THE CANVAS: A manicured lawn, the protective shadow of an old sycamore tree, infinite possibilities

THE PALETTE: Spiritual water, Buddha in repose, secrets and surprises

THE MASTERPIECE: The fingerprints of leaves on concrete, a meditative moment, the Far East meets the City of Angels

Feng shui is the ancient Chinese theory of balancing life’s elements. The words literally mean “wind water.” In this Los Angeles home, Michael Schneider has captured it perfectly.

The homeowners operate a business in Southeast Asia and decided to display pieces of art and antiques collected from their travels. What was originally just a lawn with a brick pathway was ripped out to become a large, meditative waterfeature. The clients wanted to place the sculptures — particularly two Buddhas — around the yard, using water to connect them. For the task, they chose Schneider, director of Orange Street Studio Inc. in Los Angeles.

Welcoming committee

As visitors push through the front gate, they are greeted by the large, meditative face of a Buddha. Water streams gracefully down its features, while bamboo gently brushes its cheeks. The water also appears to be cleansing the Buddha’s head.

Once past the front gate, the garden is revealed. “It’s an old design practice — to conceal and reveal,” Schneider says. “It’s a wonderful way to create more interest and excitement without giving away everything right at the beginning.”

The first thing one sees is a reflecting pond, lying between the gate and the home’s front steps. In the water are seven concrete blocks, which function as floating steppingstones leading back to the house. The odd number was not a random choice. Schneider chose seven for asymmetric reasons, an Asian technique fitting for the spiritual garden. Within each piece of concrete are imprints of bamboo leaves and tiger grass, hand-etched by Schneider.

Connected to the reflecting pond via a long, thin spillway sits another Buddha. It appears in full-body form within a fountain. The water spills out from the statue into a pool, which then trickles through the spillway into the pond. A raised spa is incorporated into the design as well.

The pond itself, measuring approximately 15-by-15-feet, is constructed of concrete and lined with 1-inch clear glass marbles. The small spheres catch the light and cast a green hue, which Schneider chose in lieu of pebbles. A stainless steel trough feeds water from the pool into the pond, and pumps back just enough for a trickle to glide down the Buddha’s face.

Going with the flow

Several obstacles had to be overcome to achieve the ideal result. “The main challenge was to configure all of these [elements] so that the water seemed to flow logically and naturally into the pool, and to design it so it’s safe to walk across the reflecting pond on these pads,” Schneider says.

To ensure this happens, he spaced the panels no more than 3 inches apart, and made them wide enough to walk and stand on comfortably.

Schneider also needed to accommodate a large, old sycamore tree that graced the property. Now it is mirrored in the pool, in shadow and reflection.

The small, two-bedroom, ranch-style residence is roofed in slate tile with deep overhangs. Its size easily gave the project room in which to develop. A koi pond sits next to the home’s front steps.

Finally, the project resonates on a spiritual note with the owners. “It’s the idea that water is precious and flows toward the house,” Schneider says. “It’s a combination of spaces ... for different sorts of gatherings, sitting, conversation, contemplation, meditation and partying.”

Michael Schneider, director, Orange Street Studio Inc., Los Angeles.
Michael Schneider, director, Orange Street Studio Inc., Los Angeles.