April 23, 2014

patio and more patio

 I've been getting some estimates for our fence, patio, and landscaping and I gotta say, it's tough. I can imagine buildings, homes, interiors, but I have no idea what I'm doing outside. I mean, last summer was the first time in my life that I turned on a lawn mower. I killed a perfectly healthy lilac tree, let pests completely eat the azaleas, and went through more hanging plants than I'd like to admit. With each landscape contractor that comes out to see the work, I get a better grasp on what it is we're actually going to do. I started off with a just a simple rectangular patio in the back of the house, nothing too complicated, nothing too exciting. The more I talked to the contractors, the more I understood how we can use our yard to its full potential. I can honestly say that I'm officially excited about our yard!

I sketched on the plot plan we got from the surveyor to make sure things were somewhat to scale. Our Realtor recommended that we get a survey done of our property borders before we bought the house, and it turned out we owned a 4' fence in the back of the property. 

Pro of owning fence: we can make it pretty
Con of owning fence: we pay to make it pretty

I won't bore anyone with all the patio versions I went through, so here's the final concept:

Here are the existing and future plant bed locations aka dirt and mulch:

Here's what it will look like with all the existing and future plants and shrubs: 

Here's where the patio furniture will go, grill and seating area in back, dining area on side, fire pit near shed: 

And finally, here's who we should/need/must talk to about putting up our new fence: 

The landscape contractors have been so slow getting us estimates, so that's been pretty frustrating. But I think the most difficult thing will be talking to all the neighbors about the fence. We met the two neighbors on the left and right sides, but have never even seen the ones behind our house. I'm thinking it might be awkward knocking on their doors and telling them about the fence, but a note in their mailbox would be just plain rude. 

Speaking of neighbors, do people still come over with cookies to welcome you to the neighborhood? We never got any. I've decided, if someone new moves into a house next to us, I'm going over with cookies.

Here's a general list of things that have to be done along with the landscaping and patio:
- pick out plants, shrubs, hedges
- plant everything
- bury two gutters
- level yard
- fix grass after patio is done
- fix step next to front porch

We have our work cut out for us ...

April 10, 2014

slow bathroom progress

The hallway bathroom is taking forever to complete, but it's okay because I know how (hopefully) awesome it'll look when it's done. The hardest part, the floor, is all finished thanks to my talented brother-in-law. 

Here's what's on the list:

- replace tile floor
- replace tub faucet
- replace sink faucet
- move and replace light
- remove cabinet doors
- baskets for shelves
- longer shower curtain
- hooks for back of door
- pick paint colors
- prime and paint

I keep noticing little details that need to be worked out as I make my way through these changes. A replacement tub faucet has been hard to find since we have two separate handles for hot and cold water and most stores have one control for both. Most major brands don't even make this kind of faucet anymore, so we are limited to looking at the big box stores. We're not ripping out the subway tiles since they were freshly done before the house went up for sale, but I wonder why they weren't done up to the ceiling. 

The towel rack situation was also tricky, because there really wasn't a good place for it. I ended up taking it out and going with towel hooks on the door. Finding the right size baskets and containers for the shelves was a challenge because the space is limited, but Target happened to have matching baskets that fit those awkward shelves. It always looks worse before it gets better, right? I'm not sure what I'm going to do about the curtains yet, whether I take them out, change them, or keep them.

I'm painting the inside of those shelves with Sherwin-Williams Relaxed Khaki, the same color we used in our master bathroom. The rest of the walls will be Sherwin-Williams White Duck; it ties together the dark floor, beige details, and white trim and tile.

I think maybe with a few more rainy days, I'll be able to complete everything. This might actually be the first room that is 100% done!

April 8, 2014

damage a dog can do

I've lived with dogs since I can remember, but I wasn't prepared for this kind of damage.

 Our Mila may be small, but she's very ambitious. Nothing is too large or heavy for her, and no obstacle too difficult. She is fearless, stubborn, and smart, which makes for a scary combination.

I remember we had a black poodle named Bobik when I was very little. Shoes were his delicacy. Our childhood dog, Saba #1, was very well trained and never got into anything. When we came to the United States we got Saba #2 (yes, and there's actually a total of three Sabas now). Her choice was laundry, preferably dirty, but she didn't discriminate. She stopped chewing things as she got older and is still the perfect dog, even at almost 14. We could deal, all it took was putting away our shoes and laundry and we were in the clear with all our dogs.

Mila on the other hand, she'll try a little bit of everything. She's into wood one day, wicker the next, leather shoes (only expensive ones, she has standards), laundry on laundry days, trash when it's available, plants when they're freshly watered, and books, because she likes to read when we're not home. 

Update: The picture above is the leaning Sloane bookshelf from Crate & Barrel. This color is discontinued but I was able to get replacement shelves for $25! Yesss!

I didn't get a picture of the shoe basket after it was destroyed, but let's just say there was very little basket left. The new one I got from HomeGoods is metal, so she moved on to other things.

I got a bitter spray but the moment I use it, she moves on to something new. We kept her in the kitchen and put a gate up everyday, but she started escaping and I began noticing some teeth marks on the cabinets. Baskets and books are easier to replace than our kitchen cabinets, so we gave her the run of the house. I know there are dogs that can do much worse, but I think her tiny size threw us off. How can something so little and cute do so much damage? Here's to hoping she grows out of this chewing phase ... please let this be a phase.

Sorry she's not sorry.

April 2, 2014

landscaping, patio, or fence

So here's the deal, this winter has been seriously brutal. It got into record books as the second snowiest winter, and they've been updating those books since 1884. Let me also say that 2010 has a hold on number one, which is only four years ago. This means that my want to have an awesome yard for the spring, summer, and fall months is really a need. It's now April and I haven't done anything house related in what feels like forever. That to-do list is starting to make me cringe.

Since being outside is a priority for us right now, we started to think about our yard and what we could do. While our house may be imperfect and incomplete, it's still looking a lot like home to us. Our yard on the other hand ... it's not home at all. There's giant spiders living in our patchy grass, we have no patio to hang out on, and we have no privacy in our side yard. Everything is really under-cooked and needs some major TLC.

This year we want to get one or two projects done: landscaping, patio, and/or fence. In a perfect world, we'd get it all done at once, but these things are labor intensive and very expensive. A year ago the husband thought we'd do all the heavy lifting ourselves, but he quickly realized how backbreaking landscaping is. He and my brother-in-law took out a bunch of shrubs around our house this summer, and let's just say ... never again.

Here's our pleasant patio: overhead wires, dirt patches, overgrown shrubs, trash cans. Paradise.

Here's what I think:

Here's what it could be:

That's Photoshopped if you can't tell, and that table is not to scale. Joking, joking. Obviously the fence would have some texture, the umbrella would have to be reconsidered because of overhead wires, and we'd place some large pots with tall plants along the house and fence. One of the landscapers said this space reminds her of a cute and cozy back patio you'd find behind a Philly row home. I love that!

Trying to make sense of our awkwardly shaped side yard is also a huge challenge. We thought we would put up a fence around the entire yard, but I found out that we'd have to apply for a zoning ordinance. Our yard is not a true corner lot so we'd need a 30' setback. That's ridiculous. Between the lot shape, the slopes, the existing plants, and the pests eating our shrubs, I realized how little I know about landscaping.

We'll remove the grass near our shed and the shrub at our porch:

Here's a privacy hedge I initially thought would work (Emerald Green Arborvitae):

Here's a more natural looking privacy hedge (Viburnum) that the landscaper suggested:

All this is way over my head so we'll need to really trust the landscapers. That also means we'll need landscapers with some imagination and knowledge ... and probably spend some more money. Tackling this project piece by piece makes the most sense in this order:

1. fence
2. hardscaping
3. landscaping

After doing some online research and seeing what people spend on their landscaping, it seems prices are all over the place ranging from $1,000-$100,000. There are many variables, so we're getting three quotes that are broken into the three categories (fence, hardscaping, landscaping). And no, we're not spending $100,000 on landscaping, that's just crazy.

Getting excited! Can't wait for barbecues and fire pit s'mores!