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.