San Francisco: Holtzman Residence

Large pots in atrium

Pot with tropical cactus (Epiphyllum) and bloom

Atrium with container garden

Atrium (before)


This is a unique project in that it is a large atrium with a retractable glass roof. This is a low-maintenance, tropical garden. The space is approximately fifteen feet by thirty feet, and the glass roof sits eighteen feet above the room. The client’s usable space for a garden landscape is restricted by the steep slopes surrounding his home; therefore, this atrium is his primary garden retreat. The client requested a lush tropical experience (a planting scheme that normally should be avoided in the Bay Area due to its seasonably dry climate). Fortunately, the atrium offered the perfect opportunity to expand beyond the typical drought tolerant planting palette we work with due to its controlled environment. Large colorful ceramic planters were used to accent the room’s colors. Two species of Musa (banana) are planted along with Strelitzia nicolai (Giant Bird of Paradise) as apex plants in the group plantings. Agave attenuate ‘Variegata’, Aeonium ‘Sunburst’ and Black Mondo Grass are some of the other featured plantings.

After the enthusiastic endorsement from a previous Rainscape Design client, I contacted Ira to develop a plan for the interior of a recently completed atrium and a small side yard.

I really enjoyed working with Ira as, like most Chicago-raised souls, he is fun, direct and is very collaborative in approach and attitude. Put another way, he’s not an over-the-top artist who fights you for the sake of his art. Ira brings his expertise to the table, but he listens and responds. At the end of the day we went with 80 percent of his ideas, because he really knows his craft.

–William Holtzman