Crazy for Hue
A California resident finds an upside to downsizing when she turns her new backyard into a vibrant garden retreat full of colorful collectibles.
Outdoor living space makes downsizing easier for a California renter and allows her to express her creativity and indulge her penchant for color.
Moving from the city to a beach town might seem like a simple choice—but what if you had to substantially reduce your treasured collections to fit into a smaller home? That was the decision facing Kelly McMaster when a friend told her about a Laguna Beach, California, rental home that had recently become available. “At first, I thought there was no way I could downsize to 500 square feet—but then I saw the outdoor space,” she recalls.
The home included a side yard with a meandering path and a backyard featuring a patio and deck. Although the state of the garden was “only dirt” and Kelly was not a gardener, she could envision its potential. She realized she might be able to use some of the furnishings and accents that filled her current apartment to extend her living area outdoors. “Anything that didn’t fit inside, I put outside. I knew things would get beat up, but I had owned them 15 to 20 years or longer, dragging them from place to place. I decided I’d rather keep them outdoors than sell or give them away,” she says.
Most of the items were already colored in the bold hues Kelly favors, but she did repaint a few things using outdoorfriendly patio paint and applied clearcoat sealer on others before placing them outside. Some accessories stay out year-round, while others are rotated to suit the season. “I change things up as the mood strikes me,” Kelly notes. “I like to have fun with it.”
She seeks out unique containers for her annuals—utilizing everything from vintage tins to old tires and dresser drawers. She shops flea markets and favorite home decor stores for items, but she’s been known to rescue things from the trash heap—for example, a crate discarded by a neighbor and an old soda pallet lying by the side of the road.
Shortly after Kelly moved into the beach house, her parents gifted her with a 10- by 12-foot gazebo, which she installed on the back deck to create a unique living area. Cast-off but creatively reclaimed furniture, including sofas slipcovered with curtains and blankets as well as a dated coffee table revived with paint, make this a refreshing alfresco retreat. With access to electricity, she was able to include lighting, a television and a small electric fireplace within the space.
Kelly enjoys hosting large gatherings centered around the gazebo, but she also relishes relaxing in the space. “In the summer, it is really awesome to hang out in there and watch a movie—it’s outdoors, but still indoors,” she says. “It’s like you’re on a mini vacation, and it makes living in a tiny interior not seem so confining.”
Puttering around the garden, rearranging vignettes, pruning plantings, and repainting items is therapeutic for Kelly, and she couldn’t be more satisfied with her choice to move to her tiny rental home. “I love having all this outdoor space and the room to be creative and go nutty with colors and grow things,” she concludes. “It’s just really wonderful and it keeps me happy.”