Project Galleries

Dar Ben-Lisa

An Escape to Exotic Morocco

Project Description

  • A new large Moroccan tiled terrace extends off the master bedroom on the same level through new window doors. This allows the spa to be set “flush,” hiding the mechanics and bulk underneath. A tented, sumptuous lounging alcove with custom sofas is situated at the opposite end and is visible from bed.
  • On axis with the doors, tiled steps descend to a lower courtyard patio featuring an authentic white marble urn fountain (which doubles as a water bowl for the dogs).
  • Tucked around the perimeter of this patio are a tiled potting bench with sink, tiled storage closet with carved wood doors, a small dining table, and a gas grill.
  • Planting areas: Aside from vines, an accent palm, and tree aloe, shapely pots keep plants elevated. Simple mulch on available “yard” space is easy to clean/groom and allows the dogs to wander about without damaging plant material.
  • Existing palm trunks are used to hang colorful Moroccan lanterns. A huge existing bougainvillea was trained as a waterfall. A new fence, painted vibrant blue (a nod to the classic Majorelle garden in Marrakesh) is partially veiled with espaliered vines. Other artisan elements—including tile patterns, clay pots, brass sink and faucet, carved wood, and tooled lanterns—complete the illusion.
  • Environmental responsibility is reflected in the way the patios are graded toward planting areas, where existing trees can absorb storm water runoff. Rear downspouts were directed to infiltration pits in front yard planting areas. Low-water-use plants and vines require little applied water. Quality materials and craftsmanship contribute to project sustainability (i.e., longevity = no landfill).

(NOTE: All work was performed by licensed landscape contractors.)

APLD Award Winner badgeAbout the Project

APLD Gold Award for
Small-garden Design (2020)

This classic Spanish Bungalow backyard in West Hollywood looked unremarkable and had little or no real usable space. A small wooden landing/steps provided access from the master bedroom to a cracked concrete patio surrounded by overgrown timber bamboo that was badly hacked. The three mature queen palms were nicely spaced, though, and the clients had purchased a few potted succulent specimens and exotic doors to use.

The clients (both therapists) work out of home offices and have two dogs. They wanted an “after hours” escape with a spa in a private, romantic setting. They also wanted a storage area, as well as space for grilling and dining, as well as a workstation for potting up cuttings. “Having fun with color” was one of the mandates.

My primary design intent was to create a backyard space that would transport them to their favorite exotic vacation spot: Morocco! Not only should it be authentic and comfortable, but it should also be laid out so as to keep the spa hidden. To that end, I decided to treat the space as a sumptuous, split-level jewel box, where I could layer artisan-crafted elements as focal points and details to keep the eyes moving so you don’t see how small it is. In fact, by using diagonal lines and Moroccan tile patterns, I hoped to visually expand the appearance of the space.

Designer’s Role

Detail was everything to the clients. After full design and development, I acted on their behalf as project manager throughout the course of the installation with all vendors, including carpenters, upholsterer, contractors, tile setters, etc. I executed planting & lighting plan, made color selections. Much of what we purchased was custom made for us in Morocco. Design work included tile layouts, pavilion façade, furniture drawings; I sourced plant material, ironwork, lighting fixtures, upholstery, pots and most accessories.

This project received the Gold Award in the small-garden design category from the international Association of Professional Landscape Designers (APLD) in 2020.

Wow! Imaginative, creative, and fun. This remarkable design shows how amazingly a theme shapes a space and its details. It is what was needed to define this Moroccan room.

— APLD The Designer, Fall 2020 [read article]

My design intent was to create a backyard space that would transport them to their favorite vacation spot: Morocco!

~ Laura Morton