Magazine article Sunset

A Backyard Fantasy

Magazine article Sunset

A Backyard Fantasy

Article excerpt

One family's oceanfront garden sets the stage for great gatherings

Casa del Mar, Max and Ana Negri's home and garden overlooking the blue Pacific in Rancho Palos Verdes, California, is a perfect setting for a party. Thanks to the house's open layout and lavish use of glass, indoors and outdoors flow together seamlessly. Guests-whether lingering in the front courtyard near the pool or sipping wine in the living room-are all visible to one another.

But it's curiosity about the view through all those windows that inevitably leads guests out onto the back patio and across the lawn to the edge of the bluff. There, to their surprise, they find stairs to the sea and catch their first glimpse of Max's secret, cliff-hugging garden. After ambling down the switchback path past jungle plantings, they arrive at the beach. Here, they might see the youngest family members exploring tidepools while their parents or grandparents ready the firepit for the evening's barbecue.

If there ever was a backyard heaven for a big family, this is it. A "jungle" to explore, surf to wade in, firepit to cozy up to: all the pleasures of a summer camp are right here. This perfect site makes it hard to believe that the Negris' children and grandchildren were once disappointed by Casa del Mar. When they first saw the Negris' new but much smaller home-with no guest bedrooms and a lawn too small for team sports-they felt excluded. "Our reaction," said their son Guy, "was, `Where are we all going to play now? …

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