...because home doesn't happen overnight.

exterior spring 2014

We’ve touched nearly every inch of this house and the biggest projects are behind us. Still, there are several projects left on our to-do list. Here they are in no particular order:

THD attic

*spruce up the hallway. I’ve always wanted this hallway to be more than just a pass-through. It’s narrow and riddled with doors, but I have a few ideas. UPDATE: I hung some art.

*create an interactive side panel on the exposed side of the refrigerator. I don’t know if we have enough room to do this, but it would be great to disguise the side of the fridge in a useful way. UPDATE: We installed a fridge side panel.

*create a wrapping station. I keep a few boxes and rolls of paper in a cabinet at the kitchen desk but it would be nice to have a designated area for quick wrapping sessions.

toddler transition 2

*transition the nursery to a big kid room. I’m in no rush to do this, but eventually I will need to reassess our needs in Mabrey’s room. A trundle for extra sleeping space is a must. UPDATE: I’m working on a big girl bed.

*replace the mailbox. The door doesn’t shut properly and the post has seen better days. I’ve had my eye on these midcentury-inspired ones ever since they were in the Kickstarter phase.

*install a discreet clothesline. I love hanging clothes and linens outside to dry but I need more space! Currently, I have a single drying rack and that just isn’t cutting it. UPDATE: I caved and bought a readymade clothesline. Sometimes practicality wins.

*organize the garage. It’s a mess from standing in as our workshop over the last 3 years.

*build a screen / vertical garden to hide the electric meter on the back of the house. I’ve been wanting an excuse to try these. UPDATE: We made a meter screen.

*build a screen to hide the outdoor trash / recycling bins. We like the look of this one. UPDATE: We made an outdoor waste bin enclosure.

dining patio

*install a trio of overlapping shade sails to shade the backyard deck and patios. We had a local company come out last summer to give us an estimate for this project. The quote was more than we were willing to spend. We think we’ll do some of the work ourselves to save money. We like the vibe of this outdoor space.

*plant a tree in the front yard. To make up for all the dead ones we removed.

*build a raised bed garden or two. Alison is my green thumb hero. UPDATE: We built two raised garden beds.

*incorporate a rain barrel. And use it.

*start composting. This tutorial for a tumbling composter doesn’t look too terribly difficult. Any tips for someone new to composting?

driveway after 1

This is a random pipe dream and one that might not ever make it to fruition just because we aren’t sold on it. It isn’t entirely necessary and we aren’t sure it’s worth investing in for this property but…

*build a sizable outbuilding at the end of the driveway and convert the attached garage to a flex / rec room. Like I said, pipe dream. We may decide to save our time and money for something else that makes more sense for our family.

That’s all I can think of at the moment! We don’t have deadlines for any these (some of them won’t happen this year) but it would be nice to tackle some of the outdoor projects this spring / summer while the weather is nice. If not, we have to wait a whole ‘nother year. We’d love to knock out the shade sails so we can enjoy them. And it would be nice to park at least one car in the garage. I’ll keep you posted.

What projects are on your never-ending to-do list?

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

61 Comments

15.March.2015

word to the wise: tumbling composters will never work as well as in-ground systems. You have the room, so that’s the way to go. And have at least three so you can rotate them: one that’s ready to use, one that’s “cooking” and one that you’re currently adding to. My house had two bins when I bought it, but once the enclosures rot out, I’m going to rebuild them as a trio. Good luck!

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replied on March 17th, 2015

Thanks for the advice Ryan!

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15.March.2015

Based on what you have done on your own I am sure that you could create these shade sails yourself. I know years ago there was a great article in a martha Stewart magazine with several different options. In addition, I know there are several sail makers that work on their own that would likely be a great option. They do the sail, you create the posts and attachments. Will look great with your home.

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15.March.2015

I’m excited to see what you come up with for a clothing line. I desperately want one, but don’t want it to look like a clothes line in the back yard. There is nothing better than sheets dried outside in the sun and wind!

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replied on March 17th, 2015

I agree!

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replied on March 17th, 2015

We use a retractable clothes line between two walls and it’s perfect. Ours has three lines on it, so it fits about 2 loads of clothes at one time. Pull it out when needed, it attaches to 2 hooks on the far wall, and it retracts when not in use. It’s a great solution if you have the right space for it. Something like this: http://amzn.com/B0000V09X2

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replied on March 18th, 2015

Thanks for sharing! Do you use it outside?

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replied on March 18th, 2015

Yep, It’s outside in a sunny spot between the house and garage. It works like a charm, we don’t even have a dryer! (But we live overseas in a place where dryers are rare)

replied on March 18th, 2015

Great! Thanks for replying.

16.March.2015

I have to second the above comment about tumbling composters. In my experience once they begin to fill they become difficult and a pain to tumble. Then they are difficult to empty as you can’t roll a wheelbarrow under them. The reason they don’t work as well is that they have no contact with the ground so you don’t have the benefit of worms (and other tiny critters), which are your very best friends in the garden, especially when making compost. As Ryan said, you have plenty of room for an in-ground system, which are easy and cheap to construct. It really is very rewarding making your own compost and your garden will love you for it. Best of luck.

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replied on March 17th, 2015

Thanks for your insight. Sounds like a tumbling compost might not be the best way to go. I’m open to any advice!

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16.March.2015

We have 5 kids ages 3-13, and I have to say that I think you’ll end up wanting that extra room. When you have friends over for dinner and there are a bunch of kids running around… wouldn’t it be great to put them all in the extra room so you can talk. You could put the TV in there… As the kids get older and take up more space, I think you’ll want a space for them.

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16.March.2015

Dana, when I was redoing my dining room area, I came across an awesome website that offers easily understandable instructional videos on how to make a lot of different projects around the house. I made roman shades. But they are a company that specializes in sails, etc. I checked and they have a video on how to make your own – if you are so inclined. They are sailrite.com, if you want to take a look! They also sell any parts that you might need that can be hard to find, which was nice when I made my shades, because I found out that no fabric or craft store around here sells all the stuff required to make them in one place! Good luck with your project list!

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replied on March 17th, 2015

Oh wow! That is so helpful!! Thank you for passing along the site’s name.

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16.March.2015

I have to agree with Leslie’s comment. We ended up making a room in our basement, (family/flex room), and it is great for kids after school, sleep overs, movie night/game night, small work out area, ect. When your kiddos get a little older they want their own space with their friends. I could see that garage used for lots of great activities, crafts, and even mini work out space! Best idea Dana!

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16.March.2015

Do you mind telling me the name of your highchair? It is so cute! Thanks!

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replied on March 17th, 2015

It’s the Ikea BLAMES.

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replied on March 18th, 2015

I love this high chair too but when I checked it out at IKEA, I found the tray almost impossible to clip on and off. Do you find this with yours? My parents had trouble too and we even had an employee over to try and they had issues too. Does it loosen up over time?

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replied on March 18th, 2015

I mentioned it on the blog before… I can count on 2 fingers how many times I’ve removed the tray. It’s really difficult to pull off the chair! But I liked the way the chair looked so much that I kept it and after years of use, I’ve gotten used to wiping down the tray on the chair and I’ve never had a problem getting Mabrey in / out of the chair. I do wish Ikea would make the tray easier to remove.

16.March.2015

I bought a mailbox from this company and LOVE it. Seems to be your style: http://www.boldmfg.com/collections/mailboxes

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replied on March 17th, 2015

Me likey!

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16.March.2015

Dana,

I’ve been composting for about a year. Check your county websites for a quick class in composting. I was able to get a great composter through the county also for only $35 (it retailed for $125). It’s not a tumbler and works well. I think the company is Earth Systems, but not sure. I keep a small covered crock on my kitchen counter for veggie scraps. When it gets full I transfer the “stuff” into a large plastic coffee container and Hubby takes it out to the compost. I compost the lint from my dryer too. Egg shells I wash, let dry, then break them up in a mason jar. The shells can be sprinkled on my garden to keep pests and cats (Sorry, Cheetah) away and fertilizes the soil. I hope this helps you out a little.

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replied on March 17th, 2015

Great tips! Thank you.

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Hi Dana-
Ikea sells the sail cloth very similar to the ones shown in your inspiration picture and they are not expensive at all. I picked mine up last spring for approximately $40 a piece. Just thought I’d mention it to you as a non expensive option. Love the blog and your home and can’t wait to see what your new studio space transforms into!

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replied on March 17th, 2015

Oooh, thanks for the idea!

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I’d selfishly like you tackle the clothesline project first, because I’m dying to do the same!

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replied on March 16th, 2015

I second this motion. I need to figure something out too, and would love to see what you come up with.

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16.March.2015

I’m jealous of anyone with a large lot… my dream is to do something along the lines of this: http://chezerbey.com/2015/02/08/a-modern-dadu/ here in San Diego having a small unit outside the house is super common for additional income, or when a family expands, or for a studio/workshop/etc.

I’m no composting expert but back when we lived in Kansas I built a little enclosure out of discarded wood pallets, put all our yard waste in it, and neglected it… (turned using a rake every few weeks) and it turned into lovely soil! It’s so easy and is only as complicated as you want it to be.

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16.March.2015

I think you are totally on to something with the garage space – you could even add a studio/guest space above the new outbuilding/detached garage unit!
We finally built a compost bin last year and love it! I’ll have to take a picture for you – it was a pretty easy DIY and very inexpensive! I just can’t get on board with those plastic ones..
Leah: )

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replied on March 17th, 2015

Yes, please share!

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16.March.2015

Have you ever tried a retractable clothes line? I’m debating one. They aren’t expensive, just haven’t bit the bullet

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replied on March 17th, 2015

We had one at our very first home in Illinois. It was okay but I remember having problems with slack in the line. I love how discreet retractable lines are though!

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16.March.2015

Great list — good luck!! Is there any chance you have another link to the outdoor space with sails? That one took me the App Store and was in French… Could just be because I’m on my phone. I’ve been trying to figure out what to do with our deck and sails have come up a number of times.

We’ve been composting for almost a year and I’m excited to use my soil for the first time this spring! We keep a small stainless steel container from World Market by the sink to collect scraps. It has a filter on the lid to keep it from smelling, and when it’s full we dump it in a compost box sold by Home Depot. We compost veggies, fruits and coffee grounds (great for azaleas and gardenias), and never meat or onions. We don’t fuss over it much, and it helps lighten the trash load too.

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replied on March 17th, 2015

That’s the best link I could track down :(

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16.March.2015

What about changing out your interior doors as well? Seeing the shot of your hallway made me think of this idea – it would look really nice if that door had some interest, since it’s right at the end of the hall. A door with shaker style panels would look great there! Or maybe a frosted glass door? Lots of possibilities!

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replied on March 17th, 2015

The interior doors are new (we installed them) and we love them!

http://www.housetweaking.com/2013/10/15/a-date-with-my-doors/

But I think you’re right…there needs to be something to draw your eye to the end of the hallway…not just a door.

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That’s quite a list! I like your pipe dream! It would be so fun to have that!

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16.March.2015

Forget the tumbler, just start a pile in a corner. It couldn’t be easier; just throw all your leftover green waste (carrot tops, potato peels, apple cores, flower petals) into a heap. Add dried leaves and grass clippings when possible. Turn it over once in a while with a garden fork and give it a spray with the hose once a week. Don’t forget to toss the pumpkins from Thanksgiving, the wreath bits from Christmas, etc. Next year you will have wonder, sweet black gold to put in your garden. Never put meat or meat by-products in it, but anything else is a go. You know you are doing it right if it is hot when you stick your hand in the middle of it.

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16.March.2015

We built these raised beds last year and they have worked out wonderfully. We did one full size, and the others we cut to half the height. The cedar edging is quite nice to sit on while weeding and we have enjoyed the brightness that the corrugated metal brings to our yard. Also, these are incredibly cost effective to build as far as raised beds go. Cheers.

http://ohdeardrea.blogspot.com/2014/01/our-raised-beds-easy-metal-wood-garden.html

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replied on March 17th, 2015

I love those! Thanks for sharing the link. Hmmmm…

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17.March.2015

Your wish list sounds great- looking forward to seeing what you tackle! As far as composting, we keep a compost container with a charcoal filter in the kitchen- it’s lined with bags that also decompose. easy peasy! I’ve seen some ‘found’ porcelain pieces that have been refurbished for this purpose and are attractive enough for the counter. We have different outdoor systems since space isn’t an issue. Our spinning tumbler sits low to the ground in a U- shaped track. It’s the fastest, but you have to stop adding to it at some point and allow for decomposition. I like this bin, but it does get heavy when it’s full and you have to shovel out. We have a square bin that I wouldn’t recommend, and my husband is building a 3 section system out of pallet boards so that you can advance the compost to the next section as it’s ready. I imagine you will get a lot of enjoyment out of some raised bed gardens- it is so fulfilling! Have you considered a half wall of wallpaper in the hall for depth? We just ordered cork wallpaper with orange undertones peaking through and grasscloth for a different room- there are so many options!

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17.March.2015

Can’t wait to see some of these come together

For the rain barrel and reservoir planter, just be aware that you need to cover any openings with a mosquito-proof screen, otherwise the still water will become a breeding ground.

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replied on March 18th, 2015

Thanks for the tip!

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17.March.2015

You won’t regret the extra space when your kids get bigger. Perhaps a rec room in the garage, and an office/ studio for you above the garage. ;)

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17.March.2015

I am really interested to see your project list come to life. We have a very similarly laid out home (ranch on slab, open kitchen/living area, mudroom, etc.) and have often wondered if an addition or “upsizing” could be in our future once our kids are older (for now we have 2 under 4, but who knows what the future holds!). We love our large lot and neighborhood, so an addition or new garage/converting existing garage is more attractive to us! Also, we are also looking to be doing a lot of similar outdoor projects this spring and summer, and figuring out a discreet clothes line is one of my top priorities!

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18.March.2015

Yessss to the garden projects and sails. I love sails and totally may try to track down the Ikea sail cloth one commenter mentioned earlier. I also hope to incorporate a clothes line in our backyard. My gram always hung our clothes to dry in the summers. Just thinking of it puts a smile on my face. Also my pipe dream is to convert our detached garage into an office/studio for me. One day….Cant wait to see you tackle some of this list friend.

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18.March.2015

Another vote for an in-ground system vs a tumbler. We actually have both (started with a tumbler) and quickly outgrew it before it could finish compost, so we eventually started a pile in a rear corner of the yard. Works way better, makes compost faster and isn’t nearly as much of an eyesore or stink factor as people assume.

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18.March.2015

Take a deep breath & keep an open mind…

With that said, I have composted using several different methods. I accidentally came into composting with soldier fly larvae (a bit of a long story – I was totally grossed out at first but as you learn more, it’s super cool & incredibly efficient). I’ve been doing it now for 2 & half years & have not looked back. I don’t have a fancy set-up. Our city switched to city-owned garbage cans. I converted my old can into a compost bin by making a drainage hole. That’s it. I don’thave any fancy ramps or anything else. The larvae eat through so much discarded waste (including meats, fish, rabbit poop) just about anything. They will eat an entire cantaloupe rind in about 24 hours – the by-product is a black, nutrient rich compost. As long as they are doing their thing, there is no bad odor. You just cannot inundate it with one thing in particular (like the time we put all the neighborhood discarded pumpkins in a newly started 2nd bin – big mistake. Before I moved, my neighbors started using it as a community dumping ground for discarded waste (I think I had 5 different families using it – so amazing).

You can put paper products such as cardboard in the bin (again in moderation). We have a rabbit & all of his soiled bedding goes in. You name it, it goes in there.

You can order the larvae from an eBay seller. We had a particular harsh FL winter 2 winters ago & I had to order larvae in the spring for like $25. After a short time the population took off again.

The flies live a very short life only to reproduce. They lay eggs in the bin & the cycle continues. They do not carry any disease. They don’t bite & are not pesky. If you have chickens, you can feed excess larvae to them – they love it.

I’ll add a few links here. Let me know if you have questions. It is really extremely low maintenance. The only time it gets turned is when I am harvesting the compost out for my plants. The by-product (leachate) can also be diluted & used as fertilizer.

Between recycling & composting,mmy family of 4 generally only has 1 trash bag per week! how awesome is that?

Best of luck in your composting endeavors!

http://www.sfgate.com/homeandgarden/article/Yucky-but-useful-Maggots-make-compost-3275776.php

http://extension.oregonstate.edu/gardening/big-maggots-your-compost-theyre-soldier-fly-larvae

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replied on March 18th, 2015

This is so fascinating, Natalie! Only one trash bag / week?! It would feel really good to get our 3-4 bag / week average down. I’m definitely looking into the solider fly larvae. Quick question…you mentioned you had to replace them after a harsh winter. I live in Ohio so does that mean I would need to replace them every spring? How long do they take to create a new population? In your experience do you think they would be a good choice for someone living in a colder winter climate? Thanks in advance!

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replied on March 18th, 2015

You will do fine in Ohio. There is a map you can pull up & see where the flies have been spotted. there are probably some naturally occurung near you. You can ride out the season until they die. Your compost will eventually probably freeze up with the winters you’ve had. In the winter you can keep adding things like fruits/veg but no meats or anything that won’t break down easily if there are no larvae. You probably won’t have the larvae from Nov/Dec – April.

The little box I bought from eBay was so dinky & I thought it would take forever, but I had a large population in just a few weeks.

They also correct themselves with the amount of waste you give them – the more waste, the more larvae you end up with & the quicker everything breaks down.

I have friends on a cattle farm in IL & they are going to experiment this summer with the larvae & the vast amounts of cow manure they have to contend with. They said if they are successful, they will probably try to do something indoors in the barn in the winter. We’re not sure if the barn will be warm enough, so it will be interesting to see.

I can always send you larvae, too (a bigger box than the eBay folks). We’ve corresponded before via e-mail – I’m your 11/22/78 twin.

Yes, the one bag a week, rocks! Sometimes I go 4 weeks before I have to drag the can to the curb! :-) I wish this city’s garbage service was like Zurich, Switzerland where you pay for your garbage service by purchasing a city trash bag, not a monthly amount. I would save a lot of money.

The best & funniest thing – I live in a super high SES area. Lots of wealthy folks in my hood. I’m just a normal (kinda crunchy) girl from the Midwest & don’t subscribe to that lifestyle. I would give $20 to have a few neighbor folks come by to check out my compost bin. DH is always jokingly giving me a ribbing. :-)

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replied on March 18th, 2015

Check out this map:
http://blacksoldierflyblog.com/GMap/BSFmap.html

replied on March 19th, 2015

This is so helpful! Thank you. I’m taking it all in. It doesn’t seem fair that you have to pay the same as non-composters for trash service. I love that you haven’t lost sight of your crunchy Midwestern ways ;)

18.March.2015

I saw someone suggest an open compost area. If you have an open compost area & you add food items, be prepared for lots of critters (raccoons, rats, mice, etc.). It will become the community hangout for all these foragers & animals that prey on them, such as snakes.

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replied on March 18th, 2015

Eek!

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19.March.2015

We have had several different compost systems (fenced area, tumbler, etc.). Our current tumbler isn’t bad, but it’s hard to get the compost out. The last issue of the family handyman had a DIY system that allowed you to get a wheelbarrow underneath, which is pretty appealing and I think will be our next trial.
http://www.familyhandyman.com/garden/diy-compost-tumbler/view-all

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20.March.2015

Last year we snagged a sail shade at Costco for $20! I was so excited. Don’t know if they’ll have them again this year, but it wouldn’t hurt to keep an eye out for them.

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replied on March 23rd, 2015

Thanks for the tip!

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25.March.2015

love a good house to-do list! getting it out on paper gets it out of my head so I can stop worrying about it. i love all your outdoor plans. fun!

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We’ve never had a clothes dryer as most people line dry here (Australia). We installed a retractable clothesline at our first home which just had a tiny courtyard so they really can fit anywhere. Our current home has a good ol’ Aussie Hills Hoist smack-bang in the middle of the back lawn so we’ll replace that with a more discreet retractable one at some stage too.

I’ve been really inspired by your story of living smaller so I’m definitely keen to follow your experience as you consider an addition. Good luck with the planning :)

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26.May.2015

[…] attention outside. While our home’s interior is mostly done (I use that term loosely…nothing is ever done here), there are a few things we’d like to tackle outdoors. We were hoping to install a few shade […]

12.June.2015

For shade sails, just buy the Ikea ones! I bought the rectangular Dyning canopy to hang over our patio and it works pretty well.

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