5 Weed-Smothering Ground Covers

So many anglers profess their love of weeding. “It’s therapeutic,” they say, and I see their point. Spending some time in the garden can be good therapy. However, I have a confession: I hate weeding. I’d rather have a stroll or sit with a book in my garden, enjoying the crops I’ve endeavored to develop. I wholeheartedly resent the time suck of eliminating those I have not.

As such, I am a big fan of earth covers that choke out weeds. Sure, if you would rather mild-mannered plants, you may consider them weeds within their own right, but for anglers like me, they help keep the “bad” weeds.

If it’s odor you’re after, look no farther than soda-scented ‘Walker’s Low’ catmint (Nepeta x faassenii ‘Walker’s Low’, zones 4 to 8). Brushing its foliage releases a beautiful bouquet into the air, and it flowers lavender early to midsummer. I shear mine a little with a hedge trimmer as it flowers for a new flush of foliage and blossom. This cool cat thrives in sun and lean, dry soil, and you will be amazed by how far one little clump will stretch. It divides readily in spring should you discover you want to help it together.

Creeping raspberry (Rubus pentalobus) is a little locomotive of a plant, with crushed-velvet leaves that turn a beautiful bronze color in zones where the weather gets cold but not cold it melts. It’s hardy in zones 6 to 9, grows well in sun or shade and even reasonably dry conditions, in typical soil. You may also find it under the name Rubus calycinoides and the very similar cultivar ‘Emerald Carpet’.

Photo by J.smith via Wikimedia Commons

Terra Nova® Nurseries, Inc

Asian jasmine (Trachelospermum asiaticum) has been a popular evergreen ground cover in the South for decades, and when we say weed smothering, we mean it with this one. It’s for people who want an extremely low, very compact hedge. If you’re in the market for that with a little additional pizzazz, have a look at these fabulous variegated cultivars: ‘ ‘Gold Brocade’ (shown here) features wild and mad gold foliage with reddish new growth, whilst ‘Tricolor’ (next photo) is much more demure in mottled white with pink new growth.

This brand of vanilla has been grown mostly for foliage and seldom blooms. All these cultivars thrive in average conditions in sun or shade. They are solidly hardy in zones 8 to 10 but definitely worth a shot in zone 7. Their unvariegated parent grows just fine well into warmer parts of zone 6, even though it’s less known there. All are playful, glossy-leafed garden additions that send weeds packing.

Terra Nova® Nurseries

I recently extolled the virtues of plumbago (Ceratostigma plumbaginoides, zones 5 to 9) here, and I think that it’s worth mentioning twice, simply to drive the point home: This plant grows well in sun and part shade in all sorts of states all around the U.S.. It chokes out weeds, blossoms in a clear blue that reflects the summer sky and tops it off with fantastic fall color. What more can you ask for?

Last but not least is a sumac. No, not the poison kind — this is ‘Gro-Low’ sumac (Rhus aromatica ‘Gro-Low’, zones 3 to 9), and it is not poisonous in the least. Grow it for its shiny blue-green leaves, buttery-yellow spring blossoms, fuzzy red fruit in late summer and fire-engine-crimson fall color. This plant is one tough cookie and grows great in color, but it picks up steam faster with sun and warmth — the first place I found it had been a parking lot. And as if all that weren’t enough, its parent plant is native to the whole eastern half of North America.

Great layout trees:
Texas Mountain Laurel | Bald Cypress | Chinese Witch Hazel | Japanese Maple
Manzanita | Persian Ironwood | Smoke Tree | Tree Aloe

Great layout blossoms:
Catmint | Golden Creeping Jenny | Pacific Coast Iris | Plumbago
Red Kangaroo Paw | Sally Holmes Rose | Slipper Plant | Snake Flower

Great layout grasses:
Black Mondo Grass | Cape Rush | Feather Reed Grass | New Zealand Wind Grass

Great layout crops:
Blue Chalk Sticks | Hens-and-Chicks | Redtwig Dogwood | Toyon

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Cool, Calm Edwardian Gets Another Update

Recall Lucy McLintic’s cool, Serene Edwardian at San Francisco? She’s just completed a remodel of her kitchen, dining area, family room and powder room in a build that took three months and was in preparation for nearly nine.

The intent to redesign was in place because they moved into five years back and this was finally the right time.The design had two major issues: a narrow corridor leading from the kitchen to a small one-quarter bathroom (only a toilet, no sink). The bathroom was so tiny the door knocked the toilet bowl once it opened. And more space was required for 2 boys to playwith. Some crafty rearrangement was obligated to prevent major structural work or another addition. Read on to find the glowing, natural and modern haven now.

Lucy McLintic

Lucy has dreamed of the kitchen for ages! She knew the countertops and cabinets had to be whitened. That required darker shades for the tile and flooring, and some pattern. She chose herringbone floor tiles to echo the zigzag rug that could be reused in the family room. Silver travertine wall tiles added a touch of luxury and texture, while staying within the modern, clean-lined look.

Lucy McLintic

Lucy McLintic

The old kitchen was badly organized (with four entry doors), and falling to bits. The issues were solved by blocking up a door between the kitchen and bathroom, creating more counter space for the kitchen and room for a sink in the bathroom. The doors have been eliminated between other rooms.

The countertops have a strange border profile: a reverse bevel, or’sharknose’. Lucy noticed that as an emerging fashion in Europe and wanted to give it a shot. It was hard to describe, but her builder knew what she meant and got it just perfect.

Lucy McLintic

Open walnut shelves and toe kicks warm up the area. A white kitchen can be so clinical, but open shelving lets you bring some character to the room. The shelves are full of a mixture of old items, gifts and products by a local restaurant supply store.

Lucy McLintic

The dining area and family room were swapped, making the dining room currently visible from the kitchen so that it seems just like a kitchen-diner. It all feels like one area, though no major structural changes were made.

The small dining area is the best size for the household. Attention is focused on the dining table from Room and Board. The neutral palette is in shades of java, latte and milky white but intriguing shapes and textures have been added, such as the hyperlink suspension pendant by LZF. It’s made from wood veneer and can be rather the statement bit.

See the preceding arrangement in this earlier house tour

Lucy McLintic

The inlay mirror was the beginning point for the powder room. Lucy didn’t need the overall effect to be traditional, therefore she paired it with modern minimal glass tiles and a floating walnut vanity with square-edge countertops at the same Caesarstone as the kitchen. The dressing table is habit but from the same shop as the kitchen cabinets. The paint is Benjamin Moore’s Iron Mountain. Wall-mounted taps were selected as a result of limited space.

Lucy McLintic

The family room is used all the time. It’s the middle of the house physically, so there is a natural gravitational pull toward this area. Now the dining area transferred to the rear of the house, the space feels more open and inviting. Most of the items in the area — the sideboard, mirror, rug and end table — were reused. The sofa and the Cherner chair were the only new developments.

Lucy McLintic

The area was intentionally kept sparse to book the floor area for the kids to play. The deeper wall color (Benjamin Moore Wiemeraner) and patterned carpet prevent it from feeling empty.

A Little Cottage Grows Up
A Kitchen to Family and the Joy of Cooking
New Style With Old-World Warmth

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Hilltop Palace in San Francisco

Unparalleled views of the city and bay were what drew Geoffrey De Sousa to this San Francisco house, but it’s his stunning mixture of natural materials and exquisite product selections that truly sets it apart. An interior designer and one of the owners of this showroom De Sousa Hughes, De Sousa was residing in a Victorian home in the city when he discovered the perfect location for his dream house. Perched on top of the greatest of San Francisco’s hills in Clarendon Heights, his new house has views of the city in virtually every direction.

De Sousa opened up the home to benefit from their views and natural lighting, working with architect Mark English to double the square footage and create a clean and crisp appearance. He then outfitted the house with impeccable product choices to flaunt its clean architecture and comparison the surrounding fog.

Geoffrey De Sousa Interior Design

De Sousa significantly expanded the space, starting the main floor to a gallery-like foyer, stairway, dining room, living room and kitchen. The dining room is simply one of many rooms that opens up onto the house’s brilliant view.

Dining room table: Stephanie Odegard

Geoffrey De Sousa Interior Design

The simple and contemporary dining table is made out of forged metal, and also the Robjohns Gibbons dining chairs are one of De Sousa’s favourite finds. “It took five years to locate all 6,” he states. “We discovered them in San Francisco, in Palm Springs, in St. Louis.”

Geoffrey De Sousa Interior Design

An elegant custom glass and walnut staircase leads from the foyer to the top floor, which contains the master and guest suites. Another pair of stairs leads down to a media room and exercise room on the floor. The mix of cold and warm stuff with this unique stairway is the perfect transition between the distances and acts as a great way to highlight pieces of De Sousa’s artwork collection. “The foyer is just like a little gallery space of its own,” he states.

Geoffrey De Sousa Interior Design

De Sousa’s previous home was a Victorian decorated entirely in white, so he chose to do something completely different this time around. Lush colors, contemporary lines, and incorporated indoor/outdoor living define the house’s aesthetic. The blend of products within this main-floor living room surely echoes that. The yellow upholstered chairs and the coffee table in this room are De Sousa’s own designs.

Geoffrey De Sousa Interior Design

De Sousa chose plush textiles in rich browns, grays and reds which play from the city’s cool and muddy disposition perfectly.

Chaise: Charcoal Velvet Preston Chaise, Geoffrey De Sousa
Tables: Plexiglass tables, Ted Boerner
Mirror: Blackman Cruz

Geoffrey De Sousa Interior Design

A cozy outdoor seating area, complete with a fire pit, sits just inside the entrance courtyard. The stacked stone walls and calming water feature have made this a relaxing outdoor sanctuary.

Geoffrey De Sousa Interior Design

“We live at the banquette at the kitchen,” says De Sousa. “I’ve wonderful memories of friends and family gathered around that table.” The beautiful rope chairs are produced by Christian Astuguevieille, one of De Sousa’s favourite designers. The black-and-white photos above the banquette are part of a series of 1950s circus photos.

Black and white photos: Robollo Home

Geoffrey De Sousa Interior Design

The open kitchen design allows for a clear view of the San Francisco Bay. Clean and crisp architectural lines keep this space simple but magnificent, and automatically direct the eyes out to the perspective. De Sousa wanted to emphasize natural substances in his house, and used a mix of walnut, Brazilian mahogany, piled slate, and also Calacatta marble throughout. The comparison between timber, glass and stone creates an artful and visually satisfying look.

Artwork: Created by Alon Langotsky

Geoffrey De Sousa Interior Design

Chocolate brown accents liven up the calming taupe tones in this bedroom.

The home’s appearance is a result of a love for several distinct styles and eras. “It’s also a portion of the cities where I have lived,” he states. “Boston, where I grew up amidst classic American architecture and interiors, to San Francisco, to Palm Springs, where we have a modest mid-century-style retreat.”

Geoffrey De Sousa Interior Design

The master bathroom is a calm, light-filled space that highlights natural timber, tile and stone. Employing the pebble-style tile round the edge of the space provides a unique contrast that ties the whole space together.

Geoffrey De Sousa Interior Design

The rooms on the base floor have a clear perspective of the city. A small outdoor patio off a guest bedroom enables visitors to fully enjoy the occasional sunny San Francisco day.

Geoffrey De Sousa Interior Design

Of course, the terrace has by far the most magnificent view in the home. The Bay Bridge and Golden Gate Bridge are visible here, and therefore are best enjoyed with a warm blanket and a glass of wine.

Photography by Matthew Millman

More Tours:
Elegant and Modern at San Francisco
Sleek San Francisco Getaway
Georgia Peach Grows California Roots

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Regional Modern: Stunning Innovations in Los Angeles

Los Angeles is home to some of the best modern and contemporary residential architecture in the USA, or even the world. This quality appears from a range of factors: the 72-and-sunny climate and so an embrace of outside living; the dramatic topography, notably the foothills that open to views of L.A.’s plains; a cosmopolitan urban landscape that invites single-family homes as far as apartments and vertical living; and naturally the money that pays for your homes, be it out of Hollywood or other regional industries.

Yet, such as Chicago, the residential climate can be influenced by historical modernists, notably Richard Neutra, R.M. Schindler, and Irving Gill. The last two characters are celebrated in Esther McCoy’s indispensable Five California Architects, which also includes Bernard Maybeck, and the Greene brothers.

Gill softly trailblazed simple unadorned forms before European modernists; R.M. Schindler articulated complex layering of surfaces and indoor and outdoor spaces; and Neutra utilized glass to open hillside homes to grand perspectives, putting L.A. itself on screen. More recently, Frank Gehry has left his mark on the city, affecting architects together with his sculptural designs.

This ideabook concentrates on L.A.’s homes removed from the Pacific Ocean, so another one will feature coastal homes. The inland residences that follow illustrate the several conditions that make L.A. a breeding ground for innovative architecture.

More regional modern structure:
Chicago | Boston | Austin | NYC | New York Metro | Oregon | Seattle | No. California | San Francisco

Belzberg Architects

What better way to start an ideabook on Los Angeles structure than a house that doubles as a location for seeing movies.This second-floor projection doubles as a cover for a seat, putting the car on screen as well. Yet neither screen might not have the ability to compete with the panoramic view to the best, what Reyner Banham called the”Plains of Id” in his classic book, Los Angeles: The Architecture of Four Ecologies.

Belzberg Architects

This residence by precisely the same architect indicates a similar opening of the house towards dramatic views. Yet here we see another strand of L.A.’s home structure: sculptural design influenced by another local architect, Frank Gehry. While he isn’t solely responsible for this particular facet of L.A.’s regional modernism, his unique mix of dynamic forms and affordable stuff was embraced by several younger architects.

Belzberg Architects

This house combines itself with the panoramic landscape and gifts a roofscape that formally responds to the same. Most striking are cantilevered portions that hit toward the Valley and create panoramic views through expansive glass facades.

Studio Pali Fekete architects [SPF:a]

In the road side, this big house is clearly delineated in three floors: a solid base built into the slope, a transparent middle, along with a wood-clad top floor with windows articulated for solitude and views. This front barely hints at what is happening on the opposite side of the house, which you’ll see next.

Studio Pali Fekete architects [SPF:a]

Wonderful panoramic views of this urban plain would be the result of the architect’s plan. Here we are in the middle, transparent floor, where butt-glazed glass onto the left along with a sliding glass wall to the right supply indoor and outdoor enjoyment of this L.A. experience.

Ehrlich Yanai Rhee Chaney Architects

1 architect clearly inspired by R.M. Schindler is Steven Ehrlich, whose carefully written volumes, surfaces, and openings also have influenced many younger architects. This massive house looks smaller by stepping away from the road and articulating the different floors. It’s modern yet tasteful.

Ehrlich Yanai Rhee Chaney Architects

At the rear the house is more spacious, orienting itself towards a pool, a standard element in several L.A. homes.

Additionally by Ehrlich, however far removed stylistically than the previous house, is this Corten-steel clad corner house in Venice, near the ocean yet urban because of its immediate context. Bright orange sails shade the house (and pool between the fence and home ) and soften the rust of their steel walls.

Balancing the solidity of this Corten steel and the parallel CMU wall beside the neighboring house are big glass doors at the end of this plan. They lead to a large open living room on the floor that opens to yards on both sides.

Kanner Architects – CLOSED

Like Ehrlich, another powerful architect is that the late Stephen Kanner, that made a varied collection of residential jobs around LA.. This house is austere and closed-off at front. But in back…

Kanner Architects – CLOSED

… an L-shaped plan embraces a large terrace. A great deal of glass allow interior views toward this distance as well as the hills and ravine beyond.

Kanner Architects – CLOSED

Additionally by Kanner, but rather different, is that this office/guesthouse adjacent to a larger residence. The sculptural house responds gracefully to the topography by following its ups and downs.

Kanner Architects – CLOSED

The landscape also closely follows the slopes. Here the steps look like they had been carved out of the stone. The framed view in the wall at the center of this photograph is a nice touch.

David Churchill – Architectural Photographer

This house is located in Sullivan Canyon close ranch-style homes from the 1920s-’50s. Architect Susan Minter broke the house to separate volumes clad in different ways, in effect breaking the scale down of the house. In the front the house is, unsurprisingly, quite closed off.

David Churchill – Architectural Photographer

Yet at the rear, the house at Sullivan Canyon opens itself up to a little yard generated through the L-shaped plan.

Robert Granoff

I am not sure what’s more intriguing in this house, the interlocking volumes (four or three, depending on how one counts them) or the grass paving for your driveway. The first attempts to break down the scale of this three-story house, although the latter allows water to drain into the ground as opposed to into the road and sewer. Back in L.A., where water is scarce and getting more and more of a problem every day, tactics such as these are modest but significant.

Dean Nota Architect

This house on a corner lot articulates a fairly straightforward box with different materials (timber, CMU, metal) along with a cantilever over the driveway. The past, with its wraparound clerestory window and awning window under it, looks like a face looking over the road.


This previous house provides a segue to another ideabook with coastal L.A. homes. Located in Manhattan Beachthis three-story speculative house opens itself on the second and third floors toward the Pacific Ocean. Nonetheless, the design is very urban, reacting to its immediate context through its massing and materials.

More regional modern structure:
Chicago | Boston | Austin | NYC | New York Metro | Oregon | Seattle | No. California | San Francisco

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Bask in the Glow of a Copper Fireplace

When you consider aluminum, a humble penny often springs to mind. But copper en masse — shiny and metallic or using a warm patina — is anything but modest.

Copper fireplace surrounds, by way of example, control attention as strong surfaces, yet fit in to any style of decor due to their natural, earthy characteristics. Copper’s malleable qualities allow it to be cut into panels, hammered, wrapped or riveted — the possibilities are nearly endless. In any chosen form, its beauty is flawless and timeless.

Four Corners Construction, L.P.

Against a creamy white canvas, the patina of the copper fireplace becomes a gorgeous architectural focus within this contemporary home.


As well as this hearty wood dining table, the warm metallic hue of this aluminum fireplace heats a cozy dining room. Its reflective quality also adds touch of polish without being too dainty.

Dunlap Design Group

Copper plates include a subtle graphic quality to this darkened living room. Its brick coating pattern harmonizes nicely with different shapes found from the built-in bookcases and striped accent seats.

Feldman Architecture, Inc..

Rusted iron takes on a copper look and provides industrial chic to a contemporary area. The elemental mixture of concrete, wood and metal is a feast for both the tactile and visual sensations.

LDa Architecture & Interiors

The penny-shine of the fireplace surround is just as eye catching as the wonderful exterior view. Its warm hue helps fortify the area’s cozy atmosphere.

Cynthia Prizant – Prizant Design

In case a copper fireplace surround is not an option for you, this wavy metal wall artwork provides a similar impact.

Grandin Road

Outdoor Copper Fire Pit – $299.99

Take your want for flame outdoors with a lava pit pit. This mobile beauty allows you set the mood wherever you choose.

More: A Periodic Table of Design Elements
15 Strategies to Design With Copper
Make Your Fireplace the Focal Point

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