One year later

A little more than a year ago, we were making our way toward the 2011 ACL music festival when our realtor called to tell us the sellers of a little house on Corona Drive had accepted our offer to buy their place; a month later they handed us the key. Even though the process of buying our first home happened fairly quickly, in many ways this one year anniversary of life in our first home seems like it took a lifetime to reach–especially when I think about all the projects I wanted to accomplish in the first year.

I had a lofty checklist of things to add, modify and remove in the new house. Admittedly, I was a little too ambitious. I wanted wood floors within the first month and new counter tops within the first two weeks. Fast forward 365 days and the original counters and carpets are still here. I still don’t have a dishwasher in the kitchen, and we still let the dogs out into the backyard through a window and not a proper backdoor. But while there are many, many, many improvements I still haven’t found the time or money to make, I’m careful to remember and be proud of all that we have accomplished in one year together in our first place.

For starters, we (with A LOT of help from my mom) we were able to install some much needed landscaping in the front yard.

The uninspired and lackluster front yard before we got our hands (and feet and faces) dirty with gardening.

And here it is today.

We put in a path that leads to the front door.

And planted lots of native color.

Echinacea is forever smiling.

We painted and added windows to our front door for much needed character.

And in the backyard we did even more.  When we first arrived, the only life in the backyard was a 30-year-old pecan tree.

The bare backyard.

So we added a shed and built a new and improved chicken coop for our feathered friends.

We put in raised beds for veggies…

…and a rain garden to help with drainage.

We built a fence to help with privacy.

And we added some spunk to the patio with a pallet planter, and dining area.

Inside, we got things done too…like painting more walls than we can count.

The bland walls before we got our hands on them.

And after many iterations of furniture placement, we  finally found the perfect layout for our massive living room.

We put up invisible book shelves in the office.

And I finally found the perfect way to incorporate a map wall into the house.

In the kitchen we refinished the cabinets and added new hardware, bringing some much needed shine to a kitchen that was in the running to be named one of the country’s ugliest.

Dinged up faded cabinets and rusty black metal hardware makes for a creepy kitchen.

A little shine goes a long way. At some point we’ll get to updating the backsplash and countertops.

We also stripped the knotty pine paneling to make room for more shelving and storage.

For me, knotty pine is beautiful in small doses. The original kitchen had more than what I prefer.

On top of the big projects, there were dozens of weekends and evenings spent painting furniture, framing artwork, hanging curtains and performing the many other tiny tasks that culminate in having a happy house that feels like home. I didn’t get to a lot of the big projects, but I’m learning to cope with our revised timeline. As my older and wiser home-owning cohorts have told me, the list of home improvement projects never goes away, it just changes over time, and that’s part of the fun. So on our one year anniversary, I’m opting not to lament the projects we have not yet gotten to and instead will celebrate what we have accomplished. Plus, we still need things to keep us busy as we head in to year two.


And so It begins

“It” being  the grand plan for the backyard. My genius landscaping mother (who I blogged about here) created quite the master plan for our backyard, and we have just now implemented step one…

This funky little space, before we moved in, housed a shed built by the previous owners, but it was demolished before we came into the picture, and we were left with rocky soil and lots o’ shade. We gave an herb garden a shot in the old space, but it didn’t quite work out. There was just too much shade from both the back patio and heath’s horizontal fence.

So we created what we are calling the zen garden…

Yes, nothing says “zen” quite like empty wine bottles and a whiskey barrel. Perhaps “The Alcoholic’s Garden” would have been more appropriate. (To be fair, we had help collecting the wine bottles for the border and the whiskey barrel planter was purchased elsewhere, though it still smelled of whiskey once we got our hands on it.) The new set up is perfect for the space. The rockiest parts were transformed into a mulch-covered path, and once the bay tree gets a little larger, we will have a spectacular shade tree paradise.

Fun fact: The bay tree has origins in Greek mythology. Legend has it, the roof of the temple of Apollo was covered entirely with bay leaves to protect the Gods from disease, witchcraft and lightening. The leaves of a bay tree are also the predominate leaf used in the laurels of olympians and poets. So…we’re in good shape when it comes to poetry and witchcraft and being Gods.

Things is starting to look real fine.


Project idea: painting cabinet interiors

I’m like a shark. I can’t stop swimming (or in my case, home improving) or I will die.

So my newest survival project is to paint the interiors of the kitchen cabinets. I love how some background color makes the dishes pop and feel as though it adds dimension to the kitchen (which ours desperately needs).

It’s sort of an unconventional idea, but it’s one I’ve been obsessed with since I first saw the idea in practice while attending a neighborhood block party a few weeks back. I played the role of kitchen creeper, taking photos of my neighbor’s way-cool kitchen for a majority of the party. Theirs was similar to ours as far as size, layout and and cabinet finish, and I was very impressed with some of the things they did to give it some gusto. But the cabinet paint took the cake. It must me implemented!

Seriously, how fun does that look?

White kitchen gets spunky with lime green cabinets.

Blue wallpaper is another idea that’s kinda cool.

Walpaper backing used in a cupboard.

I love the affect of painting the entire cabinet interior, not just the back but the sides, bottoms and tops, too.

Splashes of color without being overpowering.

Cabinets with green. I’m on the fence on whether to go lime green or turquoise.

Yep. Painting the insides of the cabinets is the way to go.


Love Thy Neighbor

Enough with this internet googling business.

When I need ideas for landscaping and home design why am I not drawing more inspiration from the other homes in my neighborhood? After all, most are from roughly the same time period (1950s-1960s), the neighbors are all dealing with the same soil and vegetation issues, and I would assume our budgets for creating a gorgeous front garden and entryway are probably in the same neighborhood (literally). So armed with Heath, the doodles and my Nikon, I decided to capture some of my favorite neighborhood images to stash away in my idea bank.

Idea One— The colorful front door.
Nothing says both “welcome” and “I like to party” quite like a splash of vivid color right at the doorway to the home.

Lime green door peeking out from behind the blue bonnets

I adore this turquoise color and will most definitely be painting our door a similar shade.

Not only a red door, but matching accents too. Job well done, neighbors.

Idea Two—The natural privacy fence.
Obviously building a fence or some other permanent structure is one way to create separation between you and your neighbor, but getting creative with plants is appealing as well (and probably cheaper). The only drawback is it takes patience for the plants to grow to appropriate privacy height…and patience is not one of my virtues. Still, I can admire the patience of others and appreciate what they have done to create privacy with plants.

Stare at the street? No thanks. I'd rather create a beautiful view of bushy greenery to gaze at from my side windows.

I like the idea of having an evergreen vine to separate you from your neighbor's car. Cost effective and very attractive.

Idea Three— The unconventional details.
I’ve already implemented this in my backyard with wine bottles and a repurposed pallet, but having an unconventional element in the front garden has it’s bonuses, too. It generates interest and sets your house apart from some of the others in the hood.

I don't necessarily picture us having bowling balls in the garden, but it's still an interesting concept.

Artichokes in the front yard. Super neato.

It's a small architectural detail, but the tiny structural slant and mini windows on the front porch brick is incredibly appealing to me. It's a little detail that makes a huge impact on this house's curb appeal. It's not every day you see slanted walls, but I'm smitten.

Idea Four—The curbside garden.
In the past, I tended to think of frontyard landscaping and gardens as existing closer to the house, hiding the foundation and framing the structure. But dozens of our neighbors have built their gardens all the way out to the street and I love it. It’s less lawn to deal with and its visually appealing too.

One of the deciding factors that led us to choose our house over others we were looking at, was the neighborhood. The streets are wide and wonderfully walkable. The trees are towering and mature, and each house has its own unique features. We adore our hood and hope to draw dozens of more inspirations from it in the future.

Yep. The doodle house is right at home here.


A Puzzling Prospect

There were 293486234 things I didn’t like about the rental kitchen: the counter tops, the layout, the cabinets, the floors, the HEAT (have I mentioned we didn’t have Central AC?)… I could go on and on. But there was one thing I did like. My map wall.

Love maps. Always have. Always will. Not only are they colorful and pretty without being overly girly (your welcome, Heath), they are also educational and serve as a friendly reminder that I need to get out-of-town and be more of a world traveler. Win-win.

Of course, with a rental…maps were affixed with thumb tacks (the tack stands for tacky) instead of officially wallpapered or glued to the wall, which is what I would have ideally preferred to make me appear more like a classy lady and less like a serial killer plotting out the location of her next murder.

I couldn’t wait to resurrect the map wall the RIGHT way in the new house. Inspired by my friend Maggie, I even mapped out (get it…MAPPED out) the perfect location on a wall in the dining room.

Maggie's map wall she placed behind her repurposed headboard bar. Seriously, how cool is that?

I'm hoping to put mine on the wall with the shelving to give the dining room some pizzazz.

The only thing preventing me from busting out my map box and picking up some paste is the fear that I will like it for a few months, get tired of it and then want something completely different. I have been known to do this. After all, we have only lived in the house 5 months and I’ve already rearranged the living room once, painted it twice and changed the curtains at least 3 times. So what’s to keep me from getting “over” the map wall that I, at least for right now, think is so cool? I’ve never gone the whole wallpaper route before and it’s a project that I find extremely intimidating. Changing a papered wall is so much more of an ordeal than just slapping on a new coat or paint or switching out linens. So I’m in a tough position.

I loved the map wall before, and expect that I will love it again, but I also fear my own capricious design tendencies. So to map wall or not to map wall? That is the question.


Suit your shelf

The kitchen has undergone another mini facelift.Image

ImageSee that! We have shelves! Beautiful, custom shelving for some much needed storage AND extra counter space to boot.

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I delight in open kitchen shelving. I recognize it’s not for everyone (what with its propensity to gather dust and all), but being able to display my prettiest pieces in a clever way makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. For me it’s one of the best things you can do to give your space personality and functionality.

When we bought the house, it was listed as having an eat in kitchen, but there really was no earthly way to fit a table inside comfortably. We have a formal dining room, so rather than even pretend like putting a table in the kitchen was a viable option, we figured it best to use that space for storage. HOW to use it was the question. For a brief period we used a metal shelving unit to store the knick knacks and what nots, but found that a tall vertical storage solution wasn’t helping us really access the space as efficiently as we could. Built in shelving seemed a more fitting and fashionable option.

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Unfortunately for us, throwing a few shelves on the wall wasn’t quite as easy it may appear. Why? Because of this…

ImageImageKnotty pine wood paneling across the wall was sort of messing with our vision when it came to shelf placement. It had to go. So out came the crow bar to pry the wood from the wall. That’s when we found this.

See that!? There’s no wall behind that wall! Just like that, the project turned from a fun and fast DIY to a major interior overhaul. Guess this spring break is going to be less about binge drinking and concert going and more about drilling and spackling.

This is when living less than a mile from Home Depot really comes in handy. Without missing a beat, Handyman Heath jumped in his trusty ranger and picked up two 8′ by 10′ sheets of drywall and some spackle to get the project started.

Installing the sheetrock was pretty straight forward: place it in on the wall, make sure it’s level, and drill into the studs. Voila! Instant wall! Where it got tricky was getting the new wall to blend with the existing wall. That meant spackling the heck out of the area where the walls meet, sanding it down, texturizing the wall, and going over the whole thing with a coat of paint. The spackle/sanding/painting part, is one we repeated 3 times to make sure everything was nice and even. It’s wasn’t exactly easy for two newbies to blend two walls together.

But finally, we got everything to look smooth as silk and had one bright green (Spritz of Lime is the official color) wall instead of a dated, beat up panelled mess. Two days later, the shelf construction could begin.

We decided we wanted to make the shelf brackets ourselves because what we found in stores didn’t have quite the geometric look we were going for. Handyman Heath said it was a job he could handle so he set to work hammering out 9 triangular brackets. This process took nearly as long as building the wall. For starters, cutting the wood at the right angle is a meticulous process. Plus, because the brackets have to support substantial weight, being accurate and checking your work is crucial.

Nails and wood glue were used to keep the brackets together. Then any edges or gaps in the brackets were treated with wood filler, sanded and painted. The hope was it would appear as a one seamless piece when all was said and done.

Lots of drying (and patience) later, the wall was complete, the brackets were finished and it was finally time to put it all together.

We also picked up this piece from Ikea to get some extra counter space (which has already paid for itself in handiness). The final plan is to paint the bottom a fun turquoise blue color (to match the future backsplash), but after all the elbow grease we put into getting the shelves up this weekend, we will save painting the counter for next weekend, but we’re hoping for a result that resembles something like this.

As usual, there is still much to be completed, but it’s always good to check another project off the list.


Rug Realities

When Heath and I were looking for a house, one thing on my “must have” list was wood floors. Both of our houses prior to this one had wood floors, and we adore the sleek appearance of it so much more than we like the look of carpet. Wood has clean lines, light reflecting properties and brilliant color dimension within its brown hues. Plus, and this is were practicality comes in, wood is just better when you have two mud-slinging labradoodles traipsing through the house. But as house hunting gets underway and reality starts to rear its ugly head, you realize some of the “needs” are really more like “wants” and you give in some places to get in others. I gave up my wood floors.

The thinking was that ripping up carpet and putting down wood is something we could do ourselves. (And we know it’s possible because we helped friends Mark and Ranjana tackle a wood-laying project last year in their home, which is documented here.) It would be a project that would take time, but it was something that could realistically be done by Handyman Heath and myself at a reasonable cost. The problem, like with any home renovation, is getting finances in order before the project can get underway.  I’m not particularly patient, so knowing it might be a year or two before I can get my hardy, shiny, beautiful wood flooring has me in pouting toddler mode.

I have grown to like carpet more than I originally thought. For one, the carpet in our home had recently been installed when we bought the house, so we didn’t have other people’s stains or wear and tear to deal with. It’s also a neutral color so it’s not horribly offensive to the eye. Plus, it’s remarkably  soft and feels good on bare feet, especially in the winter. As far as carpet goes, we could have done much worse.

Where I get bummed (and yes, I know this is a stupid, STUPID thing to get “bummed” about),  is that with wall-to-wall carpeting, I feel like it’s a design faux pas to decorate with rugs in the house. I imagine my friends coming to visit and thinking, “Oh snap, you put rugs over carpet? Girl, what are you hiding?!” (In this fictional scenario I have really rude friends with a background in interior design.) But  I loves me some vibrant, colorful, sensationally patterned rugs! Since we were wooden people before, I has acquired quite an impressive (“impressive” for someone in college with practically no income) collection of these darling area rugs to decorate with.

Woven multi-colored green rug from Crate and Barrel

Abstract floral from Target

Graphic yellow from Ikea

So, as I am known to do with any problem, I Googled it. Can a girl decorate with rugs if she’s already got a house full of carpet? Answer: Sometimes. Check out what other carpet cursed designers did. (Photos courtesy of my design bible, Apartment Therapy).

All is not lost! There’s even some modern eclectic vibe happening in these inspiration scenes. Maybe, just maybe, I can work with this carpet business.  Seriously, I have to overcome so much in this cruel, cruel world. But as Frederick Douglass once said, ” If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” Wise words, Freddy D.You must have been referring to this same issue.


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