Secret Garden on Richmond Road

As I stood in line at the grocery store the other day I flipped through Star Magazine to check out Brad Pitt and Jennifer Anniston's million dollar wedding, which led to a brief fantasy about the party I could have for a million dollars.

Still the yardstick by which I judge all parties, I attended the most fabulous party ever at my friend Jessica Kunin's parents' house. The elegant dinner party had it all: the exciting hostess, a magical setting, the best available food, china, silver, and crystal.

Jessica's mother, Rosa, 67 years old at the time, and looking every inch the Spanish heiress/original supermodel, danced the flamenco and made goofy, loving toasts in her broken accent to her husband. The men in black tuxedos and women sparkling with diamonds laughed with her and applauded her dancing.

Jessica's father, Myron, developed the Bel-Air subdivision, saving the best lot, in the heart of Beverly Hills, for himself. The back of the house opens onto a flat lawn carved from the top of a knoll surrounded by native vegetation. For the party five or six round tables set differently from each other but all with the best silver and crystal looked out on the lawn and into the woods and the warm night air.

Jessica and I, at 21, were the youngest guests by at least 40 years so this should not have been the most fun I could have at a party, but it was. I remember everything about that night. I remember the best pureed carrots I've ever eaten. (Jessica whispered to me that it was because everyone there was wearing dentures.) I remember the orchid on my plate. I remember the warm wind on my shoulders. I remember feeling glamorous, sophisticated, and special.

As I have tried to re-create the feeling of that night at my own parties I have come to realize that I had such a good time at the Kunins' house because I felt a part of something special. Rosa taught me that caring about the details makes people feel wanted.

From the front, the Bedford stone house at 1824 Richmond Road looks well groomed but fairly unassuming, in no way preparing a person for the views from the back. The house, remodeled in 1997-1998, now surrounds a patio.

As I stepped out the back door onto the first patio I thought, this place was made for a PARTY. Imagine handsome men and thin, tanned women with sweaters thrown over their shoulders sipping chardonnay on an evening in late September. Still warm now, the weather will turn cooler as the sun goes down and the guests will huddle closer to the Mexican tile fireplace under the pergola. Until then they will stand in small groups, chatting merrily and admiring the views.

Ahead, steps lead to a second patio that surrounds a large swimming pool. The stair rails frame the view of the lushly planted two-thirds-of-an-acre lot, the greenhouse at the back of the garden, and beyond that, what appears to be miles of green.

By a trick of siting and plantings, it looks as though the house is sitting in the middle of a perfectly maintained 1000-acre park. As far as the eye can see stand ancient ash trees and manicured meadows. The closest house to the back sits 300 yards away and is obscured by trees. Beyond that is undeveloped land owned by the neighbor and the grounds of the Shriner's hospital.

A small fountain makes just enough sound to mitigate any noise from Richmond Road, 1.) further convincing our guests that they are isolated from town, and can do whatever they want. (Let's just hope this party doesn't become memorable because the tanned ladies forget themselves, throw off their sweaters and everything else to jump in the pool because they think no one is looking.); and 2.) taking them out of their own lives and making them feel special at least for the evening.


1824 Richmond Road

4 bedrooms

4 and one-half baths

3345 square feet (additional 1281 square feet finished in basement)


2/3 acre

2-car garage

Contact, Steven Wathen, 293-8898.

If you have a unique or interesting house for sale contact Lissa Sims at lsims@aceweekly.com.