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Before and after: Hotel Bel-Air garden renovation

December 19, 2011 | 12:01 pm

Villas Tower
When designer Jon Goldstein was called on to renovate 12 acres at the Hotel Bel-Air, he wanted to preserve the legacy of the iconic property's historic gardens. The story behind the two-year renovation is the latest installment of Pro Portfolio, our Monday feature that looks at recently built, remodeled or  redecorated spaces with commentary from the designers.

 Hba-crane-flying-picProject: Hotel Bel-Air, including the pools, spas, water features, hardscape and landscape. 

Location: Bel-Air neighborhood of Los Angeles.

Hba pic 4Designer: Jon Goldstein, designer and chief executive of Jonny Appleseed Landscaping Inc.

Designer's statement: For more than 70 years, the Hotel Bel-Air has hosted the likes of Grace Kelly, Elizabeth Taylor, Marilyn Monroe, Cary Grant, Oprah Winfrey, Nancy Reagan and Michael Jackson. My first task was to preserve the legacy of those historic grounds, including specimen trees and plants, some more than 90 years old.

Each room and suite has a unique garden patio; no two rooms' gardens are alike. So that the character of the iconic buildings and gardens were preserved, I tried to make the design feel as subtle and true to the original as possible.

We preserved more than 480 specimen trees and  carefully reinstalled 4,000 plants that had been on site. The first project was to box and relocate 22 oaks weighing 10,000 to 14,000 pounds apiece. We added more than 70 oaks to emphasize the canyon ambience and to ensure the neighbors’ privacy.

The famous Swan Lake now features a recirculation and filtration system that saves more than 250,000 gallons of water a month. Hba pic 2The new gardens have a gray-water system that recycles water from new villas.

Weather-sensing timers can tell when it is dry and windy, or cold and rainy; combined with low-flow sprinkler heads, the system cuts irrigation by more than 50%. Rainwater captured at the 12,000-square-foot spa building is infiltrated back into the soil to help maintain the natural water table.

A beautiful new pond and waterfall were made entirely of stone quarried locally, complete with stone bridge and arch. These features pay homage to the original Bel-Air entry bridge over the Swan Lake Grotto.

An organic herb and produce garden on the grounds can be used by the hotel’s chef, Wolfgang Puck.

To see more before and after photos, keep reading ...


Hba pic 8b Villas site before

The site of the new villas, before construction.


Villas tower before

The new villas, shown at the top of this post, have a waterfall and pond below the tower. The waterfall was built with more than 200,000 pounds of stone, all cut and placed by hand.


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The crew moves a 4-ton tree by hand.


Hba pic 53 oaks huge

Oaks weighed up to 14,000 pounds and required a 120-ton crane to be placed.


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And now.


Hba pic lobby night 1.1 copy 3

The walk to the restaurant and bar is scented with roses, gardenia and rosemary.


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Cast concrete pots are by Core Designs.


Hba pic 11

The garden walk to the Canyon View Villas, whose landscape was created primarily with repurposed plants.


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The garden here is irrigated entirely with reclaimed water.


 Hba pic 23 copy
The Canyon View looking back toward the mansions of Bel-Air.


 Hba pic 38 b

Before: The Presidential Suite under construction.


 Hba pic 38 bb

The suite's pool has a recirculation system that uses about 65% of the energy of a typical infinity pool.


Hba pic 38

After: The Presidential Suite's private courtyard with zero edge pool.



The wedding gazebo.When I attended my brother’s wedding here, I began to see the beauty of the landscape of the hotel. That's when I decided I wanted to be a landscape designer.


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Swan Lake.


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Chloe and Athena enjoying their lake.


Hba pic 48

The Hotel Bel-Air pool.



AirstreamW Hotel ice-rink wonderland

1968 Airstream trailer remodel

Closet makeover for Palisades fashionista

New look for a 100-year-old Craftsman house

A very small bathroom gets a modern makeover 

Family's front yard turned into outdoor screening room

-- Compiled by Lisa Boone

Pro Portfolio appears every Monday. Submit projects to home@latimes.com.

Photo credits: Jason Goldstein, Jon Goldstein and Hotel Bel-Air