The Great Escape
A social Encino family creates the alfresco Zen den of their dreams.
Maira Suro’s years as a TV executive gave her plenty of experience managing creative projects. But recently she found herself overseeing a whole new kind of development: a total redesign of her Encino backyard.
Several years ago Maira began combing magazines and websites seeking design ideas and a new look for the expansive backyard and pool area of the mid-century modern home she shares with her husband, David Garfinkle—owner of a TV production company; twin daughters, Ali and Remi, 16; and three small dogs.
The two-story structure, which is south of the Boulevard, had undergone a full remodel before the family moved in nine years ago. “The only thing left from the 1950s was this beautiful palm tree,” Maira says, pointing to a delicate palm near one corner of the house.
Now it was time for a similarly radical update for the long-neglected backyard. “What I really wanted was for it to feel like a small boutique hotel,” she explains. “It’s very Zen.”
Besides reconfiguring the pool to include a Jacuzzi and shortening it to allow more patio space, Maira wanted to define separate areas within the large yard, including two poolside decks, a secluded corner with table tennis and comfy couches, and a dining area that accommodates a sleek, modern table with 12 chairs. Pops of color (most notably chartreuse and purple) reflect shades found in the interior house décor.
The floor-to-ceiling windows slide back to create an open-air flow between the living room and a new outdoor seating area in which comfortable, cushioned sofas and chairs surround a rectangular fire pit. Other dramatic lighting includes fire bowls and dangling lanterns.
Maira took on the seven-month project with an eye toward the entertaining needs of high school juniors Ali and Remi. The table tennis area is hidden from parental eyes, providing enough privacy to encourage socializing at home. “We’ve always been the house where , ‘Sure, you can have a Halloween party. Sure, you can have 20 girls for a sleepover,’” Maira says with a laugh. “At least they’re home, and I get to meet their friends.”
While the house is mid-century, one choice is strictly contemporary and made for California: the use of artificial turf, which is virtually undetectable until pointed out. On a trip to Paris, Maira fell in love with gardens that included rectangular pavers with decorative gravel in between, used here as another alternative to grass.
Interior designer Flavia Carrozzi came in on the project to help with landscape material selection, the scale of items like the stained platform bed and the design of custom pieces like the fire pit table. Lighting and landscape designer Brian Farrell and contractor Stephen Davis rounded out the team.
Small Items, Big Splash
The 12 chairs for the outdoor table were selected from Jan et Cie at the Pacific Design Center for their intricate leaf cut-out pattern. The chartreuse and eggplant colors mimic hues in the family room, which looks out onto the outdoor dining area.
Antiqued brass sunbursts add interest on an outdoor wall. Maira picked them up at Bedfellows in Studio City. “They have the greatest tchotchkes there—from framed photography to antique Murano glass,” she says.
On the custom designed stained ipe wood deck, brushed nickel panels were installed. “When you first walk out, we wanted something that would catch the eye. The goal was to have the light shine through the panels and mirror the leaf pattern on the chairs in the dining area,” Maira explains.