It’s been three years since we made the decision to downsize and buy the Underdog. From the beginning we said “it isn’t the house of our dreams but rather the house in which to pursue our dreams.” We still stand by that motto. Renovating this house hasn’t always been easy (or quick!) but we feel we made the right decision for us. Some days when we’re feeling especially disappointed about our progress (or lack thereof…yes, kid bathroom, I’m giving you the stink eye) it helps to look back and see how far we’ve come. So today we’re taking a look at the exterior’s evolution.
When we bought the house it was barely noticeable from the road, hidden behind several large trees. Our inspector found evidence of a previous termite infestation inside and outside the home. One of the first things we did was have many of the trees removed to allow the house and yard to dry out properly. The tree removal also optimized natural light inside. (I had to fight to save that one remaining tree. I’m so glad I did. It provides the only shade in the front yard.)
Shortly after removing the trees, we did away with the wood shutters and installed a metal roof. Still, the yard was horrendous – bumpy, full of weeds, stumps and bare spots. It actually sloped toward the house. After talking with a neighbor who happens to be a landscaper, we had the yard excavated in the fall of 2012 and started from scratch. We had new concrete walks installed, completely reseeded the lawn and put in some basic landscaping. Eventually, we rehabbed the front entry.
It’s taken us a while but this is how the exterior looks currently. It’s nothing special but it’s clean and uncluttered and well-maintained which was basically our goal all along. Really, anything other than “crack house” was our goal!
We endured a brutal winter and, unfortunately, we lost some of our young plants. I spoke with employees at a local nursery and they said they are having a hard time keeping up with the demand right now. Many commercial and residential customers are having to replace plants that didn’t make it through the winter while the nursery’s own plant inventory (they grow their own shrubs and trees right here in Ohio) suffered as well. A few of our gold mop cypress have a bit of brown on them and that has me worried. I guess we’ll just wait it out and see how they do. Two grasses aren’t sprouting yet so it looks like they may need replaced. Many of our plants aren’t meant to withstand temperatures colder than -10ºF and we had many days much colder than that this past winter.
As far as I can tell, the roses are fine. The hydrangeas are greening up. One of them started sprouting way ahead of the other but the second is starting to catch up.
We did lose the miniature evergreens in the front bed. Personally, I wasn’t all that sad to see them go. They were one of those hasty “I don’t know what to put here so let’s do these” choices. I replaced them with Elijah blue grass. I don’t think I’ve shared a good picture of the planter under the picture window that we turned into a storage bench.
Steve built a wood frame within the planter and used leftover Trex deck boards to create three separate “lids” that form a bench seat. We store potting soil and outdoor toys inside. It’s worked out really well so far.
Last year we created flower beds along the east and north sides of the house but held off on planting anything in them. We didn’t have the time or money to devote to them. A few weeks ago I spent $350 and one day planting them. The east-facing bed has spirea, grasses and variegated liriope.
The north-facing bed only receives a little sunlight in late evening. A nursery employee suggested chardonnay pearls (left of the heat pump) and an azalea (right of the heat pump) for this shaded area. I threw in a few more liriope.
The chardonnay pearls are my favorite. The have the slightest sweet scent that drifts in through our bedroom window.
We went with a different mulch this year. It’s browner and finer than what we used last spring. I like it better. The previous stuff was chunky and almost stick-like…although I did like the black color. Steve had the mulch delivered last Friday afternoon and by the time he got home from work, I had spread it all. I really enjoy spreading mulch. Is that weird?
The grass seed has taken really well. We pay an organic lawn care company to come out and fertilize regularly. We recently reseeded around the deck we installed last summer. Hopefully, it comes in as nicely as the rest.
For comparison’s sake, a look at where we’ve been and where we are now…
Again, it’s nothing special but it’s definitely an improvement. Our neighbors and mailman have noticed. In fact, just last week our mailman came to the front door and said “Don’t take this the wrong way but I don’t think I’ve been up here since you got a new front door.” Imagine his surprise when I told him it’s the original door. It feels good not being embarrassed by our home’s exterior anymore. We’re really looking forward to having the driveway replaced and I’m anxious to see how everything fills in over the years.
What about you? Did you lose any plants due to the harsh winter? Were / are you embarrassed by your home’s exterior?
images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking