Our CEO Katherine Power's Serene L.A. Backyard Feels Like You've Landed in Italy
Katherine Power and her husband, photographer Justin Coit, both have style in spades. They've honed their discerning eyes for over a decade working in the fashion and lifestyle industries—she, at the head of MyDomaine's parent company, Clique Brands, and he, as a commercial director and sought-after photographer (who has worked with names like Cindy Crawford and Jessica Alba). It's no wonder that the home they created in L.A.'s Little Holmby neighborhood feels right out of a magazine.
The 1928 Spanish colonial manse that Coit and Power share with their son, Sebastian, didn't always look this good. In the early '90s, long before they purchased it, a series of remodels had made the home almost unrecognizable from its original Mediterranean character, most notably in the backyard. "In the '80s and '90s, there seems to have been this trend of putting the biggest pool possible in one's backyard and typically at the very center of the space," explains Power. "As we understood it, the house had had a long rectangle pool that was then turned into an L-shape."
Restoring the backyard (and the original rectangular pool) to its original state became the catalyst for a backyard transformation to rival the best courtyards from Tuscany to Montecito. "We kept the rectangle area with the nice big steps—that's where the majority of the sun hits throughout the day," she adds. In cutting off the long end of the pool, the couple was able to crane in four giant olive trees that provide much-needed shade and lovely dappled light. It also gave them additional space for a firepit.
Power had a very precise vision for her family's outdoor space: "My home is my retreat from the world," she explains. "I don't get a lot of time to get away on vacation, so I wanted my backyard to feel like I was on vacation when I stepped outside." To bring her idyllic vision to life, she drew inspiration from lush courtyards in Europe, Ojai, and Montecito. Her goal was to to tie the backyard to the original Mediterranean style of the house while creating a layered, comfortable space for her family and friends to enjoy.
"My husband is a really great cook, and one thing he loves to do is to barbecue," she added. "So we wanted to create a place where our friends could come over and where we could barbecue and have everybody hang outside." The couple's interior designer, Jake Arnold, who has worked with them on two homes now, also helped bring the vision for the backyard to life. "Justin wanted a barbecue area," he explains. "But aside from that, they let me present my vision and go for it."
Arnold's main goal for the yard was to create defined zones and layers to make the space feel larger and more sophisticated. "With a yard that isn't so big, it's good to have it in zones—each with their own experiences—rather than leaving it open," he says. "Even though Katherine and Justin's yard isn't that massive, it feels so much bigger now that it's layered because there's more depth." The now-layered space included more defined living and dining zones, a new lighting plan, and a whole lot more greenery.
Having worked on Power and Coit's current and former homes, the designer already had somewhat of a shared vision with the couple when it came to making decisions for the space. One thing all three knew they wanted from the very beginning was to shorten the pool and keep the brick pavement that was original to the yard. "Before we did anything to the space, it was so cold," explains Arnold. "There was a lot of brick everywhere, and the pool was taking up half the yard. I wanted it to feel more like an Italian courtyard—but just a little more minimal."
To achieve this, they cut the size of the pool in half and refinished it in a light gray colour, creating this dramatic deep-blue water look. They dug trenches around the house to plant greenery between the brick pavement and the house's stucco, contributing to a more lush and layered feel. They concealed spotlights throughout the trees and along the house to soften the lighting and create a beautiful ambient glow at night. "It's so important for people to understand that lighting is as important outside as it is inside," explains Arnold.
To add greenery, they also planted 16-foot olive trees, which now make up this beautiful canopy that filters natural light in a very romantic way. "We craned in four giant olive trees, which give some shade and beautiful dappled light to the seating area and make you feel like you're somewhere special," explains Power. "We had this gigantic crane that had to extend from the street where our house is, all the way to the backyard. We craned the trees over the entire house to put them in." The trees, which now surround the pool and the firepit area, are both Power and Arnold's favourite feature of the backyard.
Being able to use the space year-round was a must for the couple, who loves to entertain and have friends and family over. "Sometimes it'll just be Justin and I hanging out in the backyard while our son naps," says Power. "And sometimes, we have a bunch of friends over—kids swimming in the pool, Justin barbecuing—and we'll all be hanging around the kitchen, which opens up onto that backyard area."
The kitchen, which boasts large steel doors that open up onto the firepit area, creates an inviting indoor/outdoor feel that feels cozy at all times of the day. "Living in Southern California, the weather is always nice, but it can get a little cool in the evenings," she adds. "We wanted to make sure that space got used even in the cooler months." The firepit off of the kitchen makes it easy for the couple and friends to open the doors and sit around the fire with a glass of wine.
"Comfort is number one, especially in California where you spend so much time outside," explains Arnold. "It's an extension of your indoor living, whereas, in most other places, people treat their outdoor living as a two-month season. Having your outdoor feel as comfortable as your indoor is required here."
To fulfill this idea of year-round comfort, Power and Arnold sourced furniture from Restoration Hardware's Aegean outdoor line: club chairs, sofas, and chaise lounges. "The reason we chose the Restoration Hardware furniture in the first place is because it is more minimal," Arnold adds. "Although the house has an aesthetic that's more classic Spanish, we wanted to lighten it up."
Beside the firepit area, an elegant built-in dining area inspired by the seating at West Hollywood restaurant Gracias Madre saves space and contributes to that cozy Italian courtyard feel. "I wanted the outside to be as built-in and architectural as possible," explains Arnold. "Having a banquette built-in is something that you would see in an Italian garden because it's space-saving." To complement the banquette, Power repurposed a marble table she had used as her dining table in her previous home.
In the end, the couple was able to keep many of the original elements of the house—the brick pavement and the former pool—while updating the space to feel at once authentic, layered, and adapted to today's modern comforts. The multiple zones suggested by Arnold as well as the added greenery all contribute to making the space feel expansive and layered—not one inch being left unused.
There's the living area, which sits under a large shaded pergola, for hot sunny days, the sun-drenched deep-blue pool to dip into when the mercury hits an all-time high, the firepit area to cozy around when the nighttime chill rolls around, and the dining banquette and barbecue, which ensure that guests will always be well-fed and want to linger around for lazy lunches or leisurely dinner parties.
If Power wanted to achieve the feel of a mini vacation right at home, she achieved just that and more. With Power's and her husband's busy lifestyles and roles as new parents, this idyllic outdoor space ensures that there is no place in the world the couple would rather come home to.