Phillip Dixon’s Morrocan Inspired Home in Venice Beach, CA

I spotted Phillip Dixon’s Garden in Apartment Therapy last week when they referred to it as an “Indiana Jones Oasis”.  (oddly, IMO, because nothing about this makes me think of Indian Jones – is it just me?).

Morrocan inspired garden designed by Phillip Dixon in Venice California.
Philip Dixon’s beautiful Venice house is a visual treat for all architecture and garden design enthusiasts. This stunning home in Venice boasts intricate detailing, and impeccable craftsmanship, and an exciting collection of water-wise cactus and agave.

Morrocan Inspired Garden Design In California

The home and garden was inspired by Morocco but it lives in Venice Beach, California.  The AT story was short on words, but I found this excellent interview with Phillip.  He talks about how he designed this place (he is a photographer) and his inspiration and ideas around how he lives here.  It is a great read if you are interested in open air living and African architecture.  Or if you just care about how he’s used his home as the backdrop for his day job – as a high fashion and celebrity photographer.

The block walls of neighboring buildings are imposing and dominant elements. I am sure this was the first thing you would have noticed before the garden was built. The clever garden design elements take the focus away from the large wall and instead distract the eye towards a textural doorway with interesting shapes.

The house is huge (6000 square feet) and from the outside appears as a bit of an impenetrable compound with its high walls.   This type of private secluded space is typical of Islamic-inspired gardens.  It also allows him to live with the doors open to the pool and garden nearly year-round.

Morrocan inspired garden designed by Phillip Dixon in Venice California.
The softened architectural lines of this part of the garden are enough to make you feel like you are in a separate garden room – In fact, I might feel like I have arrived in a completely different part of the world.
Morrocan inspired garden designed by Phillip Dixon in Venice California.

The pool is the central feature of the garden and there are lots of ideas that you can borrow for your own design. These are what I am seeing — add more in the comments if you are noting something else.

Ideas from this Garden:

  1. The big sculptural egg-shaped element is actually a large olive pot turned upside down. (Genius!)  
  2. No matter what style you are trying to achieve, natural stone will always help to ground the design. Here it breaks up the edges of the pool, acts like a mulch beneath plants, and was the inspiration for the texture of the walls.
  3. Bigger isn’t always better – a narrow lap pool with a shallow wading area is more than enough.
  4. After reading the C-home interview, it must be pointed out that your garden must suit your lifestyle. Phillip travels a lot.  No one wants to come home to dead plants after being away for work… so he uses plants that can deal with a lack of attention and that thrive where he lives.  It is a hard lesson but it is good to do the same.
  5. The pool has an unexpected element with the underwater mosaic. It is a nod to the typical design elements of Moroccan and Islamic gardens but is done in a modern and inventive way.
Morrocan inspired garden designed by Phillip Dixon in Venice California.
There is a reason to explore every nook of Phillip Dixon’s garden. Here, tucked around a corner and hovering above the pool, an artful collection of pottery and sculpture is built into the design.

Design Advice From Phillip Dixon

And lastly – I love this bit of design advice from Phillip:

“normal furniture and paintings and all of that stuff is just jewelry. When a place is done, you shouldn’t have to put anything in it or on the walls. It’s already decorated; it’s already furnished. And also, it flows. So you have the seats, the tables, everything works together. And you just put the cushion on it and it’s easy maintenance. I’ll pick up a stick or a rock—to me, that’s art.”

-Phillip Dixon
Morrocan inspired garden designed by Phillip Dixon in Venice California.
Morrocan inspired garden designed by Phillip Dixon in Venice California.
The sculptural stones were considered for this design from the original planning stages. These elements were clearly not added as an afterthought. Often, gardens are treated like galleries for sculpture that the garden owner wants to frame (which is a perfectly fine approach) – but in this garden – these simple stone sculptures (the egg and the natural boulder), and elevated by building the garden around them.
Morrocan inspired garden designed by Phillip Dixon in Venice California.
Tall cactii, clustered together make a stronger vertical design element in Phillip Dixon’s garden than just a few individual cacti would make scattered around the landscape.

A few Notes about the Moroccan Garden Design Style

I’m interested in defining the basis of Moroccan Garden Design Style.

These are my notes – a work in progress. I’d love to hear from you if you have anything thoughts or insight about what makes the gardens of this region unique and if there are particular elements that are important to note in a definition of typical gardens of this region.

  • There is often a blend of vibrant colors that are beautiful under the full equatorial sunlight light of the region.
  • Following from many Islamic and regional traditions, there is an emphasis on intricate tile work.
  • Also, following from Charbagh Design – (see this article about What is Charbagh Design), gardens are typically walled, private, and have water elements that are not Naturalistic.
  • The water is typically formalized in pools and fountains and is also used to break the space into quadrants and, through rills, offers movement and cooling throughout the garden.
  • Lush vegetation is in contrast to the wider landscape.
  • There is a reliance on potted plants, tropical plants, and desert plants.

Explore other Artful, Moroccan, and Islamic garden design ideas:

Images: From 100 Layer Cake by Gary Ashley of The Wedding Artists Collective, Calvin Klein, and Apartment Therapy

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