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Judy Kameon

Judy Kameon of Elysian Landscapes
Interview by Vishaal Khanna
Portrait photography by Alessandro Casagrande
Balenciaga, Marc Jacobs by photography Tom Mannion

* Originally published in Issue No. 5

Judy Kameon is a daughter of the California sunshine who has designed gardens for numerous fashion houses, hotels, commercial spaces and select private residences. Firmly rooted in the hierarchy of the Southern California design and aesthetic, her landscapes are lauded for bringing the comforts of indoors to the outside. She attended UCLA for fine art and founded the firm Elysian Landscapes in 1996. Her book “Gardens are for Living” is a celebrated compendium of outdoor entertaining and garden design and has been heralded as a hallmark of design inspiration.

Vishaal Khanna  (VK) — What led you into landscape design?

Judy Kameon (JK) — It was kismet, I suppose. There was an empty lot next to my house with a magnificent pepper tree. The lot came up for sale and I bought it with the idea that I would create a garden. Five years in, I opened a weekly restaurant during the summer in my backyard. On opening night, after dinner was served, a friend who attended asked if I could make him a garden. I was off and running and never looked back.

VK — What was your evolution from fine artist into landscape designer?

JK — Early on, I was intent on keeping my work as a painter separate from my work as a designer. But over time, I came to realize that my paintings and my landscapes share the same elements of color, form and scale. Representations of the natural world influenced my work on canvas and now my canvas is the natural world.

VK — What is the most challenging thing when you are designing with live material in organic fluctuating spaces? Are there considerations in your medium?

JK – Working as a landscape designer is a continually humbling experience – we face so many factors that are beyond our control. Site conditions, climate, water consumption, and wildlife are always considerations at the onset of a project. Unlike architecture and interior design, gardens need time to grow and are ever changing, and can take years to fulfill their design intent and unique promise.

VK — What have been some of your favorite projects? (Platform, Parker, Balmain, St Laurent, Mark Jacobs?)

JK — The Parker hotel in Palm Springs is one of my all-time favorite projects. 10 acres to play with in the desert – what an extraordinary canvas! I love to play with the sculptural qualities of plants, like in the jewel box courtyard we made for Isabel Marant. The garden is a chromatic study in form, from vertical green poles to rounded silver mounds to spikey chartreuse stars. There is often a special chemistry involved in making spaces for highly creative people that I cherish.

VK — How do you see landscape design connecting into the greater architectural design community?

JK — I’ve experienced a real shift in how landscape design is perceived and valued. Equal importance and consideration are increasingly given to outdoor spaces and the context we create as it relates to architecture and interiors. As the division between architecture and landscape continues to erode, the partnership between the two practices will continue to become even stronger.

VK — Where do you draw inspiration for your designs?

JK — I’m inspired by challenges and new experiences, both within my field and out in the world. I’m inspired by our team of architects, designers, horticulturalists, and builders that we’ve grown over the years and the ideas and knowledge they contribute to each and every project. I look to art, design, fashion, film and architecture for new concepts, solutions and ways of thinking. I love to travel and explore other cultures and landscapes, both cultivated and natural.

VK — What changes or trends do you see coming in the landscape design industry with our changing climate?

JK — I think design is inherently optimistic. There continues to be growing interest and excitement in using outdoor spaces in a more dynamic way, both privately and publicly. As cities grow denser and open space becomes more valuable, people are becoming more invested in creating spaces to be lived in and shared that are deeply personal, and reflect their beliefs, values, and hopes for the future.

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