As the creator and executive producer of “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,” David Collins is well versed in Cinderella-inspired makeovers.
And like the men in his popular reality show, which is scheduled to receive a reboot on Netflix this year, his 1926 Spanish bungalow and garden in Atwater Village was in desperate need of a makeover.
He originally bought the two-bedroom, one-bathroom house with the intention of flipping it for a profit.
After he took it down to the studs and gave it a “soup to nuts” makeover courtesy of architects Cynthia Phakos and Adrian Koffka, however, he began to feel different about the corner property. The more he worked on the house, the more he fell in love with it, and the neighborhood.
“It was a new beginning,” Collins says. “I wanted to create a jewel box to maximize what I had.”
After a family-packed Halloween spent in the neighborhood with twin daughters Olive and Ella, 8, Collins knew he had found a home.
The front yard originally featured a traditional landscape consisting of lawn, overgrown rose bushes, succulents and hibiscus trees.
Collins wanted the gardens to be minimal, like the newly remodeled interiors: “beautiful, simple, classy, modern and clean,” he says.
Working with landscape architect Lisa Gimmy, Collins replaced all the plants and hardscape, creating a drought-tolerant replacement composed of a limited plant palette.
Here’s how Gimmy created the sophisticated gardens that Collins wanted:
The front yard before …
Featured grass, ivy, roses and assorted trees and bushes. Today, the garden features low-to-moderate water-use plants and includes storm-water retention basins and low-flow irrigation.
… and after
Gimmy designed a front courtyard to embrace the Atwater Village neighborhood, something that was important to Collins, the father of Olive, left and Ella. “I can’t tell you how many neighbors have taped notes to my mailbox telling me how much they like my garden,” he says.
Let plants be the jewels
Two large planters filled with kalanchoe beharensis and draping sedum morganianum on either side of the front door make a statement. Collins found the rusty metal planters in the trash at Rolling Greens Nursery in Culver City. “It’s about simplicity,” he says. “I wanted the gardens to feel timeless.”
Add water features in front ...
A crisp board-formed concrete water fountain is more than just a water feature. It also serves as a place to sit and relax. “It’s a minimal expression of an ancient idea,” says Gimmy. The shape of the inside of the front fountain and the shapes cut into the front gates are also a classic eight-pointed Moorish star pattern created from intersecting geometries.
… and back
The backyard features what Collins likes to call a “spool” — a spa and pool that double as a formal water feature. The fountain can be turned on and off with the help of a smartphone. And in a bit of Hollywood lore, Collins says the home’s previous owner — Shirley Temple’s stand-in — died poolside with a cocktail in hand.
Create outdoor rooms for entertaining ...
The backyard features an outdoor dining area, barbecue and cooking area. Jasmine climbs on the awning over the dining table, offering a sweet-scented escape from the heat.
… and play
The front courtyard now serves as an extension of the home where the family can relax and play. For an immediate impact, four olive trees were planted in the courtyard.
Balance public and private areas
Gimmy installed a low laser-cut metal gate that adds privacy without being antisocial. It also complements the home’s Spanish architecture. “‘The height of the wall is limited,” says Collins. “It demarcates the property, but it is still open to the neighborhood. It’s small but strong.”
Bring the garden indoors
To bring the gardens inside the home, Gimmy planted espalier magnolias outside the kitchen windows. In the breakfast room, above, olive trees, agave and the sidewalk can be viewed through a large picture window, further connecting the home to the street and neighborhood.
Accessorize with tile
Moroccan-meets-Mediterranean custom tile from Ann Sacks adds a decorative touch to the water fountain in front and the pool and fountain in the backyard.
Because Collins wanted a gray and green color scheme, Gimmy used a limited plant palette. She also installed blue stone flooring in both front and back and painted the front door a dark gray color from Farrow & Ball called “Down Pipe.” Collins refers to his house as “the 50 shades of gray house,” with a laugh. A moss green roof and awning tie everything together.
Let there be light
At night, the four olive trees are illuminated with LED lights, giving the house a warm, romantic glow from the street.
Make the walls a part of the landscape
Creeping fig adds texture to an exterior wall surrounding the backyard. Iron detailing at the top of the fence complements the style of the low-slung gate in front.
Keep the plant palette simple
Cedrus deodara — Deodar cedar
Dypsis lanceolata — palm
Olea europaea — olive
Podocarpus gracilior — fern pine
Trachycarpus fortunei — Mediterranean fan palm
Tristania conferta — Brisbane box
Wodveitchia 'Soledad' — foxtail palm
Aspidistra elatior — cast iron plant
Davallia trichomanoides — squirrel’s foot fern
Juncus effusus — soft rush
Liriope gigantea — giant lily turf
Aeonium atropurpureum 'Schwarzkopf’
Agave 'Blue Glow'
Euphorbia characias wulfenii — Mediterranean spurge
Ligustrum japonicum 'Texanum' — Texas privet
Rosmarinus officinalis 'Ingramii' — rosemary
Strelitzia reginae — bird of paradise
Citrus — lemon
Ficus repens — creeping fig
Stephanotis floribunda — Madagascar jasmine
Trachelospermum jasminoides — star jasmine
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