Outdoor Entertaining with Judy Kameon
Our Q&A with Judy Kameon about how she gets the party started in her quarter-acre garden, in Los Angeles. Plus: Our guide to recreating her garden's style at home.
At the Elysian Park home of Los Angeles garden designer Judy Kameon, outdoor entertaining is a way of life. “Before we expanded, we had a very small house but a great big yard,” she says. “And I never like to limit myself to the number of guests I can squeeze around the dining room table inside.” Over the 20 years she’s spent working on the various outdoor rooms that comprise her quarter-acre, tiered garden, Kameon has learned much about creating perfect, plein-air party pads. “When someone comes over and says she never wants to leave, I know I’ve done my job,” she says. Her actual job isn’t much different. For clients from Sofia Coppola to the Parker Palm Springs hotel, Kameon makes the kind of friendly, dynamic, and, above all, fun outdoor spaces people can’t help but want to entertain in. Here, her insider tips for outdoor fetes.
GD: How is entertaining outside different than entertaining in?
JK: It’s more casual and romantic. During the day, being outside has a playful quality. At night, it’s magical in a way that’s hard to achieve within the confines of four walls and a ceiling.
A daybed inspired by a stay in Bali pairs with a Moroccan lantern and Mexican mirror.
GD: Beyond tables and seating ...
JK: A sideboard or bar works well as a staging area for serving, with some shelving for storing wine and mineral water.
GD: What about lighting?
JK: You want enough to navigate but not so much that you feel you’re being interrogated. First, I just had path lights, then I added accent lights, then decorative hanging fixtures and flea-market finds.
GD: What surfaces and materials work best for outdoor events?
JK: The cheap and cheerful decomposed granite on our dining patio has great earthiness, sandlike but not as loose when compacted. I like sand-finished concrete, crushed rock, and gravel on the ground. Lately, we’ve been using encaustic tiles with Moroccan motifs too.
Chaises turn Judy Kameon’s poolside patio into an inviting lounge.
GD: Any easy entertaining tricks?
JK: Set things up in the order you’ll actually use them; keep hurricane lamps on hand and trays for carrying things back and forth. And don’t let the decor become too fragile or precious.
GD: What inspired this garden?
JK: Lotusland, the Montecito, California, estate always moves me. So does the work of Luis Barragán and Roberto Burle Marx. I have a big wall of Monstera deliciosa as a homage to Burle Marx.
GD: Any cautionary tales to share?
JK: People have fallen into the pool. It’s all part of what makes things exciting.
“Shade is really important in outdoor dining areas,” says Judy Kameon, “whether under the canopy of a tree, a snappy striped umbrella, or a vine-covered pergola.” At home, she finds a shady spot beneath the magnificent pepper tree at her garden’s heart. The powder-coated stainless-steel table ($4,400) and benches ($1,800) are from her Plain Air line of outdoor furniture. Mosaic glass tiles finish the tabletop, with navy stripe Perennials fabric on the bench cushions. The tubular steel-and-woven vinyl chair is vintage.
Get? This? Look
To keep even the most useful objects and accessories entertaining, designer Judy Kameon finds unique ways to combine contrasting textures and colors as well as contemporary and old-fashioned aesthetics.
1. Fire Pit: A movable, spun-steel fireplace from Plain Air—the furniture and accessories company Kameon started with her husband—“warms up cool evenings, extending your guests’ time in the garden,” she says. ($1,200; Plain Air)
2. Terracotta Wine Cooler: “Perfect for keeping a bottle of rosé chilled outside on a warm summer day,” says Kameon, this piece from Design Within Reach uses terra-cotta’s thermal properties to make sure your cold vino remains crisp. A notched cork lid ensures the bottle stays in place. ($94; Design Within Reach)
3. Enamel Dinner Plates: These classic Americana red-marbled dishes from Mast General Store “are fun, inexpensive, easy to clean, and waste-free,” says Kameon. Artisans hand-apply the porcelain enameling on every steel plate, making each one unique. ($6 each; Mast General Store)
4. Striped Napkins: Available in more than 20 colorways (those shown are Vert), Kameon says these 20-inch-square multihued cotton napkins from the French textile company Les Toiles du Soleil “are as durable as they are colorful.” ($16 each; Les Toiles Du Soleil NYC)
5. Lacquer Tray: Kameon likes Jonathan Adler’s version because “it’s as shiny as a new pedicure, wonderful for loading up to move things outside from in and inside from out.” The trays, each given 12 coats of lacquer, come in six sunny shades, including the tangerine-tinged one shown here. ($150; Jonathan Adler)