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Northern California Landscaping

An Estate Landscape Inspired by the South of France

A coastal California property maximizes views and outdoor living space

  • Preserving and enhancing views was one of the main landscape design goals for this property.
  • When entering from the front of the home, the views are hidden in order to create an element of surprise.
  • The infinity edge lap pool features underwater speakers and an automatic pool cover.
  • The pool and travertine decking look out upon a large lawn designed for hosting events.
  • Throughout the property natural stone veneer clads the walls and travertine paving covers the ground.
  • The property's plants were selected according to developer restrictions and for deer-resistance.
  • A perspective drawing that shows how retaining walls were used to terrace the rear of the property into usable spaces.
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Perched above California's Carmel Bay, this home, which is part of Clint Eastwood's Tehama development, is set on nearly 10 acres. The property features breathtaking views, a luxurious lap pool, both a public and private spa, a large lawn for hosting events and gorgeous stone-clad retaining walls.

Project Highlights:

  • Location: Carmel, CA
  • Property Size: 10 acres
  • Budget: $500,000 +
  • Landscape Architect: Suzman Design Associates
  • Landscape Contractor: Frank & Grossman Landscaping Contractors
  • Awards: 2010 CLCA President's Trophy

Client Requests: A pool for swimming laps, a large lawn for hosting events, private & public spaces and a south of France atmosphere

Design Goals: Maximize view lines, maximize usable space, be site specific, and be architecture appropriate

Designing a Pool for an Avid Swimmer The homeowner, who is a devoted swimmer, wanted his own full-length lap pool. He also requested that the pool have underwater speakers so that he could listen to music while swimming. Landscape designer Stephen Suzman opted for a rectangular design because it lends itself to swimming laps. "Additionally, a rectangular pool is easily equipped with an automatic pool cover," he explains. A pool cover was a must for this property because there are many wild animals in the area that may find their way into the water. The cover also reduces the amount of energy required to heat the water and keeps the pool clean. Another reason for the rectangular design was to match the geometric architecture of the home.

Tips for Keeping Deer Away:

When designing this landscape, Suzman had to consider the deer that live in the area. Here are his tips:

  • An 8 foot fence is recommended.
  • Deer are less likely to jump over a wall because they can't see through to the other side.
  • Double fences spaced 4-5 feet apart work well if there are height restrictions.
  • An extension can be added to a wall or fence to keep deer out.
  • Select deer-resistant plants, but realize that nothing is 100% deer-proof.
  • Apply deer repellent when plants are installed and again in two weeks to prevent initial damage.

Maximizing Views "The home has views from every window," says Suzman, who worked closely with the architect to ensure that the home's vistas were preserved and enhanced. Breathtaking views of undeveloped hills and the glistening bay were major factors in the design of the home's landscape. With over thirty-three feet of elevation change, retaining walls were necessary to create useable space. Suzman designed the walls at the minimum height possible in order to leave the views unobstructed.

Working within the Developer's Restrictions One of the main challenges that Suzman faced on this project was meeting the requirements of the property's developer. Stewardship and preservation are the principles that guide the Tehama development, which enforces stringent planting and watering restrictions. "We were not allowed to plant non-native plants outside of the one-acre buildable area," Suzman explains. Along with the use of many native plants, smart irrigation design including a special underground system for lawns, which can reduce water needs by up to 70%, was employed to comply with the water restrictions. When landscaping a large estate like this one, Suzman recommends grouping plants with like water needs in the same irrigation zone, thereby improving water efficiency.

Materials & Plants:


  • EPIC (Environmental Passive Integrated Chamber) - supplied by Rehbein Environmental Solutions


  • Walls: Fondulac Rustic, thin veneer - supplied by Graniterock
  • Paving: Cremino and Alpaca travertine - supplied by One Step Travertine

Plants (sampling from the complete plant list)

  • Manzanita, rockrose, rosemary, sage, crape myrtle & tufted hair grass

Creating a Landscape Reminiscent of the South of France From the beginning of the project the homeowners knew that they wanted their landscaping to be reminiscent of the South of France. Luckily, California's Mediterranean climate is very similar to that region's climate, making it possible to use many of the same materials and plants. To create old world charm, the homeowners selected a thin veneer of natural stone to cover all of the retaining and landscaping walls. In addition, two types of travertine pavers were used for the pool deck and walkways. Suzman selected aromatic plants such as lavender, rosemary and sage to further enhance the South of France atmosphere.

Furthermore, Suzman replicated the outdoor lifestyle that exists in Southern France by dividing the large property up into separate outdoor rooms. Some areas, such as the patio and spa off of the master suite, are intimate and designed for small groups, while other areas, such as the pool and lawn, are open and designed for large parties. According to Suzman, sun, shade and wind conditions helped him orient each space within the overall landscape. He also stressed the fact that certain spaces can be enjoyed during the day and other spaces can be enjoyed at night.

Suzman Design Associates
1265 Battery Street, 5th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94111

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Contributing Author:

Sarah Hutchinson, contributing writer for Landscaping Network

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