Updating Outdoor Eyesores – Just A Few Days Too Late

Do you guys ever get those irrational worries about how your house looks right before hosting a party? Leading up to Clara’s birthday on Saturday I was thinking random stuff like “I really should touch up some of the caulk in the sunroom before everyone comes over” like anyone would notice. And Sherry said “the patio table could use a fresh coat of paint” was running through her head when we were using a tablecloth anyway. But one thing that never crossed our minds was: “The back door is in pretty rough shape. Maybe we should do something about it before IT BECOMES THE PLACE WHERE KIDS PLAY WITH BUBBLES FOR HOURS.” Oh well.

The good news is that this door (it leads to the garage by the way) could have looked worse. Here’s what we were dealing with last summer before we ditched the broken screen door & replaced the old rusted light (which we’ve since swapped out again, but more on that in moment).  Ignore the green tint on those bricks – they need some attention.

The screen door removal accentuated the fact that the cream-colored door didn’t match the white trim on the rest of the house while revealing more creaminess (and dirtiness) from where it had been attached. That along with the cracking and flaking paint, ugly meter box, and our inability to keep the hose tamed made for a pretty unkempt look for Saturday’s guests. At least we had gotten around to mulching and adding some fresh stones pre-party (we don’t have gutters, so the rocks keep dirt and mulch from splattering everywhere during storms).

Luckily no one left the party complaining about how our door ruined the event (I think we successfully distracted everyone with bubbles, bubbles, and more bubbles), but twenty photos of kids smiling in front of THAT DOOR were enough to finally spur us into action. First I prepped it by wood filling the holes, scraping off any peeling paint, sanding the rough spots, and giving the door and the windows a good cleaning. Then I applied two coats of Sherwin Williams’ Snowbound (leftover from the rest of the house’s trim). I rolled all of the flat parts and used an angled brush to do the window mullions, which then got scraped clean with a straight razor after everything dried.

While I tackled the door, Sherry painted the meter box a color that’s closer to the bricks. It’s a quick update that we broke out in our first house that only calls for a test pot of outdoor paint (she used Behr Premium Plus Interior/Exterior paint in Burnt Russet) and around twenty minutes for two quick coats.

Most of this was accomplished while Clara was at school and while Teddy was, well, just chilling nearby. Let’s pretend he was cheering us on.

We also picked up a hose pot from Lowe’s in an attempt to keep that hose in order. We’ve never used one before, but hope we have better luck with it than those winding hose storage boxes that we’ve attempted before.

Oh and the light. We made this swap over the winter but it was so sad and brown outside that we never got around to taking after photos. We liked but didn’t love the lights we installed last November, and some of you wisely pointed out that their design wasted a lot of light that was cast upwards. We soon stumbled upon a matching pair of these lights at our favorite local lighting shop (the Decorating Outlet here in RVA). It and its bigger cousin, which we installed above the garage, each had a cracked pane of glass on the side so they were marked down by 50%. To fix them we replaced the broken pane on the side of each one with the mint-condition pane from the back of each one. Since it sits so close to the house you can’t see that it’s missing back there anyway.

When everything was said and done, the space was definitely looking fresher, although it’s not exactly heart-stoppingly-exciting. We’ll eventually plant some stuff in the mulched bed which should help – and we might grab a bright doormat for a little more color. In the meantime we tossed down a spare black-bordered one that we had in the garage.

There’s so much else going on nearby with the deck that we might be over-thinking the whole “more color” thing. The reason we opted to paint the door white was so that it didn’t call too much attention to itself and just kinda blended in with the rest of the house’s white trim (and matched the white french door in the sunroom).

We don’t have any more parties planned for a while, but we hope to host some low-key family BBQs over the summer like we did last year when things were looking more like this…

Something tells me this year’s gatherings will be a little easier on the eyes.

Oh and while we were on the outdoor updates train, we grabbed this three-tiered plant hanger from Home Depot. It’s by Pennington if that helps you hunt it down – and we hung it next to the kitchen window on the deck. Since we were drilling into brick, we needed to break out the hammer drill with a masonry bit, but it just took two screws and anchors (meant for brick) to secure it.

With all the deer that roam our yard we’d be hard-pressed to have any luck with raised beds in the grass, so we thought this solution was an easy way to add some herbs to a place that we hope won’t be infiltrated (we went with basil, parsley, and lemon balm). We’ve never seen them up on our deck (our theory is that they smell Burger and don’t want any part of that) so we’ll have to see how it goes.

We’d eventually like to build and stain a big wooden planter (most likely one that moves so we can find the best spot on the deck to put it) for larger edibles like tomatoes and peppers – so we’ll have to see if we can get that done before planting season is over.

Is anyone else planting stuff like herbs or tomatoes? Or do you get those weird last minute worries about fixing something totally random (like caulk) before a party? In the end does it feel like nobody notices anyway? Although that baby pool/mower/dead grass/slate collection/table combo that we had going on in the backyard last summer might have been hard to miss.

P.S. We took Teddy’s five week picture yesterday, and he looks twice as big as he did in the first one (this morning he weighed in at 11 pounds!).



Let’s Take It Outside

There are a few outdoor showhouse spaces that we haven’t shown at all in this entire yearlong process. Each of the seven showhouses were encouraged to include some fun outdoor spaces as well as indoor ones, so aside from the stuff you can see from the curb, there’s also a back porch and a back patio complete with a stone fireplace. The cool thing about these outdoor spaces is that they’re the places that we got to put our heads together with the builder and the architect the most – and they ended up being some of our favorites.

The craziest thing is that our house won 1st place (i.e. the “Gold Award”) for both Curb Appeal and Outdoor Living. With this being our first time doing a showhouse, we honestly weren’t sure we’d win anything at all, so getting those two along with the silver for Creative Home surprised and thrilled us to say the least.

We’ve talked a lot about the front porch already, since it has been one of the defining features of our home. Namely the exposed wood (stained with Sikkens in their “Cedar” color) paired with the navy siding (which is Newburg Green by Benjamin Moore) and the crisp white trim (which is Steam by Ben Moore). But it’s looking even more polished now that the landscaper worked his magic, and we got our big limestone pathway laid. In addition to the aggregate driveway and front pathway, we wanted to create some charming access from the street, so after sharing a few inspiration photos with the landscaper and the builder, they cut big 2 x 4′ slabs from the same material as the porch’s stone column caps, and laid the sod around them.

One interesting tidbit about the landscaping was that John the Builder and Chris the Landscaper had to submit their plans to the developer of this community, who actually nixed a bunch of larger plantings (we love more mature looking bushes and trees, but I guess for the show they wanted everything to have more of an open look).

The front porch is nice and spacious, with a large 14 x 11′ area to the left of the door, which is where we created the main seating area with a sofa, ottoman, chair, and a few side tables (some of those aren’t pictured in the shot below but if you look at the picture above you can get a better idea).

The other side is around 11 x 12′, which means there was room for a porch swing, a swivel chair, and another red side table (that’s hidden behind the chair in the photo below).

Most of the outdoor furniture is the Wyatt collection from Arhaus, including the sofa, the ottoman, and the swivel chair on the other side, which they kindly donated for the show (we’re sending them back afterwards). They’re all super comfortable, and the best part is that Arhaus agreed to give away an identical set of outdoor furniture to one of you for this week’s giveaway.

Most of the smaller accessories were stuff that we bought at Lowe’s (like the red metal garden stools and the medallion pillows) or Target (like the bolsters). They brought in some nice color, while the dark 12 x 24″ porcelain tiles that were donated by The Tile Shop grounded the porch.

The sun prevented me from getting good pictures of the other chair on that side, so forgive this photo from an earlier day (note the lack of sod next door). It’s a swiveling egg chair and side table from Green Front Furniture. Since Sherry is genetically one-quarter egg chair, she had to have it.

Here’s another shot from that same day, which is the best one I seem to have of the light fixture we bought from Restoration Hardware. The angles of the light are nice with the peaked wood ceiling, and the fans are from Hunter (they’re the same ones we installed in our own sunroom).

The porch swing on the other side was a purchase from Hayneedle.com, but we had to spray paint the gold chain black to make it blend better with the rest of the porch. I won’t admit to how many times we took breaks just to swing out here. Clara was that bench’s biggest fan.

The chair nearby is part of the same Arhaus collection, and it swiveled like the egg chair on the other side of the porch, which made the arrangement feel more flexible (someone sitting there could swivel towards the porch swing or towards the seating area on the other side).

The rest of the porch was filled out with random potted ferns (we bought the pots & ferns at Lowe’s), just to add some greenery.

We also had the carpenter build window boxes to liven up the trio of windows on the right side of the house (that’s actually the garage, but it has side access).

On the front porch we also went for dark bronze rain chains instead of traditional gutters, since we can probably all agree that downspouts aren’t the most charming architectural detail out there. These decorative chains help guide the water from the gutter down a drain to the ground and look pretty darn cute doing it.

If you walk around the side of the garage, we continued those limestone slabs so they lead to the patio area behind the house.

The stamped concrete patio is almost literally “hugged” by the outdoor fireplace. Most of the design credit for this area goes to the builder and his team. We gave input on the type of stone and a few details, but John and his guys built it seemingly overnight while we were tending to a few other spaces. Then we walked out back and said “yeah, we could get used to this.”

We kept the “styling” pretty light out here, since we were running out of time and wanted the focus to be on the fireplace anyway. There’s an outdoor dining area on the back porch (which we’ll get to in a minute), so we didn’t think another table made sense down here, so we landed on a casual seating arrangement. The woven outdoor lounge chairs, pillows, and planters are all things that we bought from Lowe’s.

Behind you as you face the fireplace are two staircases, one that leads up to the mudroom (which includes some closed, covered storage underneath it for yard equipment, etc) and the other that leads up to the back porch.

The back porch has the same exposed wood look on the ceiling as the front porch, but instead of tile this space has a Trex floor. The french doors lead into the living room/kitchen area, so this was a natural spot for an outdoor dining area.

The dining table and chairs were from Green Front Furniture, the indoor/outdoor rug is from Dash & Albert, and the runner & sodas are from World Market. All of the other styling accessories are HomeGoods (like the planter, the lantern on the table, etc).

So that concludes the outdoor tour. We’ve still got a few bedrooms, bathrooms, and miscellaneous spots like the laundry room and the mudroom to share along with a video walk-through of the whole house, so we hope to have all of that sourced and shared in the next week or two.

Psst- Homearama is almost over! All seven showhomes are available to tour for the last time this Thursday through Sunday. Tickets & more info is available here, and for more background on our involvement and how it benefits Habitat for Humanity, click here and here.