Artist’s mural becomes finishing touch in Cal Heights backyard garden

By Rachael Rifkin
Staff Writer

(Part four in a six-part series on the California Heights Home and Garden Tour)

Jim Cloonan and Joanne Allain, 3625 Cerritos Avenue

Last Christmas, Jim Cloonan made his wife Joanne Allain happy by giving her a gift she had been asking for– a mural in the garden area of their 1928 home on Cerritos Avenue. Designed by local artist Nicole Byers, the mural was painted on their wood fence. It depicts windows and its own garden in a typical trompe l’oeil style, an art technique that uses realistic imagery to create an optical illusion.
“No matter what you plant, the fence is just a fence. With the mural, there’s really a sense of interest out there,” said Allain, an educational consultant. “Nicole really took the yard into consideration when she painted the mural. We had some plants and trees already in place. From there, it was just a matter of doing some other little things.”
They added plants that they like. There’s everything from succulents and cacti to a big banana palm. And, of course, there’s also the “volunteers.” “I believe in allowing anything that pops up and grows to grow,” said Allain.
In addition, they put in a fountain and refinished a picnic table that had been sitting out back.
Jim enjoys their new eclectic garden space. “We spend a lot of time outside now. It’s very relaxing,” said Cloonan, a teacher for Los Angeles Unified School District.
For more information on artist Nicole Byers, contact (714) 932-6008 or

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *