Oscar winner Jim Rash builds whimsical garden

photographs by Francine Orr/Los Angeles Times/MCT Recent Oscar-winner and actor Jim Rash has redesigned his Westside Los Angeles home exterior and garden spaces to create more room for entertaining.

LOS ANGELES — Jim Rash’s next-door neighbor is concerned. He notices a photographer shooting Rash’s home and wonders if the pictures are for a real estate listing. “Is Jim moving?” the neighbor asks anxiously. “He is such a nice guy. I worry he’s become too famous lately. I told him, ‘Please don’t move.’ ”

If Rash wasn’t officially famous before the Academy Awards in February, he certainly was afterward. He won an Oscar for co-writing the screenplay of “The Descendants” and, perhaps more famously, he scored rave reviews for his fierce portrayal of Angelina Jolie’s thigh onstage during the ceremony. He also is on NBC’s “Community,” in which he plays Dean Pelton. And he’s busy writing a “comedy-action” film script for “Bridesmaids” star Kristen Wiig.

But when he’s not playing a manic community college administrator, mocking A-list celebs in front of millions or otherwise being famous, you just may find Rash kicking back at home where he lives and writes with a view of a newly redesigned garden.

Rash divides his writing time between a Santa Monica office, Insomnia Cafe on Beverly Boulevard and his West L.A. house, so he said he wanted a calm landscape surrounding his “outdoor office,” also known as his garage. Working with Santa Monica landscape architect Dale Newman, Rash revamped his back and front gardens to create more pleasant environs in which to work and outdoor areas that could accommodate overflow guests when the writer entertained.

The result: simple, beautiful, manageable garden spaces that have, essentially, doubled the area of Rash’s 1,100-square-foot house. “The gardens make the living spaces feel so much larger,” Rash said.

Newman started in front, where a meager lawn was replaced with saw-cut colored concrete pavers to create a welcoming outdoor living area. In a nod to Rash’s more boisterous persona, the designer created a redwood-framed garden gate and fence composed of orange plexiglass from Solter Plastics in L.A.

“They are really interesting, and you can see through them,” Newman said of the panels, whose color was chosen to offset the gunmetal gray exterior of the house. “It gives the front yard a crazy glow. In the daytime, the sun shines through them and gives an unusual cast over the plants.”

That palette included purple smoke bush, orange pincushion, yellow angels trumpet and bronze flax augmented with succulents and a vibrant orange ice plant ground cover.

Rash said the gap between gate and fence panels also was meant to depart from convention.