Blog Posts by Sunset Magazine

  • How to Create a Clutter-free Garden

    An Arizona landscaper shows how to banish clutter from your life (or at least your backyard).

    The courtyard becomes an outdoor roomThe courtyard becomes an outdoor room
    Reclaim the entry
    Every garden needs at least one area where you can shut out the world. This entry in a 1960s-modern home in Paradise Valley, Arizona, is that spot for landscape designer Brian Kissinger and his partner Todd McCandless.

    Why it works: With its front gates closed (frosted-glass panes let in light), the courtyard becomes a private outdoor room. A canopy of date palms shades a small collection of subtropical plants and helps cool the space in summer.

    Adapt the idea: Don't have a whole courtyard to play with? Block off a corner near your entry with a trellis, train a vine to clamber over it, then tuck a bench behind.

    More like a nature trail than a garden walkMore like a nature trail than a garden walk
    Make a park out of a path

    Kissinger made his entry path feel more like a nature trail than a garden walk. Thyme grows between steps; boulders, cactus, and rosemary fringe the path's edges.
    Indispensable herbs

    Why it works: Even before his guests get to

    Read More »from How to Create a Clutter-free Garden
  • 10 Smart Ideas from a Small Loft

    Downsize without sacrificing style or function.

    An 875-square-foot loft in Portland's Pearl District An 875-square-foot loft in Portland's Pearl District
    Built to fit

    "We had the quintessential Portland life," says Monique Menconi. "A 2,500-square-foot 'ranchalow' with a finished basement, chickens, an amazing garden." But then? "We grew out of it." It's not that Monique and her husband, John, craved a McMansion. Rather, they wanted to live more efficiently.

    So they downsized, purchasing an 875-square-foot loft in Portland's Pearl District and hiring interior designers Jessica Helgerson and Mira Eng-Goetz to reconfigure the home. ​

    Today, the loft's main 15- by 30-foot space is kitchen, home office, dining room, and living room. "The irony is ​we have more space for the things that really matter," says Monique. "We could easily have 20 people over and spread out from the kitchen to living room."
    Too big? Try 725 square feet

    Tile is a statement of styleTile is a statement of style
    Go big on the wow factor

    When the kitchen is the highlight of a floor plan, tile is a statement of style. The textural glazed thin brick rises to the

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  • How to Make Your Own Living Succulent Art

    We've all gone wild for those dramatic "living walls" of succulents. Here, grower Robin Stockwell shows you how you can make your own.

    Frame a whole gardenFrame a whole garden
    Plant a living picture

    Instead of framing a picture, why not a whole garden? Here, cuttings of assorted succulents knit together to create colorful, textural living tapestries.

    Read on for more photos and directions for this DIY vertical garden.
    Give your succulent garden an undersea twist

    Build yourself or purchase Build yourself or purchase
    Buy a preassembled frame

    Build the vertical garden frame assembly yourself or purchase one.

    We got ours from Robin Stockwell's Succulent Gardens in Castroville, California (from $35 for a 6- by 12-inch frame; 831/632-0482).

    Break pups from succulents you already have Break pups from succulents you already have
    Gather cuttings

    Break the small "pups" from succulents you already have growing in your garden (the stems should be at least 1/4 inch long).

    Set the cuttings aside in a cool area for a few days to allow their stem ends to dry and callus over. (You'll want about 60 for a 6- by 12-inch frame.)

    The mesh holds the soil in placeThe mesh holds the soil in place
    Add soil

    Set the frame mesh side up

    Read More »from How to Make Your Own Living Succulent Art
  • Must-do Road Trip: California's 101

    No road gives you more Golden State fun: 790 miles of surf, spas, wine sipping, and surprises.

     L.A. County Museum of Art L.A. County Museum of Art
    Los Angeles: Art stop
    Miracle Mile's the classic nickname for the mid-Wilshire stretch of Wilshire Boulevard. These days it should be called Masterpiece Way--two major expansions in three years have pushed the L.A. County Museum of Art (pictured) to the top of culture lovers' must-see lists. $15;
    Eat your way through L.A.

    Carpinteria: Call it Carp
    That's the locals' moniker for one of California's prettiest little beach towns. Stroll down Linden Avenue for surf shops and a great steak joint (the Palms, 805/684-3811), then wade at Carpinteria State Beach.

    Jeannine's BakeryJeannine's Bakery
    Santa Barbara: Dine with the rich and famous
    Beaches, the queen of missions, and (in neighboring Montecito) Oprah Winfrey. Santa Barbara has so much star power, it's almost unfair that it has good restaurants too. But it does--so many, you may decide to detour off 101 for breakfast, lunch, and

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  • 9 Beautiful Easy-care Plants

    Up the serenity in your own garden room with these easy-care, low-water plants.

    Everything is magicEverything is magic
    Magical outdoor room

    "Everything about this garden is magical," says designer Vera Gates of Liz and Chris Dressel's hillside hideaway in Woodside, California. "The light is magical. So are the plantings around the native oak." Thoughts of yard work won't break the spell here: These plants are all low-water and easy-care. A decomposed-granite patio means no lawn to mow. And the chairs around the portable firepit? Bewitching. "Guests just want to recline in them and enjoy the view. No one ever wants to leave. Design: Vera Gates and Scott Yarnell, Arterra Landscape Architects, San Francisco (
    More on creating outdoor rooms

    Read on to get info on the 9 beautiful plants on display, and then plant your own magical outdoor sanctuary.

    A great border accentA great border accent
    Santa Barbara daisy

    (Erigeron karvinskianus)
    The tiny white and pink flowers make a great border accent when planted in the forefront of tall grasses.

    Adds lightness and motionAdds lightness and motion
    Read More »from 9 Beautiful Easy-care Plants
  • 6 Secrets to Clutter Control

    A style expert reveals her clever storage solutions for tiny spaces.

    Cubbies: ideal for storageCubbies: ideal for storage
    Build in flexibility
    Cubbies are ideal for storage and display--and are easy to stack and rearrange. Cubes $60 and $80 from Stumasa. Office Basics accordion-style organizer $36;
    Small bedroom tips

    Storage bench holds anythingStorage bench holds anything
    Put furniture to work

    Multipurpose furniture is a must. "We don't have an entryway closet, so this storage bench holds anything I need to unload," says Maybelle. Westport storage bench $379 and baskets $15 each from Stumasa.

    Bonus tip: Forget folding chairs--move the bench for extra seating.
    Salvage style

    Less expensive than built-insLess expensive than built-ins
    Maximize wall space
    "Freestanding wall units can be much less expensive than built-ins," says Maybelle. Custom wall unit $3,800 and wire baskets $29 each from Stumasa. Chalkboard by notNeutral, $36;

    Bonus tip: Create a niche in the unit for a workstation to add even more function.
    Home-office solutions

    You know what you've gotYou know what you've got
    Access what you often need

    Open shelves are all about easy access,

    Read More »from 6 Secrets to Clutter Control
  • Top 10 Hideaways by the Sea

    Listen to the ocean from your room in one of these lesser-known coastal inns.

    Rockwater Secret Cove ResortRockwater Secret Cove Resort
    Rockwater Secret Cove Resort near Halfmoon Bay, B.C.
    This ragged stretch of the Sunshine Coast is so unspoiled and awe-inspiring, it's sometimes hard to imagine that anyone but a bald eagle or two has been here before you.

    Check in: Wooden walkways meander through the forest where Rockwater Secret Cove Resort's 13 roomy, light-filled, adults-only canvas tent suites--with fluffy king-size duvets and tubs for two--perch above the blue water. Each suite has a deck and views to inspire castaway fantasies. From $315 U.S.

    Explore: At Rockwater's Spa Without Walls, treatments are on a platform at the water's edge with stunning views. Horseback riding, bocce ball, croquet, and beach volleyball will tempt you to stay on the property, but make time to explore the ocean by kayak. Horseback rides $52 U.S. for 90 minutes; sea kayaking $57.20 U.S. for half-day.

    Cama Beach State Park ResortCama Beach State Park Resort
    Cama Beach State Park Resort on Washington's Read More »from Top 10 Hideaways by the Sea
  • Gorgeous All-container Garden

    How to create a lush backyard without putting a single plant in the ground.

    You should have seen Plan AYou should have seen Plan A
    Plan B

    It started as Plan B: Annette Gutierrez and her husband wanted to create a great room in their Hollywood home but didn't have the budget for a remodel. "So we thought, Let's just do it outside!" says Gutierrez. To transform the 3,000-square-foot yard, she created a series of outdoor rooms landscaped almost entirely with potted plants.

    Gutierrez may be professionally biased toward containers: She's the co-owner, with Mary Gray, of Potted, a garden-design shop in L.A.'s Atwater Village. But a potted garden also suits her space. Her three dogs can't dig into containers as they would with beds. She also likes the color and sculptural look the vessels add: "The plants are accentuated by the pot they're in rather than just being massed together in the ground."

    Another upside to the garden is that it continuously feeds Gutierrez's love of design.

    "I get to redecorate over and over," she says. "I

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  • 15 Spring Getaways

    Where to walk through wildflowers, bike by the sea, take in waterfalls and gardens, and sample the flavors of the West.

    Green Gulch Zen CenterGreen Gulch Zen Center
    Hikes: Marin's Green Gulch Zen center
    Start your day at the Green Gulch Farm with a Zen meditation class, then head outdoors for a hike around the center's 115 acres of pristine Marin coastal ridgeline.

    Circle back to the center for a tea break and walk in the gardens, and don't forget to pick up some of their freshly farmed produce to take home.
    More on visiting the Zen Center

    Pacific GrovePacific Grove
    Bike: Explore Pacific Grove, CA
    Mild weather and a spectacular seaside bike route make this low-key, lost-in-time Monterey Peninsula town ideal for a spring-time pedal.

    See where to get the most scenic workout, grab a giant chocolate croissant, get a deal on a room, and explore an Asian sanctuary.
    Make it a weekend in Pacific Grove

    Union City's marshlandsUnion City's marshlands
    Bike: Discover Union City's marshlands

    Take a day trip over to the Bay's Union City, where over 20 miles of trails will have you zipping through

    Read More »from 15 Spring Getaways
  • 15 Stunning Container Gardens

    Everything you need to know to plant in containers, leverage vertical gardens, and more.

    A daring blend of texturesA daring blend of textures
    Texture play
    This mix of (counter-clockwise, from top left) Kangaroo paws, Echeveria 'Afterglow', Adenanthos cuneatus 'Coral Drift', and Sedum reflexum provides a daring blend of textures. Container: $40; Home Depot ( for stores).

    Yellow really popsYellow really pops
    Calandiva Goldengirl Yellow kalanchoe (bottom left) pops between 'Silver Shadow' astelia (right) and Euphorbia characias 'Silver Swan' (top left). Container: $40; Target ( for stores).

    Large plants and big potsLarge plants and big pots
    Succulent mini landscape

    Plum-colored foliage is a rich accent against soft greens in these easy-care containers. Arrange taller plants in the center or back, trailers near the pot's edges. For immediate effect, choose large plants and big pots (shown above left: 10 in. across, 14 in. tall; right: 16 by 18 in.). Start smaller for a less pricey combination. Design: Daniel Nolan, Flora Grubb Gardens (

    Grow them: Pick pots with

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