Colorful plantings and soft exterior paint colors give a Southern California ranch cottage a fresh new look

Beach Cottage Loses the Lawn for a Stylish Low-Water Garden.

Julie McMahon and Greg Fontana had wanted to update the exterior of their 1950s ranch cottage in Manhattan Beach, California, for years. After finishing their interior remodel a few years ago, it was time to give the exterior a face-lift. With a shared passion for design — McMahon is an interior designer and Fontana is an architect — they saw the potential to turn a ho-hum exterior into a stylish entryway, a colorful front garden and a backyard made for outdoor living.

Reducing water use outdoors was a goal from the start. The couple reached out to local landscape architect June Scott for low-water plant expertise and to help make their vision a reality. Scott laid out a plan to remove an existing crabgrass lawn in the front yard and reduce the size of turf in the backyard, replacing both with swaths of brightly colored succulents and drought-tolerant perennials.

Gilded ceilings, a custom bar nook and exuberant color add flair to this traditional New York City apartment

Park Avenue Pied-à-Terre Paints a Pretty Picture.

The homeowners thought they wanted to slow down and spread out, so they sold their Manhattan apartment and purchased a shingle-clad home on Long Island. It wasn’t long, however, before the couple realized how deeply rooted they were to the city and how much they still wanted a place there. With the help of the couple’s trusted designer, they transformed a raw shell of an apartment on Park Avenue into a sumptuous and cozy pied-à-terre.

Want a major new look for your kitchen or bathroom cabinets on a DIY budget? Don’t pick up a paintbrush until you read this

How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets.

The right cabinet color can transform your kitchen or bathroom’s look. And because replacing cabinetry can be expensive, a fresh paint color could be the best bet for your budget. But before you start in on this seemingly simple DIY, keep a key point in mind. “The main issue is that with most woodwork — but specifically kitchen cabinets — is that it’s finished with a glossy product designed to be wipeable, and that same property prevents paint from sticking to it,” says painter Alex Davidson.

Although it’s not as simple as painting your dining room, with the right prep, painting cabinets can be an affordable and lasting design solution. See what four painting professionals say about how to paint kitchen cabinets.

Not allowed to paint and limited with nails, a design-minded couple uses furnishings and textiles to make their rooms stand out

Creative Renters Triumph Over the ‘No Paint’ Rule.

“Any San Franciscan knows how difficult it is to find an apartment in this city,” says Sarah Latta, who shares a one-bedroom apartment in the Cole Valley neighborhood with her boyfriend, Darren Carter. “We looked at 23 places before finding this one.”

With three large walk-in closets, the apartment fits the couple’s storage needs for their sports gear and all the decorative items Latta has collected over the years working for Williams-Sonoma and shelter magazines. “Darren calls my closet the throw-pillow closet,” Latta says.

With a strict landlord who enforces a “no paint and limited nails in the wall” rule, the couple was forced to get creative and rely solely on furnishings and textiles to decorate their space. A year later lively colors, tribal prints and collected decor have given their apartment a big personality.

Dizzy spells and headaches, begone. Be kinder to your health and the environment with these safer paint choices for your interior decorating

Easy Green: 5 Ecofriendly Paint Companies.

This series demystifies ecofriendly design and explores simple, easy ways to go greener at home. This week we’re taking a look at five ecofriendly paint companies.

Why choose ecofriendly paint?
Traditional paint products are made with volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that release toxins into the air as the paint dries, potentially causing health problems and damage to the environment. Some people also experience headaches and dizziness when using traditional paint. The federal government already regulates VOCs in paint, but the new ecofriendly paint products on the market go a step further with reduced levels of VOCs. To learn more about VOCs, visit the Environmental Protection Agency’s website.

What is the difference between low VOC and zero VOC?
Paint that is labeled “low VOC” contains less than 50 grams per liter, while those labeled “zero VOC” or “VOC free” claim to have no measurable VOCs at all.

You can draw in woodwork, compose music or create a menu with this fun decorating idea

9 Creative Ways to Use Chalkboard Paint.

I always like to keep an ideabook of clever chalkboard paint ideas going. It’s been three years since I used the collection for a story on the best chalkboard art on Houzz, and we’re due for an update. The longer a product like chalkboard paint is around, the more creative uses people find for it. Here are some of the cleverest uses I’ve seen around Houzz lately.

Paint brings a dreary porch floor to life in New England — watch the process unfold and get tips and ideas for your own floors

DIY: How to Paint Stripes on Your Floor.

I gave myself the daunting task of making over my three-season porch. I live in New England, so this porch is used only for about five months of the year at best, but I can see it from the kitchen sink, and it connects the kitchen with the backyard, so I wanted it to be a calm, welcoming space for my family. During the colder months, I just wanted it to be pretty to look at.

The biggest change would come through the power of paint. Benjamin Moore’s Decorators White on the walls and Harbor Fog on the ceiling provided the bright, crisp look I was going for. But the walls and ceilings were just the finishing touches. The entire design of this room began with one idea: painting gray and white stripes on the floor.

This perfectly neutral and highly versatile color can create subtle distinctions among exterior architectural elements or stand on its own

When to Paint Your Home Gray.

Gray paint — whether a warm gray or a cool one — is an ideal choice for a home of just about any style, age and location. Also, with this color’s wide range of hues, two or more shades can be combined to create subtle distinctions between architectural elements, eliminating jarring contrasts to create a quieter exterior.

And gray can be applied in many forms, from a solid paint to a semitransparent stain. As a paint, the color provides a uniform and continuous color, ideally suited to a material like stucco. As a semitransparent stain, gray allow the complexity and beauty of wood to come through.

So if you’re considering a gray exterior, go beyond monolithic and battleship gray to really explore this neutral color’s richness and variety.

Go for the charm with these curated picks that create a Southern look in all its gracious glory

Outfit a Southern Plantation-Style Home — Paint to Porch Furnishings.

With their gracious porches, well-proportioned rooms and rambling grounds, Southern plantation-style homes in the U.S. have a lot to offer. Whether you are renovating a historic Lowcountry home or simply feel inspired by classic Southern style, this guide is here to help. Curated picks including paint colors, lighting, cabinetry and more make decision making a breeze — so you can spend more time relaxing with that tall glass of sweet tea on your front porch.

Bring on the energy — with red on its exterior, your home can stir up excitement in any setting

When to Paint Your Home Red.

Energetic, lively and the color of good luck, red can excite and enliven a home’s exterior. Whether it’s traditional red brick, a more earthen tone — like Frank Lloyd Wright’s favorite Cherokee Red — or a more electric hue, red makes a home jump out and announce its presence.

Historically, red was the color of choice for many Swedish country barns and farmhouses. The pigment originated at Swedish copper mines and was found to be an excellent wood preservative. It’s likely that the color became popular for barns and farmhouses in the U.S. due to an influx of Swedish immigrants and the color’s popularity in 19th-century Sweden.