Mar 30, 2013

Little Boxes

And some not-so-little boxes!  That's right folks, window boxes and planters.  I chose to go with black full-color stain (thanks for the advice, Kjersti and Mrs. Autumn!).  I only stained the exterior of the planter and a few inches down to save myself some work.  Read: I'm lazy.

These planters are lazy too.  Just look at them laying around in the garage!

Even though we don't have the weed-block and gravel in yet, I couldn't resist hauling them outside once the stain had dried to see how they looked.  To nobody's surprise, the black blended right in with the dark earth and soil below, just like Mrs. Autumn said they would.  And four planters looked like plenty enough to disguise a multitude of sins.

Gonna shroud that AC unit in ferns, baby.

And the depth is juuuust right.  They create a narrow walkway along the fence line with a wide berth on either end of the path.  And check out how they measure up with the AC unit and the crawl access- you can hardly even see the sloped metal lid back there.

The art of disguise.

Since I stained the window boxes to match, I asked Steve if he would mind installing them for me.  Because this house has much less trim around the exterior of the windows than our last house, we had to make a little modification to keep the boxes looking more "square" instead of leaning against the house, looking as though their contents might spill out at a moment's notice.  To solve our problem, Steve ripped down some spare 2x2 and installed a little chunk on the back of both window boxes.

Holding screws in his teeth an everything.

It essentially created a bumper for the bottom of each window box where it would sit against the house.  See?

Bumper #2.

Then it was outside to hang them!  Steve secured the long J-shaped rail under the wondow.

Three cheers for power tools!

All we had to do was slide the window boxes into place.  See the bumper right next to the house?  Tricky.  This is the look husbands give wives when the wives say "Hold it there for just a minute so I can take a picture of you!"

Half smirk, half exasperation.

Check it out now!  I am so excited with how this turned out and can't wait to get the gravel down and start filling these babies with shade-loving plants!!

Ready to roll!

Mar 26, 2013

Spring is for the Birds

It's official.  After an insane snowy Friday, spring has sprung in the Pacific Northwest.  We've had a few sunny days and yesterday we topped 60 degrees.  Barely, but still.

I'll take it!!

So it was high time the top of the piano went from wintry to springy.  I'm not a big one for holiday decorating, mostly because I'm too lazy to redecorate for every holiday and also because I'm too cheap to purchase decor that coordinates with every holiday.  I do enjoy me some seasonal decorating though.  Make it cute once and leave it alone for three months?  Sounds good to me.


What says spring better than the return of birds?  The geese head north and the robins and songbirds can be seen again.  I have fond memories of finding blue eggshells broken open under bird nests as a child, and there's something undeniably hopeful and about feeble baby birds breaking free of their tiny shells.  The symbolism isn't lost on me, folks.  And I do love me some birds in this house.  So, birds it is.

I have also always loved the look of a collection of vases.  And I've seen the beauty in displaying collections of items.  Well, it just happens that I had a cabinet full of vases waiting in the laundry closet.

Most of the goodies here are shopped from my house.  I used some leftover Spanish moss in a jar that was hanging out on top of my kitchen cabinets to make a sweet spot for robins to lay eggs.  The vase on the left was in storage and the stopper bottle was in the guest bathroom.

The eggs are NOT seasonal Whoppers.

Two sweet wooden bird cutouts left from Tabi's wedding are perched near a second next of eggs.  I love that the birds say "I Do!" and "Me Too!" on the backs, and nobody can see it.  Obviously the birds must've eloped and are keeping their marriage a secret.

Bird family.

And the part that's my favorite.  How perfect is that quote?  And how great does it go with that frame?!  And let's throw in another bird, shall we?

The colors are so happy.

I couldn't have all those vases without some greenery going on.  I love forsythia in the spring- the bare branches covered in bright yellow flowers.  For some people, crocus is the signal that winter is ending.  For me, it's forsythia.  (Maybe I should incorporate one into our landscape plans?)  So I put a few silk branches in a giant mason jar.  I think it looks a little cluttered, but the fact that most of what's on top of the piano is glass keeps it from looking too chaotic.  I'm also digging the idea that at some point most of those vases could be filled with fresh flowers like tulips or a rhododendron branch.  Can't get much more springy than that, eh?

Ready for flora.

Mar 19, 2013

Garage: Move In to Present

I've managed to give a tour every area in this house except the one that Steve describes as "man territory."  That's right, the garage.  In our last house, we turned the garage into a sunken room which eventually became a nightmarish pit of moldy storage (a burst hot water tank will do that).  Our cars were relegated to the drive pad.  Once we moved into this house, I told Steve and I wanted both of us to be able to park in the garage.  This was especially important to me since we live in the downtown area of our rural community and most of the crime that happens here is vandalism or petty theft (read: bored teenagers).  I have had the lovely experience of running late for work only to discover your car window has been broken out and the contents of your car are in disarray or missing at previous residences, and I have no desire to repeat it here.  These photos were taken on a day when the garage was serving its alternate purpose- workshop for Steve- so the cars were parked outside.

Let's start with the view walking from the house into the garage.

Busy bee.

Fortunately, this house had a garage door that was still in usable condition when we moved in.  Unfortunately, it had no garage door opener.  Or rather, it did at one time but didn't any longer.  Getting the garage door opener installed was one of the first things we did after buying the house.  Steve also put up the two sets of long fluorescent lights (leftovers we got for free from his parents).  If you look closely, you can see that we use the rafters for storage.  We've got the two wrecked black screens for our sliding doors up there (we saved them because they're nonstandard size so we want to have them matched), the indoor/outdoor rug that used to be in our living room (we know we'll eventually have a place to put it again), the box spring from our mattress (I am still incredulous that Steve managed to get that thing up there), and a snow shovel.

Down the left side of the garage, we tried to maximize storage.  There were no shelves out here when we moved in; Steve built them all himself.

Holy hoarders, Batman.

I know it looks like a ton of stuff (and it is!) but believe it or not, it's pretty well categorized.  Closest to the garage door is holiday stuff and car stuff, in the middle there's camping supplies and dog supplies (including a large dog crate that opens toward the doggy door), and closest to the side yard is painting supplies and lawn care/gardening stuff.  You can also see the first coat of stain on one of my planters right front and center.  Hee!  This is part of the reason why we are planning on adding a lean-to style garden shed in our back yard. About five feet of linear shelf space can be moved out to the "garden shed," meaning we'd have more room to organize what's already here.  The small cement patio is right outside that door.  You can see the basketball hoop on our neighbor's back patio.  I'm just thankful we can see anything at all- that window was so crusted over with gunk when we moved in that it took three separate encounters with a soapy green scouring pad and a hose to make it clear again.  Eventually I'd like to put some trim around the door too.  I know it won't serve any real purpose since most of our garage isn't insulated, but it'll gross me out less than looking at the cobwebs in the gap between the frame and the drywall.

And speaking of places in our garage that accumulate cobwebs- here's our hot water tank and furnace system.  We actually manage to store most of our long-handled tools around our water heater, which works pretty well for us.  Steve hung a row of hooks right next to the door out to the yard to hang out extension cords on.  I have to tell you, this was the BEST thing we have done in organizing this garage so far.  It's so easy to see which length cord you're grabbing, and we have wayyy less issues with tangling than we did before.  Plus, it's right on the way out to the yard.  You can grab the extension cord you need while holding the string trimmer in your other hand, and then all you have to do is plug it in and string trim to your heart's content.  The rug that used to be in our entry is also here.  It's the perfect spot for it- it's cute, plus it's large and nubbly enough to get most of the wet and dirt off shoes and paws as we come in and out.  We have a basket full of dirty/yard shoes at the entrance to the house so we can easily find those stained-green old sneakers when we go to mow the lawn without having to trip over them incessantly.  And we've got a small chest freezer where our frozen meat lives, hidden by some boards Steve was using for a project that day.  I love that I don't have to sacrifice freezer space in my kitchen, and it's really easy to pop out to the garage and grab the meat we'll need for the next day or two.  I don't even have to walk on the cement; I can stand right on the rug and do it.  You may notice something weird with the color around the door into the house....

Identity crisis?

It's paint.  The same paint we used for the bulk of our home's interior.  Remember when I talked about painting the door black?  Yeah, still want to do that.  And then I shared this inspiration pic?


Yeah, still want to do that, too.  I actually got impatient once the new door was installed and decided to start paining the drywall to make things look a little cleaner.  I just patched some of the holes in the wall (who knows what they were from) and went to town.  There were also a lot of strange messages written in chalk and spray paint along this wall, not  to mention dinosaur stickers, so painting is helping things look less unkempt out in the garage.  See?

Apparently someone was queen.  Their reign is being endedby Sherwin Williams' Kilim Beige.

Here's the rest of the wall closest to the house.  This is what we refer to as our exercise center.

Let me get a little Clueless on you:  Exercise?  AS IF.

In addition to the treadmill (Steve's sweatshirt and a bag of talc powder are hanging off it), we keep our yoga mats, kettlebells, and Steve's heavybag out here.  Steve also had the genius idea of hooking up his older Xbox and a cheap TV out there so we can watch Netflix while we treadmill or use exercise videos if we want.  Our old door is hanging out waiting to be taken to the Habitat for Humanity store, and Steve's most recent target practice victim is on display.  Having been in the Army, he loves to shoot and he's a really good at it.  I joke that hanging this in the garage was a great way to deter potential thieves who may peer in through the side yard door.

The north wall of our garage is Steve's makeshift shop.  We already know that someday when we move, our next house will need a shop or a place to build one.  When the cars are pulled in, all of Steve's tools and equipment and pushed tightly against this wall (we keep a piece of cardboard over the legs of the band saw so I don't ding my door when I get in and out).  And obviously, things get pulled away from the wall when Steve's using them.

Man time.

His work bench is recently installed from an old tabletop used at his office.  We use a dresser and his tool chest for organizing smaller tools (although I use the term "organizing" loosely since I can't ever find what I need out there).  And surprise- more stained windowboxes drying on cardboard!

It totally looks a mess to me, but Steve is very accommodating as far as me doing the bulk of our home's organization and decorating, so I try to let him do what he wants (mostly) with this space.  And obviously he has a good time out there.

Gratuitous manly action shot.

 Does anyone have some good garage organization tips for us?  How do you organize a multi-function garage (shop, exercise, storage, lawn care)?

Mar 11, 2013

3, 4 Shut the Door

It does, finally!

Last we left the door between our garage and the house, it was a hot mess.  Specifically, this hot mess.


Steve and his dad installed our new door over a month ago, but it hasn't been finished because of something interesting.  When they ripped the broken door out, they found that the cut for the door is significantly wider than the pre-hung door we bought.  They managed to shim the door in just fine, but we had a major case of crack attack happening.  (Please excuse the pics- I'm trying my hand at shooting with a DSLR and the learning curve is crazy steep!!)

Pretty door, ugly crack.

I tried to restrain myself but I have to say-- crack is whack.

So Steve bought a couple cans of spray insulation and went to work sealing off the crack.

Rockin' the gloves and goggles.

We let it set for 8 hours and cut off the excess that bubbled out.

Look ma, no more crack!

Sealed up tight.

The trim we used doesn't match the trim in the rest of the house-- we couldn't find an exact match, so we opted for something a little more dramatic.  Our hope was since this door is at the end of a hallway and is the only door in our whole house sporting satin nickel hardware, the different trim would read as character rather than "oops."  And once I get around to painting the garage-facing side of this puppy black, we think it'll just add to the effect.  Once the trim went up, things looked so much better.

Primed trim, blurry pictures.

And once everything was repainted and we switched out the door bumper on the wall for one that was a little more flush, things looked oh so much better!

Love it.

So that's the story of how the door from our house to our garage went from a non-functional ugly duckling to a hard-working swan.



Mar 9, 2013

Making the Scenic Route

Landscaping work has officially begun!  We did decide to start with the north side of the house because we think it'll be the easiest area for us to update-- we already know how to do everything we'd like to do back here, and none of the projects require a big time or money commitment.

We started by simply raking out the gravel along that side of the house.  I had hoped I'd be able to rake enough out to use some in our driveway, but after nearly two years of sitting untouched on bare dirt, most of the gravel had already sunk into the soil and was staying put.  I briefly considered digging this area down a couple of inches, but decided that it'd be fine as is.  All that raking gave me a more even surface and pulled up a lot of rogue weeds and moss that had made it through the winter.

It looks uneven, but that's just our neighbor's bowed fence.

I wanted to put some shallow steps at either end of this walkway to keep the gravel in place and help with the elevation change.  After discussing it with Steve, we decided that it'd be easier to use some of the existing pavers the previous owners had left to create a sloped transition on the east side (easier to get a full yard waste cart back and forth that way).  Steve was also pretty sure that putting in a step or some kind of transition on the west end of the walkway would mean re-doing the gate at that end.  And although the gate has sagged a ton and is in pretty rough shape, that's not a project we want to tackle yet, so the west end of the walkway is being left as is.  I started setting the pavers into the dirt on the north end, knowing full well that they'd be nearly covered with moss in a year.  At least moss is green, people.

Tunnel vision.

Steve also started making planters for me.  Since the walkway is about 5 feet wide, and these planters will add interest and camouflage some of the less attractive elements of this side of the house (A/C and crawl access, anyone?), we wanted the planters to be about 2 feet wide.  Steve used 8" cedar planks to construct two planters for me.

Gratuitous photo of productive manliness in action.

They're very simple looking, which I love.  I want the stars back here to be the plants, not the planters.  And the scale was PERFECT.

You're getting, hidden, AC unit!

Since Steve made two of these bad boys, and we used cedar, it wasn't exactly super cheap.  What we've decided to do is build the rest of the ground planters out of fence planks.  They'll look a little different, and they won't last as long, but they'll cost about a third as much as the cedar ones.  So the pretty cedar ones will live at the farthest ends of the walkway, since they'll be the easiest to see, while the fence plank ones will cover the space between.


As Steve and I were talking about scale and arrangement, we found a happy accident.  My dad had made me window boxes for my birthday, fit to the windows in front of our previous house.

You can see the window boxes to the right in this photo.

I love them so much that I moved them with us, even though they wouldn't fit the front windows in this house.  But you know which windows they do fit?  The ones outside the office and the guest bedroom, along this side of the house.  And they'll help draw attention away from the power box and the bevy of cables that run out of the house between the two windows.

Now I need to stain the new planters and clean and re-stain the window boxes.  I'm pondering stain colors-- I love the red cedar look but am also playing with the idea of using a super-dark black or espresso stain.  Thoughts?

Mar 4, 2013

Green Dreams

So you saw exactly what we are working with as far as landscaping goes here.  Now comes the fun part- the plan!  I'll kick things off by sharing the rendering of our current ideas for what things will look like "after."

Ta da!

Let's start on the north side of the house- the left side of the rendering- and work our way around, shall we?

The north side.

The north side of our house gets no sun.  Like, none.  The photo here was taken at high noon in the middle of summer- that's the sunniest it ever gets.  And it's just a smidge over 5 feet wide.  It needs to stay a walkway for a couple of reasons- it's the easiest way to haul the yard waste cart to the front yard and back for a month's worth of leaf cleanup every fall, and our A/C unit as well as crawl access are on that side of the house.  And because the walkway is a little lower than the front yard and back driveway, we'd like to install a shallow step on either side to allow for a more defined space.

But you know me... just because it needs to be a walkway doesn't mean it needs to be ugly!  Our first step will be dredging the gravel out, setting the steps at either end, and laying down weed block.  Typically we hate weed block fabric, as it's a nightmare to plant around if you want to change your planting arrangement, but in this case, this area will only ever be a walkway.  Once we lay the weed block down, we'll never see it again.As you can see in our scale drawing, we'd like to install raised beds for shade-loving plants along the side of the house.  Then we'll get a fresh load of gravel in for the walkway and call it good.

Here's inspiration photos of narrow walkways and shade plant groupings found on Pinterest that made my mouth water, as well as a photo of a grouping of shade plants outside a local restaurant that I LOVED and want to incorporate in the beds.





I talk about these a little here.

This side of the house will likely be one of the first areas we tackle because we know pretty much exactly what we want it to look like, and we know how to do all of tasks involved ourselves.

Then there's the east side of the house- the front yard.  While the north exposure is all about access, the east exposure will be all about curb appeal and beauty.  This is where my love of hydrangeas, rhododendrons, and container gardening will be showcased.  There will be containers planted around the front patio as well as the front gate (three cheers for urns!).  We decided we'd like to give the walkway a little bend to make the yard feel more casual and purposeful.  Obviously we're going to be using some evergreen shrubs to screen the street (looks like a variety of Yew might be our winner right now).  We're planning on building out the flowerbed in front to be larger and have a more graceful shape.  And we'd also like to plant some rhododendrons near the fence line to help soften the lines of the yard and block some of the view into the neighbors' yard.  As far as what gets planted in the flower bed, things are still under development.  I'd like to do as Laura from McAuliffe's suggested and have a blend of colors and textures including early- and late-flowering plants and evergreens.  I DO know that there will be hydrangeas.  We're also planning on painting the front door yellow and building up the post on the outside corner of the patio to give it a little more weight and character.  I'd love to add window boxes below our large picture windows, too.  And although everything beyond our fence is technically city property, we got the OK from the city to do landscaping beyond of property line (so long as we were aware that the city could come dig it up/chop it down whenever it felt like it.  For now all we're planning is planting some wild ginger for groundcover below the giant maple.

Here's my inspiration roundup for the front yard.

Hick's Yew Informal Hedge {via}


Wild Ginger {via}

{source unknown}

Chunky posts.  The ceiling makes my heart pittter-pat, too.  {via}


Then we have the southern exposure.  This area will end up being two distinct spaces- patio/entertaining/food toward the east end and doggy play and storage toward the west.  Since we're working our way around, let's talk about the entertaining area next.

For privacy and doggy security, we're going to make this area gated.  I scored a couple of really cool wooden doors on Craigslist over a year ago for this purpose (wooden doors as garden gates = my jam).  We're thinking of using pavers in this entire area set in a herringbone pattern to give us a surface that's friendly for bare feet and tables/chairs/barbecues, whatever.  Obviously the porch to nowhere is going buh-bye and being replaced with some servicable stairs.  Since the sliding glass door on this side of the house leads right into the kitchen and dining area, we want our barbecue, smoker, and patio furniture to live right here.  At some point we'd like to install a pergola that incorporates clear roofing panels in the area immediately outside our slider so we can barbecue when the weather's disagreeable, and still soak up all the vitamin D we can when the sun's out (all 90 days a year).  We've also dreamed about advancing to quasi-homsteader status by growing some of our own food.  Since the southern exposure gets great sun and we'll have so much in the way of dining/cooking already going on in this area, it only made sense that we'd do raised beds here as well.  We think we can run narrow beds down the fence line and the side of the house for 20 linear feet or so and still have enough room down the middle that we'll have room to drag the lawnmower between them to get from the back yard to the front yard.

Here's our inspriation photos for this area.


Herringbone.  Aw, yeah.  {via}

We love the shape of this pergola.  {via}

This home is located in West Seattle! {via

And this one in glamorous Tacoma! {via}


Which brings us to the back yard.  With the patio furniture and smoker moved to our entertaining area, and a gate installed at the southeast corner of our house, this spot will then be able to serve a few functions- the most important being doggy fun time.  We've already got a crate rigged up for the puppies in the garage that opens to the back yard through a doggy-door, but without a secure gate in place, we've rarely used it (we live next to a highway and are slightly paranoid our dogs will break out of the yard through the rickety x-fence we use now).  We'd like to smooth the grade in the lawn, pull out the rotten wood chips, and plant some emerald green arborvitae along the west fence line to block our view of the McChevron.  I have to say, that may be the part I am the most excited for in our whole landscape reno!  There's plans for a small garden shed outside the garage and a rain barrel since there's no spigots on the south side of the house.  Add a couple of lawn chairs for reading in summer and a few fun container gardens, and call it good.







So there's the plan.  What do you think?  Suggestions for us?