Silver Linings Bathroom Renovation Plan

Posted on June 11, 2013. Filed under: Home |

Over the past few months we’ve called in some contractors to assess our bathroom situation. To refresh your memory, we have a half bath downstairs that is now in good shape after a few tweaks.


We have a full bathroom off of the upstairs hallway that has had one too many doses of Pepto.


There’s also a funky linen closet in here built over the staircase. It slants. I have to lean in to reach things on the top shelf and almost always lose my balance and catch my fall on the lower shelf. Not fun.

Our master is what people these days are calling a ¾ bath. We have a toilet, sink, and standing shower. The shower is a pretty good size. The rest of the bathroom is not. I shared all the dirty details about our master bath a few weeks ago.

Here’s a very rough illustration by yours truly of our upstairs layout so you can get a better idea of what we’re working with here:

photo (1)

Sorry for the poor quality. The scanner wasn’t working, so this is an iPhone photo of my drawing. I’m high-tech.

Adam and I have had some passionate debates about our bathroom remodel project. For the record, I’ve said all along that we’re better off re-doing what we’ve got rather than changing the layout. We don’t plan to stay in this house forever so we have to be careful how much money we pour into it.

But Adam wanted to explore all of our options and hear from someone besides his wife (with no construction experience) about those options. At first he wanted to combine the 2 upstairs bathrooms since they share a wall. Then we would create a small Jack-and-Jill bath between the two guest bedrooms across the hall. I didn’t think it was possible without some very wonky bedroom layouts and taking space away from an already small bedroom.

Then we discussed the pros and cons of moving our master bath to where our walk-in closet is, using that space and the space from the office’s walk-in closet (it butts up against our closet) to make our bathroom. We would convert our existing master bath into our new walk-in closet.

The pros for this plan:

· Maintain the size and location of hall bath

· We could renovate the hall bath ourselves since it would only require cosmetic changes

· Have a decent-sized master bathroom

· Walk-in closet would become larger

The cons

· Lots of wall moving

· Running new plumbing which would entail tearing up and repairing the ceiling downstairs, possibly demolishing our newly tiled floor in the half bathroom, not to mention making darn sure the drains would drain from over there – expensive

· I’d want to punch out a window or sky light – expensive

· The chimney runs up that side of the house limiting our window options. Le sigh

· Pocket door or moving door down the wall because the current closet door already opens into Adam’s nightstand. This would involve tearing up another wall – expensive

· Taking away a rare 2nd walk-in closet from our mid-century home

· Decreasing the square footage of a rather large secondary bedroom

I agreed with Adam that we should have a few contractors come in to give us some estimates on these crazy ideas before we ruled a major renovation out and went on with a regular ‘ole renovation. To Adam’s point: at least we would know what could or could not be done and how much it would cost before we “settled” on a straight cosmetic renovation.

The first contractor we called was a typical contractor, no offense to you contractors out there. He didn’t show up. Out of the two of us, the more sweet, patient, and forgiving one (my husband), called him to reschedule. He claims his Google calendar crashed. Riiiight. Adam rescheduled. Contractor called 1 hour before appointment and said something came up. Peace out contractor.

We learned our lesson not to find a contractor on Kudzu and sought the advice of friends. Adam’s boss recommended someone who we called, he answered the phone, we scheduled an appointment, he showed up early and knew what he was talking about. Crazy, right?! But the sad news is that after much brainstorming, the only way we can expand our master bath is if we build a bump-out addition off our second floor in the back. This would require a lot of layout changes upstairs and would be close in price to a nice, new luxury car. Oy vey!

So we thanked our contractor, told him we thought it was impossible before we called him but wanted to make sure before we started working with what we have. We plan to call him in a few years when we begin our kitchen remodel.

We are disappointed that nothing can be done except for a large addition. We’re not really surprised though. What is so limiting is that all of our bathrooms are on the front of the house so we cannot add to them where they are unless we want our house to look super weird. Despite our disappointment, I think some good things will come out of this setback.

· Since the bathrooms will maintain their current footprint, we’ll save money because now we can do most of the work ourselves

· The money saved will either allow us to do a kitchen remodel sooner or better

· We won’t have strange men in and out of our house every day for a few months

· We won’t have to move to a spare bedroom for a few months

· We won’t risk investing a ton of money in our house that we may not get back resale

· WE are in charge of our project timeline and are in more control of how long the renovation will take

As project manager (self-appointed), I hope to have some demolition news for you soon. I’m wary that the bathroom tile is affixed with mesh and mortar. If you’ve read this post on Young House Love, you know that it almost killed John to get it out of there. Say your prayers!

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The Rock Garden

Posted on June 7, 2013. Filed under: Gardening, Home, Purdy Things |

I realize the majority of my posts the last year have been yard-related. We’ve really been trying to get our yard in shape for the summer. It’s getting there. I get prouder every day.

A couple outdoor updates for you…

We were good members of our community when we ordered 25 bales of pine straw from the local high school for their PTSA fundraiser. Too bad those high schoolers didn’t spread it. But now we have fresh pine straw at the mail box and in the backyard where we ripped out ivy. Huzzah!




You can see that my tulips by the mailbox were in full bloom a few weeks ago. They were so pretty. I hope they bloom next year.



We’ve filled in the cavities in the backyard dug by this guy:


We spread some fescue seed and we’re crossing our fingers, saying our prayers, hopping on one foot, sacrificing a lamb, and wishing and hoping we’ll get some grass to grow up ins here. So far, so good.

And the purpose of everything I’ve shared up to this point is to build your anticipation for the minor reveal of my rock garden. I use that term loosely.

To the left of the staircase that leads to our patio is a pretty slope with ivy, what looks like daylilies, and rocks. I filled in the gaps with salvia (a perennial so it will come back every year) and impatiens (an annual, but in my experience they tend to come back anyway).



Looks nice, right? It’s the small touches that sometimes make a nice impact.

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Chopping Down the Cherry Tree

Posted on May 31, 2013. Filed under: Gardening, Home |

This was the moment my husband has been waiting for the last 2 years. He could finally take out his revenge on this droopy, odd, cherry tree that blocks our house from the street.


Our weeping dwarf cherry tree is annoying. It’s in this weird, off-center location in our yard about 15 feet from the curb and there’s no other landscaping around it. It’s so random. And it’s short at only 4 feet tall. Wop wop. If I were planting a tree like that, I would’ve planted it near some other plantings, or made it the center of a flower bed in the backyard. There’s no rhyme or reason for its placement.

Normally I love cherry trees. We have a large, traditional cherry tree on the other side of our driveway that is absolutely gorgeous when it blooms for about 2 weeks in the spring.


It’s attractive other parts of the year too. I love its height and shape and the way it arches over the driveway.

The weeping cherry blooms for about 2 days and then gets all its leaves.

weeping cherry

During the winter (about 6 months of the year), it looks like a wonky, droopy pile of twigs. It’s not attractive.


We decided to postpone axe-murdering our tree (pun intended) until it was the right time to sod. I didn’t want a big circle of dirt in our front yard where the tree had been for too long. As most projects lead to other projects, we also decided to tackle some of the weaker areas of our front yard with centipede sod or more liriope. But that’s for another day. This feature is purely Americana. By George, we’re chopping down a cherry tree!

Adam’s twin brother, Ryan, was in town so we obviously put him to work. The men took loppers and pruning shears and cut off all the droopy parts of our dwarf tree.



Then they took turns with the ax.


And the hatchet.

They put their backs into it. They chopped and chopped and pushed him over.


Ahhhhh…. Our yard can breathe. You can see our house. Hallerlujah!

Next came the stump digging.

And the hole filling.

And now we’ll sod.



Our evil supervisor with crazy eyes:


It looks so much better. Next step: sod!

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Posted on May 22, 2013. Filed under: Home |

I have a confession to make. Well a few confessions, I suppose.

I am extremely embarrassed by the state of our master bathroom.



And it’s not its teeny weeny size that makes me blush. I am a believer that good things come in small packages:

tiffanysImage courtesy of Tiffanys



Image courtesy of http://www.worldcarfans.com

I am ashamed about the dirt and grime and God-knows-what-else that accumulated in here for years before we called this place home.



Somebody did not like cleaning. Somebody also did not lay the floor tile right or grout correctly or seal sufficiently or nothing. That’s right, I threw out the double negative. This bathroom gets me going. Look at the gunk stuck between the shower tiles! It doesn’t help that we live in Atlanta, with sticky humidity 8 months out of the year. Moisture problemos. Ew.


That is the exhaust fan. Do you see all that dust build-up? I removed the cover to clean it and this is what I found.

What is WRONG with people???


I clean this bathroom every week. I get on my hands and knees with harsh chemicals, a toothbrush, and elbow grease. It doesn’t matter. This shower has passed the point of no return with gunky mildew and possibly mold (though I haven’t found any of that yet, I wouldn’t be surprised if it were hiding).


There are mineral deposits all over the shower doors. I spent over an hour one day on one side of one door trying to get it all off. It didn’t work and I gave up.

We also have this awkward gap between the vanity and the shower that only serves to collect dirt and grime:


Which leads me to my next confession… Since I cannot get the grime off the doors and I cannot get the cement-like gunk off of the shower floor, I do not waste my time deep-cleaning in here. I know. I’m hanging my head low. Don’t get me wrong. I clean in here every week with disinfectant and scrub brushes, but I rarely pull out the big guns. I don’t clean the shower doors except for a quick wipe down. It’s simply not worth it. The only thing that will remove this crud is a jackhammer. I accepted that fact a long time ago. And it’s another reason I don’t bust my tush to thoroughly clean in here. I know this bathroom will be nothing but a memory very soon. I pray that’s the case. Do you hear me, God?

Whew. I feel better now that I got that off my chest. I can’t believe I confessed all of that. And yes, we shower in there every day. I sleep at night knowing that the surface of the gunk has been cleaned.

We’ve been pinching our pennies and doing our research. We’ve called in contractors and visited tile stores. I’m happy to report that this bathroom is about to get OVERHAULED! I will blog about it here – all our misadventures, our successes, and the demolition of Nasty McShowerson. So hold on to your Jockey shorts, this is going to be an adventure!

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Bathroom Remodel – Practice Round: Part 2

Posted on May 3, 2013. Filed under: Home |

When I last left off, you were looking at our half bath in demolition stage. It was ugly and sticky (for real). It was also pretty smelly between the toilet pipe and the glue remover. Just thank your lucky stars you can look at pictures and not get the whole experience.

Small confession: the bathroom tile and trim were completed in September 2012. Yes, I’m slow to post. However, we just installed our new window treatment and I accessorized. So the half bath is officially done and ready for sharing. Boy does it look better! It looks especially nice with this great new faucet we picked out:


Who doesn’t want to wash their hands under a water-breathing dragon?!?! Just kidding. We didn’t get this fixture. Can you imagine the conversations it would start?

Back to our bathroom…Adam and his dad measured for the 12” tiles with grout lines. They laid the cut tiles in the far-end of the room so cut tiles aren’t the first thing you see if they were at the threshold. It’s all in the details, people. The men applied the thin-set, scoring it with their trowel, and laid the tile with those little spacer thingies. We let it dry for 24-hours before we grouted.

I got to grout. It was messy, but satisfying. It took me a few hours to grout this small space, but I was a beginner. Adam’s dad mixed the grout for me and put it in what looked like a pastry bag. I piped the grout into the grout lines and used the float to wipe away excess or guide it into other gaps. As I went, I used a wet sponge for further clean-up. Once all of the lines were grouted, I wiped the floor 3 or 4 times with a wet sponge to wipe away all remnants of grout on the tiles. I had to change my bucket of water many times. Thanks to Dad for helping with that! We let the grout dry for 24-hours and I wiped the tiles yet again. Once dry, Adam opened the window and sealed the grout with an aerosol sealer.

About 48-hours after the grout was applied, we re-installed the toilet and sink. Because of the tile, the sink was higher than it used to be. We had to caulk it to the wall again, but it covered the original caulk line.

Next up was the trim. My dad came over with his saw and nail gun and helped Adam install the baseboard. This bathroom really was a family affair. Adam purchased primed baseboard at Lowes. Dad and Adam measured twice, cut once, and installed the baseboard with an electric nail gun in about an hour. A few weeks prior to this, I sanded down all of the shoe molding, stained it a darker color to match the vanity, and added polyurethane.


Once the baseboard was installed, Adam easily reinstalled the shoe molding since we were able to salvage all of it and there were already nail holes. After that, I taped everything and painted the baseboard a bright white.

I wiped down the door frame and door and painted touch-ups where necessary. I also had a quart of paint mixed to match the walls. I used this to touch-up quite a few places that desperately needed it.

We got a new toilet paper holder. Adam hated the old one. It was crazy how vehement he was about it. I do have to give it to him though. The new one looks so much better.


We threw away the ugly rubber roller shade. I freakin’ hate that thing. When we moved in, we had 3 of them, now we’re down to 1.



The one remaining is for a window that is in the shower of the hall bath. I don’t know if there is any way to get around that since it gets wet. I’ve considered removing it all together and adding a frosted decal to the window. But that window is on the front of the house and Adam thinks it will look weird. And you’ll still see the shape of a naked person if they take a shower at night. Ooo la la. Anyway… we custom-ordered a café plantation shutter that took about 8 long weeks to arrive. Café meaning that it is not the full height of the window. It allows a lot of natural light in but still protects the privacy of the potty-goer.


Wowza! What a difference it makes. I love that it allows so much natural light in and it looks classier than that rubber shade. Thank goodness.

All that was left were a few accessories.



These glass shelves were here when we moved in, but they were in the master bath. We moved them downstairs and added a cute red plate with a smelly candle on it (HomeGoods), a framed photo of Grand Central (HomeGoods for frame, IKEA for print), a bud vase with a fake red bloom (IKEA), a red bowl with natural filler balls (HomeGoods), and finally, a photo of my wedding shoes since they correspond with the theme of city/boutique and one of my pairs was red. If you know me, are you surprised I wore two pairs of shoes at my wedding???



So there you have it. A half-bath updated with a few changes that we think make a big difference!








This bathroom was a great practice round for the next two bathrooms that we’re tackling. More info coming soon!

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Bathroom Remodel – Practice Round: Part 1

Posted on April 8, 2013. Filed under: Home |

We recently made a few changes to our half bathroom that deserves some sharing. Even before the makeover, it was the best looking bathroom in our house:


We have plans to re-do all of the bathrooms, but we wanted to start with this one as a warm-up.


What we changed in here:

  1. The floor. We went from cheap vinyl tiles made to look like stone to ceramic tile made to look like stone. Much better.
  2. The trim. We replaced the baseboard and refinished the shoe molding.
  3. Re-caulked the sink.
  4. The toilet paper holder. Snazzy. I know this is the kind of exciting news you long to hear.
  5. The window treatment.
  6. The wall décor.
  7. Touch-up paint.

Our biggest project was the floor and we had a lot of help from Adam’s dad. When Adam’s parents came to visit in August they brought a bunch of tools to help us with home projects, one of them being a wet saw. Thank you thank you thank you.

A week before they came, I brought home a handful of tile samples and laid them on the floor of the bathroom. Pretty easy to make our decision once we got them all in there and looked at them at night and during the day.

To prep the room, we removed the toilet, sink/vanity, and the glass shelves. Adam carefully ripped out the baseboard in an effort to save it. That’s nearly impossible. A bunch of it broke.


We were able to salvage all of the shoe molding. A lot of it wasn’t even nailed down. I refinished it in a darker stain to match the vanity. Adam and his dad peeled up the vinyl tile.


It was super sticky so they had to use industrial strength adhesive remover and a scraper on a long handle to remove all of the glue. If you ever do this, make sure you have proper ventilation. We had windows open and fans going. Then we waited for the floor to dry.


This is what the bathroom looked like after demo. What a mess!


I’ll be back soon with an update on how things shaped up after new tile, trim, window treatment, and accessories.

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Spring Has Sprung a New Wreath

Posted on March 11, 2013. Filed under: Hobbies, Home, Uncategorized |

I love me some wreaths, but they are so expensive. No wonder my mother always makes hers. I have a fall wreath, I have a Christmas wreath I bought at Pier 1 on sale, but that’s it. Time for a spring/summer wreath.

Styrofoam wreath form
Brightly colored yarn (I have 2 colors)
Coordinating fabric scraps (about 3-5 different fabrics at 1/2 yd each)
Hot glue gun
Straight pins


1. Tie the end of your yarn around the wreath and affix the knot with hot glue


2. Wrap the yarn around the wreath form covering all the styrofoam, hot gluing every few inches.

3. Switch colors when you like. Tie different yarns together and glue knot to wreath form on the back of wreath


4. Once you’ve finished wrapping the wreath, straighten any overlapping/criss-crossing yarn.

5. To make your fabric flowers, I followed Katie Bower’s tutorial.

6. I used straight pins and pinned the flowers to the wreath in an arrangement I liked.






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Door Knobs and Photo Bombs

Posted on March 5, 2013. Filed under: Dog, Home |

Random title, I know. This post is really all about door knobs, but you’ll see what I mean about the photo bombs if you keep reading. What a ham.

We have a home improvement list. It’s very long. It keeps getting longer even though we cross items off all the time. It’s funny though. We love our house. It’s in relatively good shape. But we’re addicted to projects and putting our own stamp on things. I suppose that’s what makes a house a home.

One of the many items on our home improvement list is to replace all the interior doors with nicer, MATCHING, paneled doors. This includes hardware.



I think details like this are the ones you tend to ignore or are completely blind to when you fall in love with your future home. Just like we didn’t notice our purple hall walls until the final walk-through (we’d already seen the house 3 times at this point, one of them being for a few hours when the inspector was there), we didn’t notice that the interior doors are very inconsistent and the hardware is even worse. These details are hard to notice to the less familiar eye, but when there is consistency I think there is a huge aesthetic improvement.

At this moment in time, we don’t want to spend a lot of cash on new interior doors. It would be expensive, time consuming, and it’s not exactly a sexy thing to spend your money on. We’ve decided to replace doors as we re-do certain areas of the house. For instance, we see a bathroom reno in our future, so while we’re redoing everything bathroom related, it will make sense to replace the bathroom door and its hinges.

In terms of door hardware, we’re taking a different approach a la my homies from Young House Love. I can call them my homies because my friend and I met them when they came to Atlanta for their book tour.


It was better than meeting Zach Morris – er Mark Paul something-or-other (my other big celebrity meeting). I digress. This project was all their idea and I want to give them due credit. So you should check out their post on ORB-ing doorknobs because they do a darn good job of explaining the how-to. That’s why they are so awesome. Basically what I’m telling you is that you should click on their link for the how-to because this post is all about how I copied them and what my results were.

We have a lot of interior doors in our house: 15 if you don’t count the 2 sets of closet sliding doors. Of the 15 doors, only 4 of them are the type of door we want: paneled.


Yikes. See why we’re slowly replacing them? Of the 15 sets of hardware, 11 are knobs, 4 are handles; 14.5 are brass and .5 is nickel. Yes, you read that right. The inside of our closet door handle is nickel and the outside is brass. It drives me BONKERS. It’s already bad enough that some doors have handles versus knobs. But to have a different finish on either side of the door? That’s like wearing navy blue with black. Bad.


And just like we don’t want to put down hundreds of doll-hairs to replace interior doors, we’re not inclined to do that for the hardware either – particularly when it works just fine. And then I was inspired by John & Sherry Petersik and the rest is home makeover history.

We decided to refinish our knobs in Oil-Rubbed Bronze spray paint. The Petersiks swear that it’s worked for them: no chipping and scratching. And what do we have to lose? We hate the door hardware as it is so we might as well try the less expensive option first. We replaced the hardware on our front door this summer in oil-rubbed bronze and a minor mishap (i.e. I locked us in the basement so Adam had to kick in the door) forced us to replace another knob in oil-rubbed bronze. So we’re on the right track for consistent finishes. We are leaving the door HANDLES as is. We’ll eventually replace these with ORB knobs.

On a Thursday evening after work I stopped by Lowes to buy the spray paint, deglosser, and 400 grit sandpaper. Over the weekend, we removed all the knobs, keeping the pairs and their screws together on this giant piece of cardboard.


Then we lightly sanded and deglossed.



We had a big block of styrofoam from a new power tool, so we used it to hold all the knobs.


Adam stuck them in the foam by their pointy parts. He he. Unfortunately, the styrofoam wasn’t big enough which led to Adam’s creative jerry rig of old bathroom baseboard (yes, I owe you an update) to hold the knobs.


About 5 thin coats later, plus another spot coat on their undersides, and they were ready to cure. I brought the knobs back in our basement to cure for 48 hours.

After 2 days of drying time to decrease the chance of scratches, Adam reinstalled all of the knobs. Side note: when we removed them, we stuck labeled painters tape on the back of each one so we could easily put them back where they belong.


We also put some tape around the knob to protect from scratches as we were screwing them back. I sprayed some paint into a plastic cup and used a small craft brush to paint the screw heads after re-installation.

And here you have it (with our photo bomber):








Looks so much better, right? We are 73% on our way to matching interior door hardware. What what?

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Lookin’ Good in the Neighborhood: Part 2

Posted on February 27, 2013. Filed under: Gardening, Home |

I’m back with the details on our recent landscaping adventure! We were able to get 35 plants installed, watered, and pine straw spread in 24 hours. There were definitely some celebratory adult beverages to be had after that accomplishment!

Of course I wanted to get the plants the crew delivered in the ground as soon as possible. When it comes to home improvement projects, I have no patience. Fortunately, we had a mild Saturday in January with temperatures in the low 70s. We took advantage of it and planted the 10 boxwoods, 10 yew, 3 winter daphne, and 12 autumn ferns.

It was A LOT of work, but we saved a considerable chunk of change.

This is how we did it:

1. Rake pine straw/mulch out of the way

yard 2

2. Set out plants where you want them and look at them from all angles and distances.

yard 1

3. Dig holes 1.5-2x the size of the root ball

4. Place plant in hole and back fill with a mixture of native soil and new dirt (apparently this keeps the native soil from hardening back to a brick or in our case, Georgia clay)

5. Fill in low spots with extra dirt (we did this because very mature azaleas were removed and there were low spots from where they used to be)

yard 3

6. Re-spread pine straw

7. Lay soaker hoses

This was just phase 1 of the front yard.


And I can’t really tell you how many phases there will be.



I know that our immediate priorities will be:

1. Keep transplants and new stuff ALIVE by watering. So important.

2. Remove weeping dwarf cherry tree. We hate it. It’s smack dab in the middle of the yard and blocks the view of the house. It only flowers for a few days in the spring. In the winter it’s a depressing bundle of droopy sticks. See ‘ya.



3. Re-sod some Bermuda

4. Get a lamppost for our stub.


5. Get a matching porch light.

6. Plant foundation plants along left side of house.


7. Fill-in empty space by boulders with liriope, Lenten rose, Heuchera, etc.

We invested some money in soaker hoses and a timer. This is an effective and inexpensive irrigation system, though it still cost money. But it will be worth it come summer time in Georgia. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be standing out there watering our yard in 100+ degree weather day after day. Adam spent a considerable amount of time winding the soaker hoses through the planting beds so we can make sure everything gets enough H2O.

But a pretty amazing transformation, right?





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Lookin’ Good in the Neighborhood – Part 1

Posted on February 18, 2013. Filed under: Gardening, Home |

Let’s just say that we didn’t buy our house for its front yard. Wooo-eeee. It was fugly when we bought it. Overgrown trees and bushes that hadn’t seen the sharp-end of shears in eons, two kinds of grass on the lawn, gigantic bushes flanking the driveway, and of course there was ivy. (Story of our lives.)





The front yard still has a long way to go before it meets our dreams. It will take a few years. Be patient because I know I can’t be.

So what have we done up to this point in the front?

  1. Removed big bushes at the street
  2. Mailbox planting bed
  3. Pruned crepe myrtle
  4. Pruned & fertilized hollies, gardenias, waxleaf, azaleas, snowball bush, and camellia
  5. Painted front door and shutters
  6. Planted another hydrangea

At the beginning of the fall, we received a mailer from one of our favorite local businesses: a garden center. They were offering a special that involved 2 landscaping consultations in 12 months for $99. Since we don’t know much about plants, the front yard is muy importante for curb appeal, and we have to battle a ton of shade up in our hizzy, we went for it.

Which… of course led to a design plan and more money and a contract and a landscaping crew and more money. Hehe. That’s how I roll. Just kidding. The truth is that we were so impressed with the designer that came to visit. He had tons of ideas about transplanting what we already had so we could still use it and save money; and he came up with a low maintenance design that’s perfect for our shady yard and incorporates plants that will bloom at different times of the year. Awesome. We do not have the horticultural knowledge or the aesthetic sense to come up with such a genius plan. So we paid $175 for a design plan (I think that’s cheap) which also grants us 15% of plants at the nursery for the next 12 months.

The design plan is pretty sweet. Our designer recommended Korean boxwoods, spreading plum yew, winter daphne, autumn ferns, tea olives, sweet box confusa, gardenias, azaleas, heuchera, hostas, linten rose, and silvery liriope. Oooo. The possibilities. The potential. The pretty flowers.

Our landscape designer was super flexible about what we actually wanted to tackle from the design plan. If we pulled the trigger and paid for them to do everything in this plan, it would have been quite expensive. We exchanged emails back and forth with different scenarios and what specific labor we would like to pay for versus the labor we could manage on our own. Getting our front yard in shape is like getting your body back in shape, it’s probably going to be painful, hurt your wallet, and take a lot longer than you want it to. We are resigned to the fact that it will most likely take 2 or 3 planting seasons to accomplish everything in this design plan.

So what did we decide to do in January 2013???

  • Transplant azaleas, hydrangeas, and gardenias in front of kitchen and near front walk to the left property line – landscaping crew
  • Remove waxleaf and hollies along foundation – landscaping crew
  • Plant 2 tea olives on left corner of house – landscaping crew
  • Plant 1 Japanese maple in center of planting bed in front of kitchen – landscaping crew
  • Install 5 landscaping boulders – landscaping crew
  • Spread soil amendments and pine straw – landscaping crew
  • Deliver 10 Korean boxwoods, 10 plum yew, 3 winter daphne, and 12 autumn ferns for us to install

We plan to tackle the planting bed to the right of the front door first since it will make the most impact. The existing azaleas are too big for that location, much like a lot of plants in our yard.


We opted to have the crew do the transplanting since we didn’t want to have to dig 2 holes per bush and we didn’t want to risk killing the plants with our inexperience. The azaleas’ new location is perfect: it’s the right amount of shade, they frame the yard nicely, and they act as a relaxed hedge at the property line.



We also paid for the removal of mature hollies and a waxleaf myrtle because it would have been a lot of work for Adam to remove 5 mature plants with rather large root balls. Oh the dirty jokes you could make…

I honestly didn’t remember asking the crew to install the 2 tea olives, but it was in the contract (must have overlooked that, irresponsible homeowner), and I’m glad they did since they are a little larger. Larger = bigger hole to dig. You can see them on the corner of the house in the picture below.


Speaking of… a 15 gallon Japanese maple requires a humongous hole. And it’s an expensive tree. We’d rather pay someone else to do it and get the 12 month guarantee on plants AND labor. Yep. There’s not much to see of the maple at this point since it’s dormant. It will be beautiful in the fall if our other Japanese maple is any indication.

Boulders are heavy. ‘Nuff said.


Soil amendments and pine straw are a part of the planting process. What we didn’t realize are two things: that they would edge the pine island for us near the street, and how much difference some fresh pine straw makes in improving your curb appeal.

All of the plants we had delivered are for the planting bed to the right of the front door. We are saving some major change by planting the rest ourselves.

So this is how everything looked after the landscaping crew:




Our stubby lamppost above…

It’s amazing what a difference there is! You can see our house! We were so giddy… until we saw the plants waiting for us on the parking pad…



Next time, I’ll tell you how we went about getting 35 plants in the ground in 1 and half days. And you’ll get to see “after” pictures for phase 1.

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