Finishing Touches

Though we remodeled our kitchen in 2015, the corner that is my office and the door to the pool wasn’t finished until last week.  Just off the kitchen was a little L shaped desk of oak cabinets with dark wallpaper all around.


It didn’t take long before I stripped the wallpaper and pulled off the decorative cabinet trim.


When we renovated the kitchen, we decided to widen the door to the pool house, making the office a desk below the window wall.

Kitchen-Remodel-Empty-Office-Plan-DrawingsTwo efficient drawer stacks store everything I need, and also art supplies of the boys.  But the walls looked sad and we needed to finish below the window.



Just this past April, that still hadn’t been done and you can see part of the old swinging door.


With the new door installed, things were finally to a point of finish.  Then I stalled on painting the trim for a month and a half.  Last week, I had time to quickly paint and finally wrap this project up.





It’s a far cry from the dark, bland beginnings.Breakfast-Nook-and-Kitchen-After-Move-In-April-30

Widening the door really makes the pool house feel less like the addition it was and more like an intentional part of the house.


Now to get it in tip-top shape to have a prettier view out that new door.  Happy weekend, everyone!

Heart Warming Housewarming Gifts

Wedding season is in full swing, but it also seems like the real estate market picks up this time of year.  Friends of ours bought their first house this week, so I’ve been thinking about housewarming gifts recently.  Pick one or a combo of the following favorites that are sure to please.

First off, a custom house portrait is a beautiful and thoughtful gift.  I’ve had one made for both of our houses, by two artists.  The top one is by Patricia from PVE Design and bottom painted by Jess at The Littlest House.


Though they’re both watercolor paintings, the styles are as different as the houses and show the unique style of the artists.  I’d highly recommend both.  Bonus, if you’re in need of a wedding gift, a wedding venue painting is perfect.

Wedding Venue Painting

I recently painted one for a friend and it was so well received, I think it’ll be my go to from now on.

When giving gifts, I find it helpful to buy cuter/fancier versions of everyday items.    If you want to focus on the front entry, give a personalized, and functional, welcome with a monogrammed door mat.  Or a potted olive tree, as they symbolize peace, friendship, and abundance.  Heck, maybe even a cute doorbell to replace the standard one that’s been there for 20 years.  A monogrammed leather key chain is a great celebration for those new keys.  Help the new owners stay organized with a multi-functional mail station.

Front-Entry-Housewarming-GiftsThese funny towels are good for a laugh, but also drying hands and dishes.  Toss in a yummy smelling dish or hand soap (Mrs. Meyer’s Radish is one of my favorites), a scrubbing-brush, maybe even a plant, and you’ve got a sweet gift.  Bonus points if you ‘wrap’ it all together in a cute basket or even a dish drying rack.

Towel-and-Soap-House-Warming-GiftGoing along with the kitchen items, a personalized cutting board is useful, but special enough to keep out.  How about this cute candle to fill the home with a beautiful scent?  As a plant lover, I think a shallow bowl (that has a matching salad serving set) turned into a herb planter would be a treat to give (or receive).


Obviously, most of these items would translate well as a wedding gift, so I hope this round-up is useful for someone this summer season.

The Slow Slog

These last few weeks have been hectic, with the school year wrapping up, complete with several fun field trips-yay!  We’ve also spent plenty of time helping friends of ours with projects for their upcoming wedding-double yay!  The combo of the events means very little has happened on the home front in the last few weeks-boo!  The little bit that has happened is boring, but necessary for the future wall finish.


I think I confused at least a few people when I mentioned building new walls, as it implied we’re building interior dividing walls.  Instead, we’re building new walls following the exterior walls, simply to add insulation and electric.


This pool space is large, around 1600 square feet.  Adequately heating this large area is crucial, especially if we want to be able to use it through the winter months.  To keep as much heat in without a furnace constantly running, we’re building another wall, just inside the perimeter.




Another wall gives us plenty of space to tuck insulation in front of the previously minimally covered concrete wall.  It also eliminates the half ledge where the concrete and stud walls meet.  Before, only 4 outlets were in the entire 1600 square feet: the pump room, one in the bathroom, and two in the wet bar.  We’ll add outlets around the room, all GFCI connected for safety.

Before we can add walls around the hot tub area, we have to fill the hole with concrete.  In place of the previously broken and recessed hot tub, we’ll have an above ground, stand alone tub.  These self-contained models are much easier to work on, or replace if it becomes broken beyond repair.


The front wall that connects to the deck is a slightly different situation, as it doesn’t need insulation because it is a full stud wall.  So it was already done, right?


Nope, because the 24 inch stud layout doesn’t match up with our wall treatment.  Knowing we’re going with a board and batten finish, we need a 16 inch on center stud placement to be able to hide the nails behind the batten strips.


To avoid building a full wall, we opted to attach 2 by 2 strips horizontally along the wall.  This will allow us to nail into the strips at 16 inch intervals, but doesn’t add a thicker wall.


Tucking insulation between the strips is just a quick way to make use of the space between the boards.  A solid wall is the turning point when a project starts to look and feel finished.  It’s the culmination of all the hard work that goes on behind the scenes, er, walls.

On Unconventional Choices

Moving into this house five years ago has brought about many changes.  We’re living in a different house, duh, but that’s not exactly what I mean.  The house is different in style, boxy and modern versus our more traditional ranch from before.


Though I appreciate many styles, clean, modern houses top my list.  Probably the biggest difference is the landscape.  In just a few miles, the terrain shifts from typical, mostly level city lots with lush grass to steep, rugged/rocky, and natural hillsides.  Dated blue siding, with patched in areas of still natural cedar siding weren’t doing the house any favors.  Nor were the unkempt, overgrown weed hillsides and we set out to update both.


Our choices for the exterior siding and landscape are a bit atypical, but do make the most sense for our house/lot, climate, and lifestyles.  Working with the modern design of the house was far easier than taming the wild slopes around the house, so let’s start there.

Along with typical lap siding, we decided to add accents of CorTen steel.  Why is it so different?  It’s a specific kind of steel that creates a protective layer of surface rust.   Yes, we want our house to rust.  Back in the planning stage, many people, family, friends, and readers, had strong opinions against our choice.  Some going so far to say it looked like a mobile home with steel skirting.


We went ahead with our plan, but slightly deviated by choosing standing seam over corrugated steel.  Just after installing the final piece in November 2014, the house looked very, well…gray.  And shiny.  And boring.


Within eight months, the process had already begun.  It’s a living finish, aging with rain and humidity, slowly deepening.  We also started building our balcony, hence the partially finished railing.


Near the end of that summer, with encouragement in the form of regular spraying from a garden hose, the color continued to deepen.  Finishing the balcony, staining it dark to blend also helped.


Today, we have a deep reddish-brown rust with texture and spotting that, from a distance, looks much like a stained wood board and batten.



This siding is durable, low maintenance, and the long vertical strips make it easy to install along a steep grade, hiding the ugly foundation line.  Since install, we’ve had a large hail storm, with zero damage to the siding.


As I mentioned at the beginning, the landscape drastically changes in just a few miles.  Our rocky landscape is somewhat abnormal, but many homes in our neighborhood have a lot or most rock.


Unlike our home, many others have large areas of level landscape.  Due to our driveway, both the front and back have steep slopes.  Starting at the road, the lot rises 12 to 15 feet before arriving at our front door.


That’s far too steep to mow normal grass.




Furthermore, we live in an area that gets 14 inches of annual precipitation, which is just 4 inches more than the definition of a desert.  Of course, very little comes in the heat of the summer, when grass really needs a thorough soaking.  The combination of the steep hillside and lack of rainfall, we didn’t feel it was responsible to try to grow grass.  Instead, we’ve covered the slopes in limestone, which prevents erosion and quicker water evaporation.  Over the years, I’ve slowly added water wise plants to soften/cover the rock and brighten the landscape.  Unlike the siding, the landscape continues to require maintenance, so we’re happy to save time and work where we can.  Have you chosen any unusual finishes for your home?

How Does Our Garden Grow?

Warmer weather means we’re all spending more time outside, and I’m spending a lot of time with my plants.


Nearest the front entry, a hydrangea, yews, Stella d’Oro day lilies, and catmint are all filling out.  Peonies are lush with oodles of buds, soon to be blooms.  Eek!!


Between the garage doors, I added a DIY planter with an arborvitae to soften the hard lines.


A tonal green grouping of arborvitae, sweet potato vine, and blue spruce succulents at the front door welcome everyone coming and going.


Learning what plants suit our landscape, conditions, and zone has been a learning curve, filled with research, trial and error.  One particularly tricky area is below the living room bump out, in front of the two basement windows.


Full sun exposure, heat radiating back from the house, and the shelter from rain require a lot more water.  The higher the heat tolerance, the better.  After striking out with a few other things, I’ve gone back to my old stand by: Stonecrop Angelina with a few Snow-in-Summer mixed in for variety.  Both stay low enough that the views and light won’t be blocked at full size.


A mixture of Smoke Trees, Spirea, Salvia, Catmint, and Nest Spruce edge the bocce court.


Fronting the deck, I’ve planted a row of Karl Foerster grasses, which at full height will help the deck feel lower.  Spaced between each grass is a Black Eyed Susan, to add a pop of color.


A trio of Irises are currently in bloom, adding a lovely purple to the landscape.  Look at that amazing detail!


We’ve been lucky enough to have a wet spring, keeping everything bright and green.  Spotting rainbows after is a lucky sighting, and this one was such an interesting display.


Coming up from the driveway, the back garden is a favorite view and has a tranquil feel.


Winter was rough, killing my beautiful butterfly bush.  Ah well, it was a risk when I chose it two years ago as it’s zone 5 and we’re 4.  I swapped out the dead shrub for a fragrant Japanese honeysuckle, which smells divine!  Adding a trellis is still on my list is still on my spring to do list.


Closest to the stairs, the two Snowball Viburnum are in full bloom.


In addition to the slow garden growth, the CorTen steel siding has continued to rust, deepening to an almost wood tone.


Against the back of the house, the viburnum and a hydrangea flank the ends of the garden with shorter plants between.  To add height, I’ve recently added a double hook with an adorable bird feeder.


Eventually, the other side will have a hanging plant, but the birds are already thrilled with this addition.


I’m thrilled with the appearance of the teeny tiny hydrangea buds.


The waterfall is full and on one of our warmer days, the boys took a quick run through it on a dare.


When spending so much time outside, I’ve been eyeing all of the cool garden decor available now.  My wish list includes a sculptural trellis for the honeysuckle, a hanging planter, and hose storage.  As a bonus, I’d love a cute rug, maybe a pot or two, and perhaps a few other goodies.  A potting bench could double as a serving station for outdoor entertaining.  Maybe something like this:



Coral Coast Halstead Wood Obelisk  $80   Hanging Copper Planter  $50   Round Galvanized Wall Planter  $9   Rain Chain Copper Cup  $49   Metal Potting Bench  $70   Metal Hose Pot  $40   Black Forged Shepard Hook  $9   Smith and Hawken Bird Feeder  $20   Threshold Garden Tool Set  $16   Metal Peyton Barrel  $50   Hello Goodbye Doormat  $13

Or even something like this:



Metal Orb Decorative Sculpture  $19    Hanging Ceramic Planter  $47   Round Galvanized Wall Planter  $9   Bell Rain Chain  $40   Hindo Indoor/Outdoor Cabinet  $69   Liberty Garden Copper Hose Pot  $53   Black Forged Shepard Hook  $9   Emerald Green Bird Feeder  $15   Garden Tool Set  $10   Ella Square Black Resin Planter  $39   Crinkle Diamond Doormat  $13

Most likely a combo of items from each.  Do you have any favorite garden accessories or additions?  What’s your favorite way to grow vines?  Also, do you have experience with a light weight hose?  If so, brand preference?