With its view of the Hollywood sign and handsome brown facade, Annette Gutierrez’s 1908 house would read like a classic L.A. Craftsman if it were not for the chartreuse window trim, the first hint of her modern sensibilities.
Gutierrez jokingly calls herself an "exterior decorator" because she sees outdoor spaces just like interior spaces: rooms to be decorated. So beyond the blasts of chartreuse on the house she shares with husband Gustavo and daughter Lola in a historic part of Hollywood, the designer has found ways to make the landscape every bit as decorated a space as her living room.
During a recent walk-through of her gardens, the former screenwriter, now co-owner of the garden shop Potted in Atwater Village, dropped some colorful Hollywood tidbits. You can see Brad Pitt’s house from her balcony. Heidi Fleiss got in a catfight out front one night. Elvira gave her a plant.
But the landscape, part of the Garden Conservancy’s Open Days tour Sunday in Los Angeles, holds as many practical decorating ideas as it does stories. Her myriad pots, for starters, are a bohemian mix of shapes, moods and time periods. Gutierrez gardens extensively in decorative pots thanks to three active dogs and a yard largely consumed by pool and patio.
"I found a way to coexist with the plants and the dogs," she said, adding that "pots make the gardens soft and beautiful and lush."
On the front porch, she hung a kokedama-style "string garden," hanging plants that emulate Japanese moss-ball arrangements. The net effect is a loose web of flora that serves as a partial visual screen.
"I love to layer things," Gutierrez said. "The porch is like another room. Because we live in an urban area, I created this layer of privacy for myself. When I walk out my front door, this is what I see: my garden."
Color drives a series of outdoor living areas. Spiky, hot pink cordyline plants in pots are complemented by brightly colored chairs, rugs and other furnishings. In the fern garden on the cooler, south side of the house, some of the concrete pavers are embedded with bright orange tile.
"The fig tree looked so sad when it didn’t have leaves," she said. "I thought it would be pretty if some color came up when you looked down from the second floor."
As counterpoints to the many succulents and drought-tolerant plants in the frontyard, oakleaf hydrangea grows in the shade of the trees, along with begonias and three types of fern: Australia tree, painted and maiden hair.
In the backyard, she added a dining room and, just outside her kitchen, a great room that acts as an extension of the house. "I wanted it to feel like my front living room, so you can walk out and just plop down and relax," she said.
Gutierrez transformed a long driveway by planting Alphonse Karr bamboo along the fence for privacy and cutting the concrete into strips — modern pavers that "have a rhythm" and are interplanted with the ground cover dymondia for texture and warmth.
Though the look is California casual, much about the gardens is carefully orchestrated, down to the eclectic top dressing for potted plants. On top of the soil you will see carefully arranged rocks along with little treasures — Lola’s artwork from summer camp, shells, rocks, noodle art.
"I never throw anything away," Gutierrez said, playing with a bead she recently added to a gate pull. “I stick it in a pot. I like the emotional attachment of things.”
Emotional attachment comes with a price: Decorative gardening is a lot of work, and that’s fine with her. "This," she said, "is my sanctuary."
Tour Annette Gutierrez’s yard and other yards as part of Open Days for Los Angeles:
What: The Garden Conservancy’s annual Open Days for Los Angeles, a self-guided tour of six gardens in the Los Feliz and Hollywood area
When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday
Where: Starting point is Fern Dell in Griffith Park, 2272 Fern Dell Drive, Los Angeles.
Tickets: $25, sold from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Fern Dell
Information: (888) 842-2442; www.gardenconservancy.org