In this month’s L.A. Home Design feature, “The Custom Treatment,” we showcased local artisans. One, Judy Kameon, began her career in landscape design 20 years ago, transforming an empty lot next to her Elysian Park bungalow into an urban oasis. Her firm Elysian Landscapes was born from the project and has since acquired a reputation for creating lush yet comfortable outdoor living spaces. In 2000, she launched a collection of outdoor furniture inspired by midcentury modern looks called Plain Air with her husband Erik Otsea. This month also marks the release of her book Gardens Are for Living, subtitled Design Inspiration for Outdoor Spaces. We chatted with Kameon about what you can expect to find in the book, and we’re also giving away a free copy of the gorgeous compliation. Enter here (contest ends Monday, March 17 at midnight), and see a sample of Kameon’s work in the slide show below.
Your Gardens Are for Living, in addition to boasting a rich collection of photographs, works as a “how to” manual. What led you to share so many of your secrets?
I wanted to create a book that would inspire people to think differently about their outdoor spaces. In addition to providing beautiful images, I wanted to include useful information, tips, and strategies. Over the years I’ve learned that most people are baffled by how to start, and my hope is that this book will give people motivation or a jumping-off point. Whether one chooses to hire a professional and become a more informed client or tackle it yourself, I want everyone to get out there and make something happen. Life is better when you live outside.
You write about the revolution in the design of front gardens. What are some of your tips for reinventing these spaces?
Front gardens are generally a transition between public and private spaces, so it’s nice to have some delineation. Plant a small hedge or build a low wall along the front and soften it with planting to make a welcoming entrance. I love to add a small seating area or tuck a few herbs into the planting scheme. Take it a step further and put in a water feature or create some drama with a piece of sculpture. It’s possible to do all kinds of things in front yard spaces that are exciting and unexpected.
For those gardeners growing their own food and flowers, you talk about the emotional as well as the actual harvest….
In the winter, often the highlight of my day is waking up and going outside to pick a grapefruit off the tree and eat it for breakfast. The smell and taste are divine, and there is something deeply fulfilling about that simple experience. Growing food and flowers connects us to the seasons, to the climate and soil. It is tangible and real, and in this age, when so much of our daily lives are spent doing things that are virtual and abstract, it is an incredible counterpoint to grow something and harvest it. It feeds us on every level.
You’re a native Angeleno who’s seen a profound change in the cultural zeitgeist toward living outdoors. How will readers find that reflected in your book?
I hope people will connect with many of the examples of an expansive attitude toward outdoor living. The book is structured by activity to reinforce the idea that there are myriad opportunities for entertaining, growing food, playing, relaxing, and more. I also hope they will find inspiration, as I have, from many of my friends who are keeping bees, building amphitheaters, experimenting with architectural models, and cooking the most delicious food, all in their gardens. The book is a window into my world, and I invite everyone to join in.
All photographs courtesy Rizzoli