House Inspiration is Everywhere!

Last week, we took a family trip to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks.  Known for the natural beauty, of course, but as house obsessed DIYers, of course we found the buildings pretty interesting, too.  Like the Old Faithful Inn, located right in front of Old Faithful Geyser.

The Old Faithful Inn, built in 1903-1904, is the largest log structure in the world.

Built in 1903-1904, this is the largest log structure in the world.  The windows are beautiful and the craftsmanship is stunning.


Poppy red double front doors with metal straps, rivets, and unique hardware just add to the charm.


Soaring ceilings in the main lobby reveal the exposed timber supports and stairs.


Heck, the public bathrooms are amazing, too.  Look at the gorgeous marble sinks, tilting mirrors, and stunning old tile.


How about solid marble stall dividers, they’ve got twenty.  I can’t verify that number, just thought of the Little Mermaid song.


Summer months are the peak season for tourism in Yellowstone, and battling the crowds to see nature felt quite strange.  Taking a day to go south, through Grand Teton National Park and into Jackson was a refreshing experience.  Jackson had plenty of architectural eye candy.   Most unique award goes to Vertical Harvest.


Located on a 1/10 acre lot just off a parking garage, this unique hydroponic greenhouse features rotating beds, lit by pink solar lights.


After several days of camping food, we decided to have a real lunch at Snake River Brewing.  A front lawn dotted with Adirondack chairs and corn hole boards is fun and welcoming.


I adore the mix of plants, Karl Foerster, coneflower, catmint, coreopsis, and more mingle together in a prairie garden type of way.


Inside, unique hand painted tiles line the walls, adding to the funky vibe.


When I think of Wyoming, modern architecture isn’t what pops in my mind.  But modern buildings abound, like the Jackson Hole Center for the Arts.  Many of the buildings marry modern and rustic in a way that feels fresh and interesting.



Of course, we had to stop at Jackson Square to get pictures of the iconic elk antler arches.



Near our parking spot, this modern home caught my interest.  The warm wood tones, black windows, metal details and even the poppy red garage door had me smitten.


Just back inside Grand Teton was the prettiest visitor center I’ve ever seen.


A large glass bay perfectly frames the amazing mountain view, with etched metal strips in line with each mountain.


As pretty and interesting as Yellowstone is, the laid back vibe and amazing scenery of Grand Teton and Jackson really captured my heart.  Before we even left the Tetons, I told Ben we need to come back, skipping Yellowstone and spending quality time here instead.  If you’re considering a vacation to the general area, certainly allot time to poke around.

Fixing Past Errors

When we sold our first house to move into this house, we were beyond excited to get started on projects.  Our priorities were the getting a functioning shower in the main bathroom in addition to an entertainment center.  Coming from our previous house with built-in storage, we didn’t have furniture to handle the task.  This bookshelf situation didn’t offer the storage we needed.


We set out to build a nine foot wide unit to store as well as all.the.electronics.  A television, receiver, PlayStation (that doubles as our dvd player) and 7.1 surround sound speakers.  We came up with this:


Sure it held everything, but we realized over the years it wasn’t working as well as it could.  Our, okay, mostly my, list of complaints grew.


All drawers work wonderfully in kitchens, but electronics aren’t made to be stored in drawers.  The lack of closed cabinets meant the ugly stuff was piled on the upper shelves.  Of the 9 open shelves, 7 held speakers or other electronics, with cords snaking up and down.  Initially, the plan included building fabric or metal insert doors to hide everything, but never became a priority.

Nine drawers provide oodles of storage, but certain people in this house under the age of 12 treated it as a dumping ground for anything and everything.  Having lived in this house for only a few months meant we didn’t know exactly how we would use this space and we allowed room for a larger tv.  But the final nail in the proverbial coffin was when Ben said he hated the way the cheap drawer glides functioned, or didn’t.

Armed with our list of wants and changes, we’ve decided to tackle this project while high summer temps are slowing pool house progress.  I drew up a plan that allowed for more flexibility, with a mixture of open and closed storage, cabinets, drawers, and shelving.


Oddly, as our boys have gotten bigger, their toys have become smaller; longer attention spans also equal fewer toys.  Duplos and building blocks are Legos, which are now stored in their under stairs play space.  Six slightly narrower drawers are available to store toys, books, and miscellaneous junk, while a wide center cabinet holds electronics and board games.


Determining all the sizes is the most difficult part of the planning process, including measuring everything that can possibly go in this unit.  A combination of fixed shelves offer rigidity, but adjustable shelves offer flexibility for storing/displaying items.


The old entertainment center is the first thing in 11 years we’ve ever built and removed, so I think we’re doing okay.  That old burgundy color comes back, woof.


After two building days, we have the main elements in place.  Clearly we still have some work to do, like facing the uppers, cutting the remaining shelves, and building/installing the doors and drawer fronts.


Poplar sided drawers with soft close Blum drawer glides are sturdy and so smooth.


A four-foot wide middle cabinet houses the ugly electronics, including the gigantic subwoofer, with plenty of room to store board games.


Looks like I’ll have plenty of painting in my future, but it’ll be so worth it to have more functional and pretty storage.  Have you ever added anything to your home, thinking it’ll be perfect, only to realize later it wasn’t?  I usually think about things for ages before doing any building, so it isn’t often this happens to us.

New Chairs in the Breakfast Nook

Also known as that one time I accidentally bought four chairs for the breakfast nook. Remember when I ordered chairs for the back deck?  Well, I placed the order before going to Minnesota.  The chairs arrived at our local Target store, and shortly after returning, I went into Target to pick up said chairs.  Apparently the chairs sat too long, and were either sent back, or set on the store floor for purchase.  A quick look in the outdoor department and I came up empty-handed.  But not for long.


Instead of the chairs I ordered, I spotted a stack of black Windsor chairs on clearance for $20 each.


Somehow, four magically jumped in my cart, and I thought maaaybe I’d give them a try on the back deck.  Worst case scenario, they don’t and I can return them.


Because it’s been hot as the surface of the sun lately, I hauled the chairs from the garage, up through the house to avoid being outside as long as possible.   I set the chairs in the family room, then brought in the rest of my purchases.


In the kitchen, heading back toward the garage, I realized the chairs could look cute at the breakfast table.


After all, I’d never loved the wooden chairs, seen above, we bought seven years ago.  Though those chairs were sturdy and not offensive, so I never put much thought into replacing the four.


Immediately, I hauled the chairs over to test out the look, feel, and size with the table.


The modernized version of the classic style were just the right finishing touch I didn’t know this room needed.  Home grown hydrangeas never hurt, either.


I snagged two more to add to the front deck to round out the double sofa seating arrangement.



So, what do we have on the back deck?  Well, while I was in Minnesota, Ben brought home one lounge chair from his boss and after sitting on it while reading a book, I decided two would be wonderful.


We got a second one for his and hers lounging.


Stylistically, is the design my favorite?  No, but they’re durable, don’t have cushions that get dirty/damaged, and can easily be hosed off to clean.  They’re quite comfortable, creating a relaxing area, especially with the waterfall trickling in the background.


Sometimes, things just happen to work out, even if it goes completely against the plan.  Have you accidentally found the perfect item when you weren’t looking for it?

Pool House Bathroom Remodel Plans

We’re in the thick of summer and a prolonged heat wave with temps near or above 100 for a few weeks now.  I mention this because the heat and lack of air conditioning in the pool house make for rough working conditions, thus very little progress.  Now more than ever, the prospect of a pool is really appealing and we’re excited to get the space finished.  To keep myself busy (and in the cool climate controlled house), I’ve spent more time researching the exact designs and products for the space.

I’ve always had a rough picture in my mind, but now’s the time to track down every.last.piece that will go into this area.  Planning the half bath is perhaps my favorite part, so let’s get into the design.  I took to Photoshop to translate the vision in my head onto paper, err, screen.

Pool House Bathroom Vanity 2

This is the only half bath we’ve ever had in a house, and it allows a bit more fun, less practical choices than a full bath.  That doesn’t mean it won’t be hard-working.

Pool House Bathroom Vanity Labels

1  As with the rest of the pool house, the plan includes covering the walls in white board and batten for a bright, blank canvas.  2  We’ll also carry the Montauk Black slate into the bathroom for continuity.  3  With the black and white foundation, we need to add a warm wood to the mix, just as we did in our master bathroom.  Unlike the master bath, this half bath doesn’t need much in the form of storage, and a cabinet will surely accumulate junk.  Enter, stage left, the open walnut vanity of my dreams.  The top plank will hide the sink, with a slatted shelf below, perfectly modern, without room for clutter.  4  These Beaker sconces are one part industrial, one part nautical, and fully perfect for this bathroom.  5  Wall faucets are so sleek and simple, I think this is the perfect place to incorporate the Delta Trinsic in chrome, to match the sconces.  6  Clean lined vessel sinks are a go to of mine, but I want to go slightly off course with this semi-recessed vessel option.  7  I adore the collected look of mixed metals, so in addition to chrome, I’ll toss some matte black accessories in there, too.  We’ll need an odd sized mirror in this room, so I have plans to DIY a similar mirror with a slim shelf to store a small jar of cotton swabs and a lotion pump, both items I need after swimming.  8  Bringing in another black accessory to tie in with the mirror, this Trinsic towel ring is elegant and simple.  9  Cute Turkish hand towels will add a bit of pattern and color.  10  For a luxe touch, I’ll add  a beautifully scented Izola soap in a gorgeous and reusable glass dispenser.  Of course I have to add a little bit of green.  11  We’ll corral toilet paper in a cute basket, perhaps this wicker option or this black wire one. On the other side of the vanity shelf, we’ll stack extra towels.

I’m not 100 percent sure, but I’m leaning toward a white painted drywall ceiling for simplicity.


The other thing I’m undecided on is whether to add a marble back splash or not.  It’s a look I love, and it certainly would be more durable.  What’s your vote-back splash or without?

Over on the toilet side, things are much simpler.

Pool House Bathroom Toilet Side

In this small space, I don’t want to overwhelm the room with stuff.

Pool House Bathroom Toilet Side2

1  The lack of natural light in this room, especially compared to the rest of the pool house which is so bright thanks to the generous windows and skylights, feels so dark.  Granted, before the walls were clad in dark stained wood and the only light source was an old light/fan combo.  To bring a little natural light in the room, we’re repurposing an old glass door by painting the frame and frosting the glass, similar to this one.  2  Carrying a bit of the warm wood to this side in the form of picture frames will make this side feel less stark.  3  For a burst of color, movement, and interest, I’d love to add gorgeous abstract art, like the Coral and Palm Nights prints from the talented Britt Bass.  4  While in Minnesota, I took a quick run (45 minutes start to finish!) through Ikea and grabbed a Grundtal toilet roll holder for this space.  The simple design was only six bucks, but I think I’ll paint it matte black to keep the mixed metals to chrome and black.

We’re still far off from the bathroom actually looking like this, but I find it helpful to get my ideas down, not only for myself, but also to show Ben what I have in my mind.  And in store for him in the building department.


DIY Hose Pot & My Favorite Plants

While the weather is nice, I’m outside a lot, pulling weeds, watering plants, even getting a bit of quiet from my loud kids.  To make watering under the house bump outs and the balcony easier, we recently added an outdoor water spigot.  Since this is our main entry, I wanted it hidden, yet accessible, so we tucked it behind the giant catmint.


With the spigot in, we bought a light weight 50 foot long hose, which rolls up much smaller than standard hoses.  Now, how to store the hose?  Again, the goal was low profile, so we nixed a post or mounted hanger.  But hose pots can get really expensive, too.


Then I looked at a plastic planter I’ve had for years, just sitting with a nearly dead succulent on the front entry, as seen above.  It was the solution.


Turning it into hose storage was a simple as drilling a 1 1/2 inch diameter  hole into the double layers of the plastic.


Set the coiled hose inside and feed the hose through and you’re ready to water and store.  Go back up to the first photo to see how unobtrusive the system is.


Being a garden novice, I’ve spent plenty of time researching the best plants for our sun, soil, and water conditions.  As the plants mature, some have quickly risen to the top of my list, for looks as well as ease of care.


We have significantly more sun exposure than anything else, so we’ll start there.

Royal Purple Smoke Tree

Between the driveway and road, my first favorite plant makes an appearance.  Three Royal Purple Smoke Trees add a beautiful deep burgundy color with smoke like ‘flower’ plumes that burst out.  Topping out between 10 and 15 feet tall, the views out the front will not be blocked.  So far this year, each plant has at least two feet of new growth, currently reaching five feet tall.  Before the first snowfall, they’ll get a slight trim to maintain a nice shape and minimize the lanky look.  Other than that, these plants are cold hardy, cover a lot of area, and leave minimal mess behind.



Karl Foerster Feather Reed Grass

Looking down the driveway and along the front walkway, the second favorite plant, Karl Foerster grasses are filling in.  Seven of the five to six-foot tall columnar grasses soften the steep hillside slope.  Another 14 line the front walkway.


I prefer these in a row for a more modern look, with fifteen more lined along the deck front.


My first experience with these versatile grasses was when I found sixteen on the clearance rack at Lowe’s for three bucks each.  As that row fills out, the bottom of the steep hillside is concealed and looks lush.


Succulents, Angelina Stonecrop specifically

Topping out at 6 inches tall, these ground cover plants spread easily, are cool under heat, and need little water.  They’re ideal in this area below the living room bump out, in full sun. Landscape-June-2017-Bump-Out-PlantsLandscape-June-2017-Front-Walk

I’ve added them in all the nooks and crannies around rocks.  The bold chartreuse color is a lively addition to the landscape, especially near the waterfall where little stems have fallen off and taken root below.


Succulents are great in small areas, because the shallow root system allow easy squishing in tight spaces.



Yet again, cheating the system, but these three are also similar.  Both produce beautiful purple spike like blooms, bask in full sun, and attract bees and butterflies.



Now, let’s talk about the differences, starting with Catmint.  All purple flowers shown above are the Walker’s Low variety, which quickly grow to 30 inches tall and 3 to four feet wide.  The smell is potent, almost sage like, which repels deer and other critters.



Hidcote English Lavender, the purple plant above, grow about 20 inches tall and about two feet in diameter.  Despite it being a zone 5 plant, it has survived the last few winters.  The lovely smell helps repel deer and rabbits, so they’re great to encircle other plants to form a deliciously scented force field.

Russian Sage

Something I’ve noticed, at least on our property, is that the best drought tolerant plants come in purple hues.  Russian sage follows suit, loving the heat, but grows larger than catmint and lavender.  At 4 to 5 feet tall, this plant makes a great statement at the back of a garden.


Tall spike like stems have fluffy purple flowers that bees adore.


Birds also love the seeds that drop; we oodles of birds that make their way around our plants, but especially love the two that flank the fire pit.  Unfortunately, we also have tons of bird poop that’s left behind.


Two years ago, I took a risk and planted a beautiful zone 5 Butterfly Bush.  It did well the first two winters, but this last one was significantly colder, snowier, and we had late spring frosts.  All of which contributed to its untimely, slow death.  I gave it several weeks once other things showed signs of life before pulling it and mourning.

Then I found another for 7 bucks and put it in a planter to be able to put it inside the pool house over the winter.


Seeing as we have very few part sun areas on our property, I have just two favorites for that exposure:

Hydrangea/Snowball Viburnum

Technically, I just cheated by combining the two, but they’re similar looking.  Both do well in partial sun, adjust to soil varieties, and grow large, gorgeous globe like flower clusters.


However, Viburnum grow bigger, topping out around 8 to 12 feet tall and are spring bloomers.  Hydrangea, mine is the Annabelle variety, grow about six feet tall and bloom mid summer.


Two years ago, I found another hydrangea for $5 on the Lowe’s clearance rack and popped it in near our front walkway.  For the life of me, I can’t remember the variety it is.


Creeping Jenny

I haven’t had much luck with this one, other than in containers in partly sunny spots because it dries out quickly.  This hanging planter of Creeping Jenny started as a tiny annual just this May.  It spreads really quickly, so use with caution.  But, if you’re looking for a dense ground cover, this may be your solution.


As for shade plants, you can’t go wrong with a variety of Hosta plants, as seen in the above photo.  Also shown above are beautiful, deep purple Midnight Rose Coral Bells, a shade loving stunner the sprouts spikes of delicate bell shaped flowers.

Due to our steep, boulder riddled hillside creating and following through on a landscape plan has been nearly impossible.  As such, I’ve slowly added plants as I’ve seen ones I on sale, experimenting and learning as I go.  Do you have favorite plants that I didn’t list?  Please share!