Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Hotel Bel Air Reopens and USA Today Feature

The work that we have been doing at the Hotel Bel Air for the last two years is finally ready to be seen by the public! The hotel is reopening now and the landscaping is being well received which makes me very happy. Yesterday the Friends of Virginia Robinson Gardens brought 35 members to the Hotel which was very gratifying to me. The new Hotel Bel Air features the design work of Alexandra Champaulimaud on the interiors, David Rockwell on the restaurant spaces, and Leo Daly and HLW architects. Wolfgang Puck is doing the new restaurant which is really delicious, and I recommend at least stopping by for a drink or dinner on the terrace to check out the landscape. Or... pay for the Presidential Suite and stay for a weekend.
The hotel features a lot of green changes which I designed and built including a Grey Water system, and drip irrigation on the new Villas site. We also removed over 4000 plants and trees and reinstalled them when the job was completed, with less that a 2% loss of the plants that were relocated so far.
USA TODAY featured us in an article today in the travel section written by their travel editor, Kitty Yancey who was so nice to speak with. Here is a link to the article: The story was wonderful but I have one correction... I have not worked for John Mayer yet. Hopefully, he will call me one day because I love his music and , hey.... we could jam a little during our lunch break because music is my real love and I am a keyboard player.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Mark Wahlberg Is selling his house.. and featuring my landscape

I was very happy to see that Mark Wahlberg had featured pictures of the landscape and Pool, entry, and Gym in his recent campaign to sell his home. We worked on his estate for approximately 2 years creating some really interesting and fun features, back when the Entourage was real.. and the TV show was not even a gleam in Marks eye. It was a very fascinating and fun place to work, with the real Eric, Johnny Drama, and Henry..( Not Turtle) Rasta, and all of his agents friends and ... Girlfriends showing up. My crew even played his crew in basketball in some big games on Saturdays on the basketball court that Mark had painted to feature his beloved boston Celtics logo.It was quite a competition, but considering that my crew is made up of workers that average 5'4" and that Johnny Drama is about 6' 4" , we did not have much of a height advantage but we held our own.
The landscaping scope started out simply. with us building him a jacuzzi on the side yard. Pretty soon Mark and I came up with big plans and wanted to make this property his dream home. The next thing we did was design and build a wonderful grotto pool that we sculpted out of rock castings. The grotto itself has rock fissures that allow light, and steam mist into the grotto jacuzzi area. The waterfall comes from a stream that flows down hill through a green roof, or landscaped top that hides the massive nature of the structure quite well. The grotto roof was poured in one day and has more than 1,000,000 pounds of concrete and 10 tons of steel that we tied by hand. The caisson were raised up by a scaffold and hand winch , that I designed for the site. It was something akin to raising a roman column up 22' in the air on a hillside. The most unusual feature is the water slide which I designed to travel 50' down hill through a tunnel of rock and down into the pool with a huge splash. It has three speeds, and the first time we turned it on, Mark made Henry go down it first to make sure that it was safe on the highest speed ! The pool also has our trademark sandy beach entry with a rock reef.
The pathways and walls feature the use of broken concrete which make this project very Green, We recycled over 20 trucks of broken concrete which would have been hauled away to the dump. The last part of the project was the driveway, solid Iron gates, and motor court construction. It was a very difficult and exciting project but I am so glad to have had the chance to do the job and to have watched Mark start his producing empire, fall in love and start his family. Here is a link to the article about the house. We still maintain the property.. and I hope to stay on once it is sold to.. the next entourage ....,0,5377800.photogallery

Monday, February 21, 2011

Sheryl and Jon

During a photo shoot for our CLCA Beautification Awards, Sheryl was kind enough to pose for a shot with me..... So here it is!
Her property won 1st place for Residential Estate, and one of the highest honors the California Landscape Contractors Association bestows, the Sweepstakes Award, plus awards for Outstanding Achievement in the Design Build Category, all of which belong to my crew who did an outstanding job. Without them, nothing gets built! It is truly all in the details. My thanks to Sheryl and to the CLCA for recognizing our project.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Sheryl Crow Project pictures

Here are some more pictures of Sheryl crow's Pool and landscape. the pool is a zero edge, something that we specialize in building. The water falls on all sides at once silently and creates a very relaxing zen feeling. It is also a perfect mirror to the surrounding landscape.
Most of the plants in her garden and natives to her property, and not just Native plants that we ran out and bought! The were actually divided from some species that have been growing on her well preserved hill for 100 years. We brought in others which will thrive in the hot dry hill and compliment the existing landscape. My goal in creating her pool was to make a gathering place, and a focal point for her homes.... Some where in time, where LA stops, and her life begins.
And of course I installed a stereo system with 4 stereo fields that are in perfect phase around the pool area. Floating in the pool is the audio sweet spot, and as a life long musician myself, I am very proud to say that Sheryl Likes the way it sounds! The day it was finished it was a thrill to play her the duet with Tony Bennett that she sang with him as a test. She had recorded it and had not heard it back on a normal stereo system since the sessions. If you have not heard it, check it out! It will broaden your opinion of what you think Sheryl Crow can do. She is also one heck of a Jazz singer.

Architectural Digest visits Sheryl Crow March 2011

In the March 2011 issue of Architectural Digest, I am very pleased to say that our work was published in the feature along with Sheryl's Interview and interior photos. The story focuses of course on the house and its interiors which is typical for Architectural Digest, but I was especially happy that the first and largest picture in the story featured Sheryl's beautiful picture, standing in front of the pool and deck which I designed and built for her. It was a very adventurous project which started with the purchase of her 1926 hillside Spanish Style home on a very nice 3/4 acre lot. She then fell in love with the neighbors property and later purchased his 10.8 acres and two craftsman homes which date from 1898, and 1906 respectively. I have unified the three properties and created a new driveway, pool, decks, walkways, a bridge, and many acres of irrigation and landscape. It all started with us installing over 3 miles of fencing up a hill that rises over 1200 ft vertically to keep the bobcats away from her animals.
It has been a labor of love for sure. I can very honestly say that Sheryl is one of the nicest people that I know, and that she is one of the rare people in Hollywood that an even greater person inside, than the sum of all of her accomplishments put together. Here are some of photos from the article and I am very honored to say that tomorrow I will be on KNX 1070 radio between 3 and 4 p.m. to talk about the article with Cindy Dole on her Home Wizards Show. It will be my 3rd time talking with Cindy who always is so generous to me, so I hope that you can tune in.

Monday, January 3, 2011

CLCA 2010 Beautification Awards

Happy New Year! I am sorry that I have not been here to blog in a few months! I have been buried knee deep in the work on the renovations of the Hotel Bel Air, and have been so busy with that, and with the holidays and family.
Well, I am very happy to report that the California Landscape Contractors Association was kind enough to award my company with two awards at the Statewide Level.
We won a special category of the Special Effects Award for the Smith residence in Studio City California. We also won an Outstanding Achievement for the Swartz Residence in Pacific Palisades. I am very happy that my crew was honored with these awards which point to my crews dedication and creativity, because I am only as good as the workers that install the projects. The result really is made, or broken by the execution of the details. What is unique about the beautification awards is that they are judged by other landscape professionals who tour the sites, and are not told who did them, so they have no prejudice towards the projects and are only evaluating the work. I am very grateful to the CLCA, and had a great time at the awards which were held at the Disneyland resort hotel.