Other backyard stuff

When we moved into a smaller home and I stepped out of the photography business, it made less sense for me to have a personal computer. I have a laptop for work and an iPad for most other computing needs (mostly online shopping).  But the change meant that sorting and editing photos became much harder, requiring me to snag Aaron’s computer, which he uses a LOT. Blogging started waning (as you know) and now the backend of the blog is throwing errors when I try to add photos. So, I’m bringing you a very unseasonable post because it was the most complete of the saved drafts. Apologies to anyone experiencing a true winter. The fantastic weather is a hallmark of SoCal and a big draw when we moved and chose those house. We’ve made steady progress revamping the backyard into our ideal oasis, including a stunning outdoor dining area and kitchen. This collection of projects rounds out this stage of the backyard makeover. The circular outcropping of patio has had multiple lives. Originally conceived as a dining space, we promptly removed the built in table and transitioned this to a fire pit spot when we moved in. When the fire pit moved to sit by the custom benches built into the new dining area, we planned to deck this section and install an herb garden. This solution posed a problem because circles are hard to deck and even harder to cap with a face plate. We ended up deciding that paying to have that section demoed was a better plan. We boxed out the herb garden with corten edging, filled with mulch. We snagged some square CB2 planters in varying heights. We ran irrigation through the bottom of the pots. The larger pots have a base layer of styrofoam (repurposed wine shippers) and gravel to add weight. This helps keep them steady and was more economical than filling them completely with potting soil. I ended up with 10 pots and chose different herbs for each. Many have survived several seasons: sage, chives, thyme, oregano, mint and tarragon. The parsley and basil last one season. The dill died pretty quickly. Last year my neighbor gave me a tomato plant that grew well, but produced subpar fruit. The Midwest wins for humidity and therefore better tomatoes. SoCal wins for just about everything else though. So we’ll stay. I’m pretty obsessed with this garden. I love being able to trim fresh herbs nearly year round. Tarragon has been my favorite addition to my kitchen. Chives are a close second, especially in the height of summer when they are prolific. With that done, Aaron finished decking the rest of the patio. Gratuitous dog photo, but also look at the gorgeous deck!

The last upgrade was a built-in watering bowl for Hank. We love having his water outside because jowls = drool. Aaron repurposed a bar sink, built a custom drain mechanism and an ipe cabinet to house everything. Now it’s easy to drain and refill his bowl. The ipe backsplash keeps the over spray off the house.

Hank’s favorite part is drinking straight from the faucet.

Here’s the best before/after pair I could find. The before is a serious throwback – from the listing for the house.

It’s SO nice to have the deck complete! And this photo shows you how well the herbs grow in the summer.

Beige to blue

A few weeks ago, Aaron took a trip down memory lane and reread all of the posts detailing the renovations of our current abode. He “helpfully” pointed out numerous mistakes, like when I told you I’d show you the updates to the master bathroom and didn’t. It’s true that I can sometimes over promise the exact content of the blog, but in this case I said we would paint the exterior of the house in 2018 and we finished with a just few days left in the year.

 

Shortly after we moved in, we selected the new, black roof to go with the as yet undecided shade of blue gray we intended to use. The winner was Glidden’s Approaching Storm, which we color matched to one of Behr’s exterior paint lines. We loved the subtle gray undertones and thought this blue would go well with the dark brown accents, thereby saving us the work of repainting those sections.

The blue looks fantastic with the crisp white trim and black roof! It also makes the brick on the entryway pop a bit.

Ultimately, we didn’t love the blue/brown combo and opted to paint most of those sections blue (to add extra cohesion). The only section we wanted to accent was the front corner windows. We grabbed a medium gray that inadvertently is the exact same color we used to paint the front pots. So clearly we like that color 😉

Over the summer, we also ripped out this bush, which was constantly overgrown looking. Not a great story… which is why it didn’t get it’s own blog post. There was a bush, now there’s not. It looks better. The end.

Ok, fine. It’s not really the end.  We opted to mulch the planter this bush lived in rather than replace it with other plants. We’re firmly set on the idea of doing a drought tolerant front lawn. We have NO idea what that will look like and mulching seemed like the easiest and nicest interim solution. The end (for real this time).

Painting the exterior was actually fairly easy. We opted to roll the three sides with low peaks. Originally, we intended to knock this project out over the week of the Fourth of July, but the weather turned very hot just a few days in. At that point, we decided that no one would notice if the sides of the house changed colors at different times and ultimately stretched this project over the course of 4 painting sessions, the last one culminating on December 28th. #CaliforniaWeatherRocks

We actually did the back of the house first. This area was in serious need of paint thanks installing fresh stucco and wood from moving doors and windows around.

Here you can see where we originally kept the top of the wall brown. After painting the peak on the front of the house blue, we circled back to change this section.

Opting to change the brown peak to blue really extends the height of the house.

This set is a good series showing all of the changes on the back wall of the house, starting with the original configuration.

 

The last side of the house was the most difficult thanks to a high peak and large shed with grooved siding. We opted to spray this section for speed.

We also decided to simplify the look of the sheds by painting the door and corner trim blue. It’s a technique that helped unify the multiple doors in the master bedroom at the firehouse and worked well here too.

So the house is now blue and we love it!

We actually knocked out a bonus exterior project that we didn’t expect to tackle in 2018. More on that next time (for real).

Jade grows outside here. We bought all of the jade.

We wouldn’t be us if we didn’t start another project in the midst of a huge renovation.

There were a few motivations for this mini redo. 1. The planting beds in the front of our house had gotten a tinsy bit out of control. 2. While visiting Santa Barbara with friends, we discovered that jade grows in the ground here. Like this is a natural habitat for jade, which is one of our all time favorite succulents.

Let’s take a look at what we were working with…

The left side is dominated by a bougainvillea and a… let’s be honest plants are not our forte. Regardless those plants were growing really well, but they don’t fit in our vision of low water/low maintenance landscaping. The right side is just good old fashioned weeds. Those also grow really well here.

It’s a little hard to see, but there is a bit of concrete on each side of the landing. To add some height, we decided we would use the concrete pots that held our herb garden at the firehouse to hold some additional plants. We planned to paint them gray, which will flow better with the exterior paint change we have planned.

We decided to scour the internet for some full grown plants, which can be quite expensive in the Midwest, and snapped up two good sized jade plants from Craigslist for $30 each. (You can see one in the photo above next to the garage.) We figured adding some larger plants would make the installation feel more full. Then we hit up a local nursery and realized that plants grow so well here that you can buy huge plants SUPER cheap!

Here’s the finished installation:    

On the left we opted for a pair of gollum jade plants in the ground and “things we liked from the succulent section of the nursery” in the pots. (As per above, we are not great at plants.) On the right, one of the Craigslist jade plants joined a fire stick plant that got a bit too big for the planter in the backyard in painted pots. A pair of jade plants, two black rose succulents and five other succulent things that we picked up from Home Depot went in the ground. The front section of the planter got sections of pink iceplant that should fill the space completely once it has a chance to grow. Hardscapes are simple – white chip marble in the back, black mulch in the front and blue gray Mexican river rock on the top of the pots.

Ready for some before and after shots? Let’s go!

We are super happy with how this turned out and the plants are thriving! The look is much cleaner, which you know we love.

This space isn’t done. Besides changing the beige color across the entire home, we plan to bring some ipe wood to the entry and Aaron has plans for a new door. Those projects are further down the list, but it’s always possible we’ll get a wild hair and knock something out sooner rather than later.

In which we meant to swap a door and a window and instead bought a new door and new window

You know you’re an adult when you frugally tell yourself “We don’t need to buy food while we are out. We have food at home.” We had the same moment while planning this renovation: “We have a door, and we need a door. We have a window, and we need a window. No need to buy anything.” Obviously based on the title, you know that’s not how this worked out… so let’s dive into the details of the living room.

One of the most important changes on the renovation docket was adjusting the flow so a couch would actually fit in the space. There was a lot to take in in the “before” photos of our living room – built-ins galore, a sideways couch, and doors/windows aplenty. I thought it might be helpful to take a step outside and get a clearer view of all of the openings in our living room walls.

Left to right – Here is the sliding door (which we planned to move around the corner), a door on an angle (why??) and a window that stays.

Moving to the corner, you see the same angle door and window, along with the window we planned to move and yet another door.

Here’s a straight shot of the side of the room. We planned to move this window to the slider opening and reframe this wall, removing the door on the right entirely. Got it?

Great. That’s not exactly what happened…

Problem 1: Windows installed on a stucco wall come with extra trim fin that sits over the rough opening and is essential for installation. You can see that trim around the small window on the photo above.  We didn’t realize that the window we wanted to move had its trim cut away when it was installed in a wood wall. It wasn’t a show stopper because Home Depot still carried the same brand, allowing us to get a slightly wider, but matching window.

Problem 2: After working on the furniture placement for the living room, we realized that we needed the sliding glass door to open from the left. Unfortunately, the one we owned opened at the right (with a fixed pane on the left), putting the walkway right next to the desk, rather than in the open walkway we had planned. Thankfully, we realized the issue at the very end of a Lowes sale. We decided to grab an awesome French door set with sidelights that open.

And that’s what renovation contingency budgets are for….

Here is where we landed post stucco repair:

We also decided to pull the angle door, not needing the light or the access. All of this will look much better with a new coat of paint.

This is one of the “oops” issues we hit during the reno that left me completely happy with the result. The budget took a small hit, but it was SOOO worth it. We’re both really happy with the French doors. They feel so much more modern than the slider (which we were able to sell on Craigslist), and most nights we’re popping open the sidelights to let in extra breeze.

The photos of the inside won’t make a ton of sense until we get some drywall up, but in the next post (which won’t be months from now) we’ll take a look inside (including a video) at the madness that is a demolished space.

Starting the natural fence

Thank you so much for the kind words and encouragement on last week’s post. We were both pleasantly surprised by the number of comments and the outpouring of support. You guys are awesome! Virtual hugs for everyone!

I remembered that we finished a project this summer that I have yet to share. So before we dive into some other topics (like Paris and what we like/don’t like about living in an alternative space and PARIS!), let’s take a look at the start of the natural fence. Ta da!

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… It’s the 5 new trees next to the fence… I feel like you’re not impressed…

To be fair, as with most landscaping projects, this feels a bit like “before and before” pictures, rather than “before and after”, because we need everything to grow to achieve the desired effect.

But, let’s back up. We bought the extra lot (LOTS of detail on that here) but never intended to redo the fence to make it part of our yard. Still, it needs some barriers to prevent people from walking through it/dumping trash/messing with the garden we intend to build. In the back we’ll install something a bit more standard, but up front we thought it would be nice to plant a living fence in the form of a row of evergreens.

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Aaron spotted some nice sized specimens at Home Depot earlier this spring. We planned to grab the trees we needed when they went on clearance at the end of the summer. So we bided our time.. and apparently we bided too long… We stopped by in mid-August to find all of the shrubs had been sold!

Thankfully the interwebs knew we needed some shrubbery, and after a little research on what should grow well, we landed on Leyland Cypress. The Tree Center had several heights available and good reviews. We decided on the 3′ – 4′ option (mostly based on price) and ordered seven. They were on sale for $44.50 each and we scored free shipping for spending more than $100. Winning!

It’s been a few years since we drug hundreds of pounds of bricks out of our yard, but we were quickly reminded just how much debris is lurking beneath the surface of these lots that once contained a brick home… and now contain a good part of that home beneath the surface.  This is just some of the pieces we hauled out of one hole.

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It wasn’t totally smooth sailing, but by taking turns digging we were able to plant a tree about every 35 minutes. We opted to stagger the trees (using the measurements from here) so that the fence fills in faster.

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We also only planted five of them. As we were working, we decided that the area furthest from our fence is too shaded to support this type of tree. Eventually, we’ll add a section of horizontal ipe to finish off the row.

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Here are a few before and after shots.

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The whole tree buying experience got us really inspired to think about what other trees we ultimately want for the yard. We talked about adding something that has nice fall color near the front of the yard and grabbing additional evergreens to stick in the back corner (which is a bit bare after we lost a tree). We almost added more to our order, but decided that planting seven trees in one weekend was more than enough. I’m so glad we waited, because we knew just what to do with the two extra trees.

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We waited a week to put these guys in their new home (apparently 5 trees in one day was quite enough.) In the meantime, the temperature spiked back to normal August levels and we ended up digging these holes in full sun next our steel paneled fence (which gets really warm.) Basically it felt like we were on the surface of the sun… minus our skin literally melting away. But you get the point. It was REALLY hot and we ran into even more bricks, rocks and chunks of asphalt back here. Progress was slow and we’ll admit that neither hole was the requisite diameter. But they’re in and so far they’re alive.

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So now we water and wait.

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