‘Community’ funnyman Jim Rash's quirky green room
Jim Rash’s next-door neighbor is concerned. He notices a photographer shooting Rash’s home and wonders if the pictures are for a real estate listing. “Is Jim moving?” the neighbor asks anxiously. “He is such a nice guy. I worry he’s become too famous lately. I told him, ‘Please don’t move.’”
If Rash wasn’t officially famous before the Academy Awards last month, he certainly was afterward. He won an Oscar for co-writing the screenplay of “The Descendants” and, perhaps more famously, he scored rave reviews for his fierce portrayal of Angelina Jolie’s thigh on stage during the ceremony. His TV series “Community,” in which he plays the quirky Dean Pelton, returned to the NBC lineup last week. And he’s busy writing a “comedy-action” film script for “Bridesmaids” star and fellow Groundlings alum Kristen Wiig.
But when he’s not playing a manic community college administrator, mocking A-list celebs in front of millions worldwide or otherwise being famous, you just may find Jim Rash, the nice neighbor, kicking back at home, where he lives and writes with a view of a newly redesigned garden.
Rash divides his writing time between a Santa Monica office, Insomnia Cafe on Beverly Boulevard and his West L.A. house, so he said he wanted a calm landscape surrounding his “outdoor office,” also known as his garage. Working with Santa Monica landscape architect Dale Newman, Rash revamped his back and front gardens to create more pleasant environs in which to work and outdoor areas that could accommodate overflow guests when the writer entertained.
The result: simple, beautiful, manageable garden spaces that have essentially doubled the area of Rash’s 1,100-square-foot house. “The gardens make the living spaces feel so much larger,” Rash said.
“They are really interesting, and you can see through them,” Newman said of the panels, whose color was chosen to offset the gunmetal gray exterior of the house. “It gives the frontyard a crazy glow. In the daytime, the sun shines through them and gives an unusual cast over the plants.”
That palette included orange pincushion, purple smoke bush, yellow angels trumpet and bronze flax augmented with succulents and a vibrant orange ice plant ground cover — a relatively small number of plants installed in masses.
Rash said the gap between gate and fence panels also was meant to depart from convention.
“I wanted something different,” Rash said. “I wanted a sense of enclosure but not a fence. It feels like you’re enclosed when in fact it is an open space.”
Behind the house, Newman edited and reorganized what was already there. Running black bamboo that had taken over the backyard was replanted along the side yard. Citrus trees were left intact, but a patch of grass and a fire pit were added. To create privacy, Newman planted various hedge plants that will fill in, including fern pine, heavenly bamboo and hop bush. Low-lying gazanias add more bursts of orange blooming year round.
Nat Faxon, who co-wrote “The Descendants” with Rash here, said the change in scenery actually makes the duo more productive.
“The fresh air not only helps our writing but also provides ample space for me to roam and let off steam when he refuses to write down my brilliant ideas,” Faxon said.
Even a common eyesore — the neighbor’s garage wall — got a little irreverence. “It was screaming for something,” Newman said, so it was painted brown to help it disappear, then adorned with seven circular mirrors.
It all adds up to a low-maintenance retreat for a man in demand. Asked if he’s feeling a backlash to his now famous Angelina thigh thrust at the Oscars, Rash just smiles. “Everyone knows I was just having fun.” Now the same can be said of his garden.
-- Lisa Boone
Photos: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times