02-19-20 | Feature

The Stone Residence

Brentwood - Los Angeles, Calif.
by Tom Rau, Landscape Architect, Urban Water Group, Inc.

Colorful meadows and decomposed granite pathways with stone edging encircle the native Carex praegracils lawn, which will be ready to mow and use for entertaining in a few months. Eight underground cisterns storing 14,000 gallons are beneath the meadow and lawn of the two-acre Stone Residence in Los Angeles. Landscape architect, Urban Water Group, began design renovations on the two-acre property in the winter of 2015, and completed the project in May of 2018.
The fire pit is surrounded by a colorful mix of Mediterranean and succulent plantings. The hardscape consists of stabilized decomposed granite and Eco-rain cells with gravel.
Completed view of the water-house, which contains a 5,000-gallon cistern, electrical panels, and low voltage controls for the stormwater system's pumps, relays, and automation controls. The octagonal building matches the existing Spanish style residence in the background.
The water-house, under construction, has an 11' diameter x 8' tall Bushman cistern. The elevation of the slab for the tank is 3' below grade to lower the building profile. In the background, workers compact backfill in the trench, which has eight infiltrator brand 1,787-gallon underground tanks.
A decomposed granite pathway edged in stone terminates at the canyon overlook, creating an infinity edge. The pathway junctions are punctuated with flagstones and gravel.Near the boulder on the right is a hidden shallow pool fed by irrigation to provide water for wildlife.
Rain gardens planted with California and Australian native plants receive and filter overflow from the stormwater's harvesting system before the water is released to the storm drain.

The Stone Residence is located in the hills of Brentwood, a Los Angeles community in the Santa Monica Mountains, west of I-405 and south of Mulholland Drive. Overlooking Mandeville Canyon and with beautiful views of the Santa Monica Bay and Catalina Island, the property abuts coastal chaparral comprised of native flora such as Coast Live Oak, Sycamore, Yucca, Toyon, Buckwheat, and is home to local fauna such as deer, coyotes, rabbits, hawks and many species of migrating birds.

Persistent drought, excessive heat, and very high fire risk, however, are the new normal in California's scenic hillside communities. Prior to the Stone Residence renovation, the two-acre landscape was comprised mostly of thirsty exotic plants, over 7,000 square feet of unused lawn, many flammable palm trees, and invasive species such as Brazilian Pepper. But it was a notice from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power informing the owners that they were in the top 1% of water users that prompted them to comprehensively transform their property into a drought resilient landscape. Landscape Architect, Urban Water Group, began design for the residence in December of 2015, and completed the renovation in May of 2018.

Project Scope
This included 1) replacing 25,000 square feet of existing landscaping with California climate-appropriate plantings, native to California, South Africa, the Mediterranean, and Australia. 2) Incorporating 23,000 gallons of stormwater capture and storage facilities to supplement new drip irrigation. 3) An automated water management system to maximize storage capacity by deep watering shrubs and trees in advance of storms during the winter season when they need it most, and 4) an edible garden consisting of vegetables and a variety of Southern California adapted fruit trees.

Program Elements and Design Intent
Several thousand new plants were organized into a hierarchy of plant communities: a native Carex praegracilis lawn adjacent to the pool and terrace, mixed native meadows in the middle grounds of canyon vistas, native oak woodland on the perimeter slopes, succulent gardens visible from the kitchen and dining rooms, rain gardens, and an edible garden consisting of raised beds, wash station, a sitting area, and perimeter fencing.


Key program elements such as a new fire pit, oak cove, water-house, and edible garden are linked to the existing pool and covered terraces with meandering pathways of decomposed granite edged in stone. Existing hardscape areas, including the pool and pool deck were resurfaced with Fossil Creek flagstone, a light-colored natural stone placed in an ashlar pattern. The design intent was to create an informal, floristic interpretation of a native California landscape.

Stormwater is captured from the 7,000-square-foot roof, filtered and stored in ten underground plastic tanks of 1,787 gallons each, plus one above-ground 5,000-gallon tank. The above-ground tank is housed in a Spanish-tiled water-house building that matches the architecture of the residence and serves as a visible indicator of the extensive stormwater storage system underneath the meadows and edible garden. In drought years of 5"-6" of rain, cistern water augments 20% of irrigation needs, enough to sustain the most valuable landscape elements, the trees, in the event landscape watering is prohibited. Overall, water consumption will be decreased by 80% once the new plantings are established.

Team List
Prime Design/Build Consultant - Urban Water Group, Inc.
Project Manager - Marilee Kuhlmann
Landscape Architect - Tom Rau
Design Consultants -
Michael Allan Eldridge, AIA
Carol Bornstein
Johanna Woollcott
John M Cruishank Consultants
Geosoils Consultants
John Lambert and Associates
Construction Subcontractors -
Clark and White Landscape
Macon Concrete, Inc.
SK Construction
Photos - Saxon Holt

As seen in LASN magazine, February 2020.


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