photo Whaling-City-Cottage-8-2015_zpsoygeotsf.jpg

screen porch {paint it black}

It’s been 3 months since we tore out the rotting trim and screens from our screen porch in the backyard and we’re finally making steps toward rebuilding it.  I know, we’re really blazing through this project.


That flood light is positively prison-like.  My plan is to center the junction box in the pediment and replace the light with a gooseneck barn light.



You can (barely) see our new sugar maple here on the left.  Grow little buddy!  Grow!

Clearly I’ve been experimenting with color.


One big question is…..what color to paint the trim, ceiling and doors/wall/sidelights?  I want the whole porch to be one color, something bold and dark to envelope the space and make it cozy.

porch1jersey ice cream co. via design sponge

porch2muskoka living

I’m going with Black Forest Green by Benjamin Moore.  It’s a beautiful green-black.


Painting those mullions may cause me to lose my marbles but it’ll be worth it.


And yes, the outside of the screen porch trim will be painted the same dark color as the inside.  Eventually the exterior of our house will be white without shutters and I thought it would be cool to make the screen porch stand out.  Like this gorgeousness.  Oh, a conservatory?  Don’t mind if I do.


In typical jumping the gun fashion, I already planted blue hydrangeas along the front of the porch.

IMG_5934We planted the same sized Endless Summer hydrangea at our old house – in similar light conditions – and they got big within a couple years.  So…fingers crossed.

There won’t be much dough left over for decor or a crazy screen porch reveal.  Except in my mind.  But here’s a rough mock up of my plan for the vibe.

porch mock up

Black rattan chairs (Craigslist gods, please smile on me), zinc topped coffee table, neutral outdoor rug, ceiling lantern, garden stools, striped and patterned pillows, plants, etc.

Am I crazy to paint the whole thing black?  What do you guys think?  My husband did the”whatever you think is best, dear” thing.  But I’ve trained him well when it comes to design stuff.  I need an unbiased opinion.



front yard makeover

It all started with the wonky lamp post.  We weren’t planning on tackling the front yard landscaping right this second but then my husband got a wild hair about the lamp post and it all snowballed from there.

IMG_5258the view of our front yard last summer

My plan was always to scrap the lamp post.  It’s not like our front yard is so wide we need a beacon to lead people up to the house.  It’s the city – we’re a stone’s throw from the sidewalk.  A big lantern sconce to the left of the door is a better choice.  Something to balance the powder room window on the other side.

IMG_5274removing the metal railing was the right move!

This Allen + Roth beauty from Lowe’s is high on style but doesn’t break the bank.  Sold!  I got the 22” tall version.


BUT in order to figure out the exact sconce placement, we need to finalize plans for the front door, like removing the useless shutters and beefing up the trim.  I also want to paint the trim and front door the same color to amp it up more, especially since we’ll be going shutter-less eventually, when we paint the house white.

Holly’s color scheme is one of the options I’m considering.  Warm white siding, gray door and door trim, black accents (lighting, door hardware, plants….more on that later).  And she used our exact Allen + Roth sconce here.  How gorgeous is this?

holly mathis grayholly mathis

I love the simplicity of this matching door and trim.

gray front doorlisa tharp

In a surge of optimism, we started taking down the door shutters.

What the lazy bullshit is this???  Sure, let’s just paint around the shutters.  Turns out they did this on all the shutters, except the one to the left of the door.


The former owner’s mother is cuckoo and does slow drive-bys of our house on a daily basis.  She doesn’t stop to chat mind you, just slowly drives by and stares at us, even when we’re outside.  I may need to give her the finger next time.

Since we’re definitely NOT painting the house this year, we need to short-term this action.  Eyeball the width of the soon-to-be wider trim, put the sconce up in generally the right spot and color match the siding so we can paint over the shutter tan line.  For now.


Okay, back to that snowball effect.  We then ripped up the last of the pachysandra and discovered more peony shoots.  Last year I moved some peony bulbs from the forest of pachysandra so we’d have matching bushes flank the walkway.


The one on the right was established when we moved in and I’m not sure why they didn’t plant its twin on the other side.  Symmetry, people, symmetry.  So we put the newly-discovered bulbs in on the left side with the ones I transplanted last year to beef it up.  I expect the new bush won’t flower this year (too stressed) but it’ll be fine in the long run.

And we moved the purple mophead hydrangeas from the walkway and put them next to the blue lacecap hydrangeas that flank the stoop.

Then my husband says “Remind me again your plans for the walkway.”  Dwarf boxwoods and little limes, baby!


The dwarf English boxwoods we planted were only $8 each at Lowe’s.  I need to add one or two more to each side though, to make more of a hedge.


The bed on the left, behind the soon-to-be planted little limes, will get tightened up and grass planted there. To more match the bed on the right.

It’s Friday!  We’ll be gardening all weekend.  I can’t wait!

What are your thoughts, guys?  Are we on the right path?




The downside of buying a house that’s barely been touched in 60 years is super evident in our overgrown yard.  It’s bad, guys.  The backyard is a nightmare of weeds, ivy, thorny bushes, and out of control Wisteria that’s eating our neighbor’s cedar trees (I’m genuinely scared of Wisteria), plus we had to cut down two huge dead maples last year.

Take a look at this mess.  Notice the stump of former rotted tree in the back corner.  I need a back hoe.


Our other victim.


This fella had major heart rot and had to go.  I seriously cried.  But the base was hollow in the middle and I’d rather not have this fall on the house and kill us.  The plan is to plant a new red maple in the same spot this fall.

The amount of landscape design we have ahead of us is overwhelming and there are a few spots screaming for vertical gardening.  So it’s no surprise that climbing plants are catching my eye lately.

I’m thinking of trying diamond-shaped espalier vines on the back of the garage, probably with honeysuckle.  Though first I need to paint the house and garage a warm white.






 Our chimney is another spot I’m eyeing.  Currently it has a climbing hydrangea at the base, which would be a super fricking excellent idea IF this spot didn’t get blazed in afternoon sun every day.  The hydrangea leaves were brown by mid-summer last year.  I think we have to find a shadier spot where this baby can thrive.

Perhaps on a pergola over our garage door.  This should only take about 50 years.


Or climbing the house somewhere.



But I still love the idea of something gorgeous and cottage-y climbing our chimney.  Maybe New Dawn roses.



 This will only be our second summer in the house, so we’re still getting of sense of what plants we want and where they should/could go.  There’s a lot of landscaping work ahead of us this year.  If only spring would actually arrive.  The fact that there’s currently snow on the buds of our lilac bushes is not cool.



updating the front walkway and stoop

Despite the fact that I swore I wouldn’t garden this year because there was too much to do inside the house, we’ve started tackling the front yard which has been horticulturally abandoned for quite a while.  And whoever designed the plant layout in the first place was smoking pachysandra because it is messed.  Up.  Here’s how I imagine the landscaping process went.  Let’s see…make it rain pachysandra, really, I want blankets of those rooty f*ckers everywhere, hostas over here, make that 30 hostas and let ’em bleach in the sun, saw off those  Rhodies and leave tall stumps and….dude, I think we got it.  *mike drop*

So we started making changes.  First up, we took down the iron railings and planted two lacecap hydrangeas to flank the front stoop.  These will get much bigger as time goes on.

IMG_5261midway through Stage 1

We are lucky enough to have a few gorgeous pink peony bushes and some purple hydrangeas out front, so we’re not totally starting from scratch.  But those guys will get moved around a bit and fingers crossed that peonies don’t get too mad about that….cuz I already moved one of them.  The one on the right here, which I moved to match the established one on the left.   She’s a little Sadsville right now.



My plan for the walkway is to line it with dwarf boxwood and place little lime hydrangeas behind that.



Kinda like this….



The lacecap hydangea on either side of the stoop will get bigger and be more of a focal point, while the boxwood and little limes will be shorter.  Or at least that’s my hope.  And we’ll move the purple hydrangeas up against the house next to the lacecaps.  Also definitely adding big planters on either side of the door.


As far as the house goes, my plan is to…..

– Remove the shutters

– Amp up the door trim with fluted casing and crown molding

– Add a big ol’ lantern sconce to the left of the door to balance the square window

– Paint the house BM China White

I’m so glad we started making changes this year.  It feels good to jump in and knock stuff off the list instead of just fretting about it.  Now….back to work on the foyer staircase….which is my nemesis.




back deck reveal and the hunt for an outdoor loveseat

The back deck is finished…and we’re loving it!  The Dark Ash solid stain by Olympic Elite Stain and Sealant looks just how we pictured.  We’ll probably do a second coat but we’re digging how the wood grain still shows through.

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our backyard perennial beds

There’s a lot we love about living in the city and owning a single family home here.  Acreage is not one of those perks.  That said, we’re lucky that our postage stamp yard has many wonderful qualities – it’s edged with leafy maple trees, has a grassy section, our back deck is big and sturdy, we have a brick patio and we have a shed.

But since space is limited, getting the most out of our perimeter beds is important.  First though, we had to build them.  The yard used to just slope up to the fence but my husband built the retaining wall you see below.   Here it is post-retaining wall but pre-plants.


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dark painted fence

The fence on our side yard had seen better days.   It was old and rotted at the bottom.  Neighborhood cats could squeeze underneath it, using our yard as a highway and a toilet.  So help me, if I catch the cat that was pooping in our yard…there will be a reckoning.

I love the historic vibe of dark painted fences.  They remind me of Salem.  (I heart that place – we lived there after grad school and got married on Salem Common).  A darker color also provides a nice backdrop for the brighter hues of plants and flowers.

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