking about doing with the near space that surrounds my house. Where the near space is the space within 10-20 feet of the exterior walls of my house and the far space is the space that lies outside of the near space. After reading about your “garden room”, I am going think about all the space beyond the exterior wall of my house, my “garden room”.

    I love that bench …

    Thank you for this timely blog post!


    • Alla DIY Ally
      June 7, 2017

      Thank you very much, Bob! I am very glad to hear that this blog post made you think of your next design project in a new light. Just wanted to make a correction. I guess, it wasn’t clear enough. The “garden room” is the converted garage; it looks out into the garden. The garden is an “outdoor room.” Next post will have a plan and it will be easier to understand. I am glad you brought this up! Talk to you soon. alla

      • June 7, 2017


        Visualizing my yard as one or more “outdoor rooms” will be very helpful. I am assuming that I should use some of all of concepts that your presented in your blogs to when I develop my site plan so that there is smooth transition from inside to outside (i.e. align and center, hierarchy in plan and section, etc.).

        Did you keep the fig tree?

        • Alla DIY Ally
          June 8, 2017

          Bob, the fig tree is the most important feature of my garden!
          So glad that the information I provide is useful to you!! Can’t wait to see your site plan! Talk to you soon. a

          • Bob
            June 15, 2017


            Thank you for adding the link to your blog post “A Garden Is and Endless Source of Wonder”. Cheryl Lerner’s garden is truly amazing!


          • Alla DIY Ally
            June 15, 2017

            Thank you, Bob!
            I just forwarded your comment to Cheryl.
            We are off to our daughter’s graduation! Heading to Chicago this morning.

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