Home & Garden

The Felix home in Pismo Beach flows inside and out

The steps are lined with planters filled with low-maintenance plants.
The steps are lined with planters filled with low-maintenance plants.

Edward and Bluma Felix rarely used the backyard of their Pismo Beach home. Though capacious, its steep slope and old, musty guest house made it less than welcoming. Even their lap pool was rarely visited because, according to Edward, “in Pismo, for anybody to have a pool is ridiculous.”

So when they decided to demolish the water-damaged guest house three years ago, they went a step further and created a show-stopping indoor-outdoor space tailormade for entertaining.

An earlier remodel, completed when the Felixes purchased the home nine years ago, modernized the interior of their 1970s-built house which, according to Edward, used to be “funky, with a lot of wood paneling, wood beams — like something you’d find in Tahoe.”

The general contractor for that project, John Daulton, moved a cumbersome wood staircase to open up the great room, and replaced it with a sleek brushed stainless steel version. They removed dark ceiling paneling and painted the exposed beams a cream color to lighten up the interior, and replaced the one small door leading to the patio with a bank of glass doors to improve views and access to the backyard.

Outdoor upgrades were part of the first renovation. They removed a rickety wood-plank walkway and added a large deck with steps that led down to their lawn.

With the second remodel, they hired architect Richard Blair LeGros and landscape architect Jeffrey Gordon Smith who collaborated to design a backyard where indoor and outdoor spaces flow together.

LeGros sparked an idea that drove the project. “He said we should move the guest house closer, contiguous with the regular house, and use it as part of the house,” said Edward. The previous guest house was located on the far end of the yard and accessible only by crossing a bridge that spanned their swimming pool. Smith conceived a gradually descending concrete staircase to mitigate the steep slope of the yard. The wide, meandering steps are lined with planters, creating areas for people to stop, sit and converse.

Plant material in adiverse array of textures and hues softens the angular hardscape and architecture. Polygon-shaped planters spill over with plants that suit the coastal climate. Drifts of low-maintenance plant material create what Smith calls a “dramatic mosaic of texture and color.”

That mosaic flows all the way to the guest house roof, where a living roof system resembles an abstract painting rendered in a mix of gray and green sedum. The living roof palettes were grown by Native Sons Nursery in Arroyo Grande and installed by Gardens by Gabriel.

At the base of the path is the entrance to the 875-square-foot guest house, which is close enough to use regularly, but secluded enough to offer guests a measure of privacy. The house not only includes a guest suite, but a kitchen area large enough for dining, or even impromptu games of ping pong.

“The inside of the house wasn’t built with a big kitchen, so we put it below,” said Edward. “It’s where we can cook and serve Thanksgiving dinner, host large parties, or sit and relax in front of the TV.”

A glass wall slides open to connect the guest house with one of many small patios and conversation areas scattered throughout the yard, making even large parties feel intimate. This one has benches surround ing a contemporary fire glass fire pit. In another spot, two hammocks, strung between poles, anchor a secluded meditation garden. And then there is the couple’s favorite area: a deck atop the guest house roof that offers one of the property’s best ocean views. A boardwalk leading to it is lined with dune grasses. When the fire pit is lit, it has the ambience of a beach bonfire.

The team installed a bocce ball court in place of the swimming pool. Behind that is a volleyball court.

The old pool and large backyard lawn, which Bluma was originally loathe to part with, have given way to a much usable space.

“I am much happier as it still is green and safe,” she said. “The lawn needed a lot of upkeep and we use a lot less water now.”

The couple uses their entire backyard now, whether they are throwing a large party, or enjoying a quiet evening, just the two of them.

“The backyard always looks well kept. I love the variety of plants that thrive in this climate,” said Bluma. “When I go outside I feel like I am on vacation.”


LIVING ROOF POINTERS If you are considering a living roof, be sure to consult an engineer to ensure that the structure can handle the weight load. The weight of a fully-planted and waterlogged live roof pallet adds upward of 50 pounds per square foot. For more information on the living roof systems distributed by Native Sons, see www.liveroof.com.  

BRING HOME THE BEACH The soft, billowing grasses used on the rooftop fire pit area create a beach feel. They are Leymus condensatus “Canyon Prince,” a native grass to the Channel Islands, European dune sedge, and Carex flacca.

COASTAL PLANT PALETTE The backyard boasts plant material that is dramatic in color and texture, as well as low-maintenance. They include a selection of agaves, Dasylirion longissimum, Euphorbia characias “Bruce’s Dwarf,” Euphorbia Myrsinites, Rosmarinus officinalis “Boule,” Senecio mandraliscae, Senecio radicans, Tradescantia pallida “Purple Heart” and Tristaniopsis laurina.