Aloha, Palos Verdes

Open this courtyard gate, and find yourself transported to a tropical paradise.

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  • Written & Photographed by
    Lauren Pressey

There’s a secret oasis hiding deep in the Peninsula. Palm fronds arch overhead, and a lush array of bromeliads, ti plants and philodendrons create a wall of green. The tiki god Lono peeks out from behind a crop of anthuriums. When Carlos Ventura and Jim Roos purchased their home in the Lunada Bay neighborhood of Palos Verdes Estates, they knew they wanted to surround it in tropical splendor.

“I wanted the courtyard to welcome our guests with a sense that they have arrived in Hawaii,” says Carlos, a native of Panama who moved to California almost 20 years ago. The couple has traveled extensively to tropical locales as exotic as Central America and Southeast Asia. But it is Hawaii that has drawn them back 17 times, and it’s where they travel at least once each year with their two boys, Nicolas and Sebastian.

“The first time we drove to Palos Verdes, it reminded us of Hawaii. Being surrounded by water on three sides gives the sense that you are on an island. Looking out over the ocean, you could be forgiven for mistaking Catalina for Molokai or Lanai.”

“The first time we drove to Palos Verdes, it reminded us of Hawaii. Being surrounded by water on three sides gives the sense that you are on an island. Looking out over the ocean, you could be forgiven for mistaking Catalina for Molokai or Lanai.”

Walking through the home, the garden is visible through every window. “We studied each space carefully and considered the light and how it will change throughout the year,” explains Carlos.

A kitchen window looks over a backlit giant bird of paradise that feels as if it is part of the room. Outside the master bedroom, two king palms frame a view of the garden and beyond to the Santa Monica Bay in the distance. “Our garden is as much a part of the inside of the house as it is the outside.”

The interior of the home reflects the design of the garden. Books, art and other objects evoke the warmth of the tropics. The sunken living room reveals the home’s midcentury roots and harkens back to Trader Vic’s.

“When we were house hunting, I referred to this house as the Hawaiian House,” Carlos says. “That should have been everything we needed to know about which home to choose.”

Stepping outside through the large double doors that open from the living room reveals a sanctuary of tropical flora. It’s here that the indoors and outdoors truly merge, with an indoor seating area flowing seamlessly into an outdoor deck built for relaxing and entertaining.

The potted garden on the deck is as lush and enchanting as the rest of the outdoor space. “We had the deck painted white and selected all blue pots,” Carlos shares. “I wanted to draw the colors of the ocean into the space.”

Along a side yard, a path of pavers meanders through a shaded garden of tropical plants. “This is the boys’ favorite place to play,” he says. It is easy to see why; around every curve is the perfect nook for a game of hide-and-go-seek. “The boys spend hours riding up and down this path on skateboards and scooters, but they know never to crash into any of Papi’s plants.”

Hanging from an eave above the path is a hand-painted toucan the couple purchased on a trip to Panama. It is one of many objects hidden among the greenery. A wooden elephant from India, a Thai Buddha and a limestone carving of a Balinese monkey god hold residence among the bromeliads, ti plants and crotons.

“I love leaving something for people to discover,” explains Carlos. “Whenever we travel I look for interesting items to incorporate into our home.”

At the end of the path lush foliage opens to reveal an emerald backyard. A majestic triangle palm is flanked by 6-foot-tall ginger that reaches out over the lawn.

When the couple sold their home in Santa Monica and turned their sights on the South Bay, they left behind a townhouse with limited outdoor space. Moving to the Peninsula offered them all the space their boys, then toddlers, could need.

“This is why we chose Palos Verdes,” offers Carlos, while stretching out his arms. “When people think of the hill, they immediately think of huge ocean views. But wherever you live, I tell people they can make their own views with a garden.”

On the far side of the yard, set between two lush planters, a pair of Adirondacks provides a quiet place to sit and admire the garden. “This is my space. On the weekends, when Jim takes over with the kids, I can sit here with a glass of wine and admire everything I worked so hard to build.”


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