Sweeping vistas and an updated pool offer relaxation for a couple and their rescued pets

It all started with three pets: Joey, a St. Bernard; Lucky, a Lab mix; and Fred, a fetching potpourri of dog. “They rule the roost,” says Elizabeth Oreck, who, with her partner, Gavin Polone, adopted the dogs and five cats several years ago and began looking for a place where all could live.A former interior designer, Oreck says, “You can fix a house. But you can’t create more lot. For the dogs, we needed space.” Which is how she and Polone–executive producer of TV shows that include “Gilmore Girls,” “Hack” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm”—came to buy their hilltop spread. Yes, the ‘60s modern house needed fixing. During a redo in the ‘80s, its simple surfaces had been covered with Mexican tile, its plain facades elaborated with bay windows. But it sat on two acres, with east-west views from the San Gabriel Mountains to the beach. While the triple lot (half in L.A., half in Beverly Hills) felt disjointed, lacked a landscaped garden and had an awkwardly placed swimming pool, it showed promise. The couple, who are active in L.A.‘s animal-rescue network, saw the site’s potential as a refuge for pets and people, with room for dog-friendly lawns and ample beds for creeping cats.

Kevin Oreck, Elizabeth’s architect brother, revamped the house, paring it back to its ‘60s essence by removing walls, replacing windows and redoing the kitchen, dining room and baths. To create an outdoor doghouse, new pool and adjoining pavilion, Elizabeth Oreck hired Tichenor & Thorp Architects, a Beverly Hills firm where she had worked as a designer during the ‘90s.

She and Polone had specific goals. “We wanted low-maintenance, naturalistic, drought-resistant planting, minimal color, few flowers, everything dog-and-cat safe.” In addition, they sought to link the property’s parts into a coherent whole, with smaller destinations and surprises.

“With the pool right behind the house, there was nothing to walk to on the hill where the primary views are,” says Brian Tichenor. They started by relocating the pool and exchanging its awkward pill shape for a clean rectangle with a rill at one end and the pavilion at the other. In the resulting void behind the house, Tichenor laid a lawn carpet for the dogs and along one edge of it, added a narrow, elegant fountain with multiple jets that provide music for the uphill climb. Where splintery railroad ties once marked the ascent, he put a cascade of concrete stairs that lead the way to water, shelter and sky. Tichenor designed the pool house, which is the property’s one “dog-free zone,” to double as guest quarters, a playhouse and quiet retreat. A wood-and-glass box with troweled concrete floors, it has a walled face for privacy and clear sides that embrace the views. As he designed the pool house, he says, “it got simpler and simpler.” Yet its amenities are extensive and include a fold-down Murphy bed, fireplace, a dining corner, a spacious bath and closets deep enough for storing outdoor cushions.

Ornamental grasses flank the pool, and sloping beds outside the couple’s bedroom feature swaths of textured greens, such as fleshy aloes, euphorbias, fragrant lavenders and sedum. Outside the kitchen, where an old koi pond used to be, shade-loving plants gather near another fountain.

What you don’t see is much evidence of pests, such as the gophers once ensconced here or the deer common to gardens in the hills. “The property’s fenced,” Tichenor says. “They don’t grow roses or other specific deer favorites.” He has discouraged gophers by encasing plant roots in underground mesh baskets. Still, says Oreck, “We get a lot of wildlife up here, including a bobcat who often wanders past the kitchen.”

In the pool house, Oreck chose furnishings in a style she calls “modern minimal but comfortable.” Clean-lined sofas from Modernica and John Charles chairs from Shelter are all upholstered in soft Ultrasuede. Noguchi lamps and Jonathan Adler vases provide understated accents. Outside, a table and chairs offer another place to dine and several chaises invite lounging beside the pool. Nearby, the dogs have their own bungalow, which resembles the pool house. “I’m the only one who’s been in it,” Oreck admits. “With the big house at their disposal, the dogs turn up their noses.”