...because home doesn't happen overnight.
06.09.15 / A Look Outside

exterior 2015

Every year at this time I like to document the improvements and changes to our home’s exterior. It isn’t grand, but there’s something about the spring green grass, the fresh mulch and new blooms that make me conscious of how far we’ve come. 2015 is the first year we aren’t embarrassed by our home’s curb appeal – or lack thereof. Pssst – Can you spot the kitty peeking out the front door?

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Probably the biggest difference between this year and previous years is the concrete driveway. Not only has it cleaned up the house’s curb appeal, it has tremendously decreased the amount of dirt and debris that gets tracked into the house. The old asphalt driveway was crumbling and held water, dirt, mud and rocks which inevitably made their way into our house and cars. After the driveway was installed last summer, we sealed it, planted new grass seed and added river rock around the front walk where it meets the driveway. Thanks to a wet fall and rainy spring, the grass filled in without too much assistance from the sprinkler. We considered rock walls or planters for the transition from the driveway to the walk, but the river rock was an easy solution and it ties in to the rock in the front beds.

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The trash enclosure is doing its job. We haven’t sprung for a new garage door yet. Last year’s stopgap paint job is holding up so well that we’ll most likely keep it around for another year or two.

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A few weeks ago I took inventory of the landscaping. We lost a lily of the valley and a fountain grass. Both were planted last year. That’s not too bad considering the harsh winter we endured. (I read Ohio was colder than Alaska this past winter!)

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A few of the golden mop cypress were looking feeble last spring but I pruned the brown stuff and now they’re as vibrant as ever.

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The rose bushes are thriving with little maintenance on my part. I deadhead them every week or so during the summer and cut them back in the fall. I love the creamy petals.

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After not blooming last year, the hydrangeas are back in action! Last summer they were big and leafy and green without a single bloom. I spoke with a local nursery and they chalked it up to a cold and snowy winter. (2013 and 2014 have been some of the snowiest and coldest on record here in Ohio.) They suggested I wait it out and see how they do over the next few years. After another harsh winter, I wasn’t very optimistic. But they’re blooming!

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Up until this year, most of the landscaping we’ve done has been super basic. For two reasons: 1) Landscaping is not our strong suit. 2) We’ve always planned to add as we go. We feel more comfortable establishing a base and adding to it when we can afford / care for it. It’s definitely a learn-as-we-go experience for us. Steve usually takes care of the larger stuff (like digging the beds) and mows the lawn. Typically, I make the plant selections and water, fertilize, deadhead, prune, etc. Basically, Steve can’t be held accountable for anything dying. That’s all me. But now that my alive : dead ratio is the highest it’s ever been (!), I though it might be okay to try some new plantings.

Layne accompanied me to the nursery a few weeks ago. He LOVES the nursery. He was really excited to pick out more colorful plants. He said, “Mom, this is the first time you aren’t buying green everything.”

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I added a trail of sunsparkler dazzleberry sedum (a.k.a. razzleberry) next to the river rock near the front entry. I don’t know which I love more: the texture or the name? Just try to say “dazzleberry” without smiling. In the fall it will produce raspberry clusters and over time it will spread. I can’t wait.

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Layne chose the annuals for the container near the door. I told him to pick something tall, something flowery and something trailing. He did a great job! Last year I used rosemary in the planter. I loved the way the fragrance wafted up to greet you at the door, but this colorful arrangement is pretty welcoming, too. (Plus, we have plans to grow herbs in a raised garden bed…keep reading.)

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Layne also talked me in to hot pink wave petunias. I bought a half dozen or so and sprinkled them in for hits of bright color here and there. He also picked out two sonic bloom pink weigela. I forgot to grab a shot of them but you can see one in the background of the golden mop cypress shot, eight pics back.

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Keeping with the pink theme, I planted dianthus in the front bed near the walk…

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…along with creeping jenny.

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The miss kim lilac was a splurge. On a recent visit, Everett’s chiropractor had fresh lilac blooms in the bathroom and they smelled so good I vowed to plant one at our house. It had the most gorgeous, fragrant blooms when I planted it but they were fleeting. I just missed them when I took these pictures last week. I’m anxiously waiting for next spring.

The smaller shrub in front of the lilac is a little lime hydrangea. I planted two of them last year to replace mini crape myrtle that didn’t survive the winter. I bought the little limes late in the summer and they didn’t look that great but they were discounted so I thought I would give them a try. No blooms yet but my fingers are crossed. They already look healthier than they did last year.

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Moving to the back (north-facing) yard, I planted a trio of hosta at the corner.

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The chardonnay pearls are filling out nicely just one year in. I missed capturing their white, pearl-like spring blooms but they might be my favorite of all the perennials. They have a great organic shape and the blooms fill our bedroom with the sweetest scent when the window is open.

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I added several caladium in front of the heat pump to try to disguise it. I love the colorful, veiny, heart-shaped leaves.

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Finally, we cleared out the northeast corner of the backyard to make room for a compost and raised garden beds. At the time these pictures were taken, the beds were made and in place (upside down) waiting to be sunk and filled with topsoil. Spoiler alert: they’re sunk and filled!

A little 2011 vs. 2015 comparison because that always makes me feel better…

2011 2015 exterior

It isn’t perfect and it didn’t happen overnight, but it’s definitely an improvement. With the front of the house looking much better, we’re turning our attention to the backyard this summer. A compost, raised garden beds and a screen for the electric meter are in the works. I’ll share more soon!

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

06.03.15 / Studio Whiteout

A quick backstory: Lowe’s invited me to their headquarters a few months ago. I’ve never really been a fan of blogger conventions / events. I guess that’s the introvert in me. But I was suffering from a major case of cabin fever and Steve was encouraging me to go so I accepted the invite. I got a behind-the-scenes peek at the company’s thought process and was asked to give honest feedback on everything from products to advertising to store layouts. I was nothing but honest. Maybe even a little brutal? Let’s just say I didn’t hold back. But they took it all in stride, asking more questions. They really want to be better – even different – at what they do.

On the last day of my visit, I was paired with another blogger and we were given creative freedom to create a room of our choice using Lowe’s products. We designed a bathroom and it was so much fun! I really appreciated the fact that we were not pressured to create a certain look. Honestly, that bathroom was a space I would want in my own house. Before I left to return home, they told me to contact them if I was ever in need of help with a project. That offer came to mind when I started making plans for the studio so I reached out. I can’t thank Lowe’s enough for the drywall and paint. And they didn’t ask me to say that either. In fact, they didn’t ask me to say anything.

Remember what the studio looked like a month ago? It’s well on its way to becoming a blank canvas.

studio whiteout 1

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Steve and I briefly discussed hanging new drywall and painting the room ourselves but, when we looked at our busy calendar, considered the scope of the project (the ceiling is 18′ high!) and couldn’t come up with a good solution for childcare, I decided to hire out. As DIYers, that was a hard pill to swallow. But since I’m renting the space, time is money. It helped that Lowe’s stepped in to cover the cost of materials. For that, I am so grateful.

One of the best things about this space is that it doesn’t have to be perfect. We aren’t going to be living here, just making messes and being creative. Instead of ripping out the original drywall, the drywall guys simply hung ½” drywall panels over the existing walls. This kept demo, waste and cost to a minimum. They ran into an issue with the studs…or lack thereof. The “studs” are aluminum and not spaced properly so there was some guesswork involved. The room is located in an old warehouse so it isn’t surprising that there are dubious things going on behind the walls. The walls aren’t going to fall down or anything like that, but it does make hanging things a little tedious. It took a team of three guys one week to hang, tape, mud and sand the walls. (It probably would have taken Steve and me all summer.) It isn’t the most impeccable finish work I’ve seen but it will do.

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A painter sprayed the walls and ceiling. We went with Kilz latex primer, followed by two coats of HGTV Home by Sherwin-Williams primer + paint in one. The paint color is pure white (SW 7005). Using two different primers might have been overkill but there was quite a bit of staining on the ceiling and brick (window) wall that had to be blocked. Per code, the sprinkler system remains red. The exposed conduit, various pipes and old fuse boxes are now all white and not nearly as noticeable. White paint is magical!

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From afar, the metal window frames look black but, in reality, they’re mostly corroded. I will probably end up painting them (black or white?) but I don’t mind them as-is for now. Cleaning the dirty panes is a higher priority, I think. The green paint is on the outside of the windows. All of the windows at the warehouse are green on the exterior.

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I’m going to paint the radiator white…after I clean it. I don’t think it has ever been cleaned. Ever. It looks like it’s covered in soot but I’m assuming it’s just charred dust and dirt. As much as I love the look of painted white floors in a studio space, they aren’t practical here. The space is accessed via a loading dock so grime is constantly being tracked in. The concrete is in poor condition so I think painting the floors a dirty gray is the way to go. The concrete gives way to wood right in front of the radiator. (Not sure what that’s all about?) Some of the boards need replaced.

I took these photos several days ago and the space is already looking so much better. I’ve spent all of my spare chunks of time at the studio cleaning this week. It’s been difficult finding the time with end-of-school activities taking top priority, but I did manage to log 5 hours of quality time with my shop-vac the other day. Between the original gritty condition of the space and the new layers of drywall dust, it was pretty gross. Today Everett and Mabrey “helped” me scrub down the radiator. We had to change our clothes when we got home.

The shell of the room is coming along! I took precise measurements and drew up a floor plan today so I can start space planning. The landlord claims the room is 1,000 square feet but it’s closer to 870. I’m more comfortable with that number. I’m excited to put my spin on the space and try some new things that aren’t necessarily practical, or even possible, in my own home.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

06.01.15 / Liked & Linked

moroccan wedding blanket

The next two weeks are jam packed with deadlines over here. I’m not complaining. I feel like if I can make it through the next few weeks then it’s smooth sailing for the summer. (Fingers crossed.) I’m excited to share a client’s bedroom makeover, studio progress and plans, and a secret photo shoot that’s probably the biggest thing to happen to H*T yet.

Over the weekend I installed linens and artwork at my client’s home. I brought in a Moroccan wedding blanket for the bed. It was my first time seeing one in person. You guys, they are even more gorgeous in real life! The sequins jingle ever so lightly, almost like a dainty wind chime. It’s crazy how a blanket can entice the senses of sight, sound and touch all at once. I wanted to take it home with me ;)

More good stuff…

*Ideas for revamping vintage furniture.

*A bathroom before and after on instagram. I LOVE the cement tile and matte black fixtures.

*Apartment Therapy’s annual small cool contest is in full swing. I’m rooting for a chic converted garage and an efficient family home.

stopgap kitchen

DIY breakfast nook

*This stopgap kitchen (part one, part two) and accompanying DIY breakfast nook are inspiring examples of big style on a small budget.

*Kanu is my favorite swimsuit brand for little girls. I bought this red and white polka dot tankini for Mabrey. The fit is perfect!

*I kinda want to try boiling or cooking eggs in the microwave. Have you ever cooked eggs in the microwave?

Happy Monday!

images: 1) Dana Miller for House*Tweaking 2 & 3) Lindy Dodge