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04-26-22 | Feature

Historic Home Hardscape

Reviving a historic Spanish Colonial home
by Steve Shea, Steve Shea Landscape Design

Steve Shea was selected to work on the .74-acre historic Spanish Colonial home's hardscape in San Marino, California. The hardscaping design was inspired by original tile and pavers with imported French limestone laid in an ashlar pattern surrounding the 20' x 40' pool and was completed in Spring 2019.
Steve Shea was selected to work on the .74-acre historic Spanish Colonial home's hardscape in San Marino, California. The hardscaping design was inspired by original tile and pavers with imported French limestone laid in an ashlar pattern surrounding the 20' x 40' pool and was completed in Spring 2019.
After reconfiguring the pool size and shape, this 8' x 9' spa flows into the newly redesigned pool. Custom handmade green and white tiles were used to line the waterline, spa, and pool steps.
After reconfiguring the pool size and shape, this 8' x 9' spa flows into the newly redesigned pool. Custom handmade green and white tiles were used to line the waterline, spa, and pool steps.
Since the pool was shortened, the outdoor kitchen area could include an expanded space located at the other end of the yard and now closer to the interior kitchen. The paving was resurfaced with terracotta tiles in a herringbone pattern. The fireplace also includes the same custom handmade green and white tiles that were used on the updated pool.
To match the classic style of the home and overall design, the drains and the skimmer covers are custom crafted and feature brass fittings.
Custom tiles were used to replicate the originals based off samples of some of the preexisting materials. This side pathway leads to the pool bathroom and the design is also used in the motor court.
Custom tiles were used to replicate the originals based off samples of some of the preexisting materials. This side pathway leads to the pool bathroom and the design is also used in the motor court.

This project was about reimagining and reviving a historic Spanish Colonial home designed by George Washington Smith, built-in 1923. The house is located in the city of San Marino, California, a wealthy community that prides itself on historic preservation. Steve Shea, Landscape Design had worked with the clients on their previous home, a landmarked property in Glendale, California, so they trusted him. This project was also was designed to cohesively flow with the house's original architecture.
The design team found samples of some of the original hardscape materials, such as tile and pavers for the main courtyard walkways on-site and had these reproduced to create additional pathways to match the original, existing ones. Mission Tile West in South Pasadena matched the color, size, and shapes of the tile and pavers perfectly. Where possible, the design plan stuck with the period and imbue just enough of the client's personality to make it special.
The existing pool was reshaped, shortened by 4 feet, to create a spacious patio area. The spa was built in the corner and flows into the pool. New entry stairs extend the entire length of the pool at the shallow end of the pool. The design team used custom hand-made green and white tiles that were hand-cut on-site for the waterline tile, spa, the deep end step, and to frame the planting beds around the palm trees. The same tiles were used under the hearth and as the riser for the step up to the covered loggia. 25-foot-tall date palms were craned in for a dramatic effect, they are famed by planters that utilize the pool tile. New hedges along the north perimeter provide a green backdrop and privacy, along with the walls that are covered in ivy.

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The pool deck is imported French limestone provided by Exquisite Surfaces in West Hollywood, California. The limestone is organized in an ashlar pattern. The coping is also French limestone to match the pool deck.
The pathway leading to the pool bathroom is a replica of the pathways that surround the main fountain courtyard. It extends the length of the house, from the pool bathroom, through the motor court to the side entrance, and ends at the stairs that lead to the maid's quarters.
Where a small and outdated grill area existed, an outdoor fireplace was added. Placing it on this end of the loggia helped block the view to the nearby neighbor's house. The new, updated outdoor kitchen was installed at the other end which was located closer to the interior kitchen. The floor was resurfaced with warm terracotta tiles in a herringbone pattern.
There are three main courtyards surrounding the home where there was an inconsistency in the wall heights, so the design team extended some of the walls for continuity. Mission Tile West reproduced terracotta tiles were selected.
The interior contractor, Pacific Pride Builders, who had worked with the design team on the client's previous home, joined us for this renovation. The interior had been heavily remodeled, and the client had used the same French limestone in the kitchen that was utilized on the pool. Again, for continuity, the design team used this limestone on the side entry from the motor court.
The driveway gates were reproduced based on sketches of the original gates from 1923 and were hand-carved out of solid oak gates 8 feet tall. The new driveway, extending from the street down an 80-foot stretch to the open motor court was redone with brick bands and poured concrete with an exposed aggregate finish. The design team combined several mixes of pebbles in differing sizes and colors to create a unique blend. Decomposed granite pathways surround a kitchen garden in the far corner of the motor court just outside the window to the kitchen dining area. All new hedges and decorative plantings extend along the driveway.
Espalier citrus trees adorn the walls of the motor court along with the house and behind the kitchen garden.
Additionally, the Landscape Architect craned in four 130-year-old olives trees, one for the motor court and three for the side yard. We employed a plant palette that would have been used in 1923 and added a fruit orchard including orange, grapefruit, lemon, Meyer lemon, Australian finger lime, Mulberry, kumquat, and five different blueberry varieties that border the large grassy side yard. Decomposed granite patio surrounded by three of these old olive trees at the north end of this area was installed.
The project took nearly two years to complete since the City of San Marino required an extensive review process and numerous inspections.

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