Our Fall Porch: 2014

Oh the difference a year can make. Last year I was making do with what we had – a faded brown house, to be exact and a front door color that didn’t help the house’s cause. Since painting in March, I’ve had so much fun playing with the outside curb appeal. We had our big Ash trees trimmed and treated in May. Our Crabapples will be trimmed this winter. I planted hydrangeas under the garage window and am excited for the day that they are big and beautiful (I was over at our friends’ house the other day in our old neighborhood and was mourning my old hydrangeas, but then I reminded myself that they started out small and dinky, too). B pulled out a Juniper shrub and we’re slowly but surely figuring out what to plant there. So, curb appeal is a process, but we’re making headway. Here’s our front porch this Fall:

Adirondack Chairs Front Porch

That table is new. Don’t worry, I didn’t shop during “No Shopping October”. I was headed out to run some errands while my mom was over the other day and drove by my favorite front porch on the way out of the neighborhood for Fall inspiration…and their neighbors had furniture out by the curb with a “FREE” sign on it. I saw this great rustic table and threw it in the back of my car as fast as I could…with a line of cars behind me waiting to get their hands on the pile. Sorry folks, this table is mine. I immediately thought of my porch when I saw it (possibly because I was out looking for porch inspiration) and it works perfectly to separate the two adirondack chairs since I didn’t want a low side table between them.  So that’s my free table story.

Fall Porch 2014 Chair

Funny story: Since we moved here a year and a half ago almost, we’ve had lots, and I do mean LOTS, of people go to the house two doors down from us before coming to our house. My friend and her kids came by for dinner last night because we were both husband-less for the evening. As they pulled up to our house, her daughter – who had knocked on the wrong door with her dad before – said, “Mom, this is not Miss Emily’s house.” Annie said, “Yes it is. This is definitely her house. Remember how we always say you know you’re at Miss Emily’s if there are pillows on the chairs on the porch? Look at her pillows.” Funny the things people know you for. Back to the porch:

My fall yarn wreath and the witch is in sign…there’s nothing new here, but I love it every year so I just stick with what works.

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Fall Wreath and Adirondack Chairs

So that’s our porch this Fall. A year makes a big difference – here it was last year. Definitely feels more like us this year. I love the ability to look back and see things evolve.

Industrial Exterior House Lights

Remember last week when I showed you our new paint colors and promised an update on the exterior lights with closeups? Well, I forgot that I had a colicky one month old (my normal blogging hours are before the kids wake up or after the kids go to bed, but those are Peter’s designated screaming time…so, yeah), a demanding 22 month old who is testing the waters and needs consistency and discipline to keep her from becoming Michelle Tanner (cute and funny and allowed to get away with s**t because of it and therefore eventually an out of control tween – our #1 goal in raising our daughter? Discipline so that she doesn’t become an Olsen twin. Or Lindsay Lohan.) and a stoic, rule following, almost 4 year old who just needs to be wrapped in a hug and told how important and special and wonderful he is. 3 very different personalities demanding attention over here at the McKevitt house these days. Happens. I’m a big believer in blog reciprocity – if you comment on my blog, I comment on yours. And hopefully vice versa. But right now the majority of my blog reading takes place at 2am…and my iphone doesn’t allow me to comment on blogger blogs for some reason. And by 6am, I forget what I’ve commented on and what I’ve just read. So don’t hold it against me, okay? One day soon, I’ll be a good blog friend again.

 

Anyway, our house. Originally, our lights were what every builder in our town installed on houses in the 90s and early 2000s. I called them the Olympic torch lights. They’re sitting on the workbench in our garage so that I can donate them for someone craftier than I am to transform, but I considered keeping one in case Tom, Nell or Peter ever has to play the Statue of Liberty in a school play. I don’t make fun of the lights to put down any previous homeowners: the house was built in 2oo1, and this was what the builder was offering. It never crossed my mind to change out the builder lights at our last house until we were close enough to moving that I didn’t want to put anymore money into it. And then the second homeowners made lots of changes to the house that are what made us buy it – hardwood floors throughout the entire first floor, built-ins in Nell’s room, etc. And I’m pretty sure, looking at all the other torch lights in our neighborhood, they painted these Oil Rubbed Bronze from brass to make them less prominent. But since we were painting, we decided to update and go with a style we like all around.

exterior lights before I showed you all the lights I was considering in this post and decided on this industrial style exterior light from Home Depot. It was the biggest scale of the three similar styles I liked best, which was important to me. I also liked that it had a dawn-to-dusk feature. We’re not good about remembering to turn lights off during the day, and so my electrical engineer husband opts for leaving our exterior lights off so we don’t waste precious commodities (and money). But I like the security of having lights on at night…so this works well for us.

exterior lights after

B installed the lights the day the painters finished and I adore them. gray house paint industrial lights

The Home Depot reviews are mediocre, but that’s based on a motion sensor feature we don’t use (motion sensor lights freak me out…probably the point, huh?) I will say, we accidentally had them set to motion sensor the first night and they seemed to work fine. So I love the lights, and I’d buy them again in a heartbeat.

So that’s the latest on our curb appeal updates. I love my Dark Sky Association approved lights – they definitely make our house more “ours” and less the now defunct builder’s.

Operation Curb Appeal: Gray House Paint

I thought about holding off on this post until the grass is green and the trees have leaves, but in the spirit of sharing things as they happen, here’s a big curb appeal update before Mother Nature kicks in her contribution. Last week, we had the exterior of our house painted. The faded brown paint needed to go and I knew that our house hadn’t been painted since it was built in 2001 so was likely on the HOA’s list for needing to be painted in the next year when we bought it last summer. You can read about my initial plans for the house paint – at the time I didn’t think we’d get to paint the house any color but one of the many tans or browns that the HOA currently had available, but I attended the annual meeting in January where they were talking about adding new colors to the scheme and was excited to see that they were including a few new colors to liven up the neighborhood. I jumped on the gray option (our HOA limits how many houses can be painted a color in a general area, and I knew I wanted our house to go gray), immediately submitted my proposal to paint, and lined up our painters. We also had our garage door replaced since the old one had holes in it and was falling apart, and replaced the outdoor lights.

 

Here’s what our house looked like when we bought it. It was a very faded brown that had some yellow undertones in certain faded patches. And some patched paint that was a totally different color than the rest of the house. The trim color was also only one shade lighter than our house color which I didn’t love – I like white trim – and the accent color on the door and one pair of shutters was barely darker than the house. It was monochromatic to say the least.

House Before

And here it was in February, with my commentary of all the things that I wanted to change called out:

house issues

And here is our house now. My friend Jules was over the day the painters were finishing up and as she left she said, “Em, this looks like a house you guys would live in, now.” And she was absolutely right…it’s very much us. We went with a deep charcoaly-blue accent color on the door and shutters, and added shutters to the porch window and big upstairs window to balance the house and extend color. You all helped me decide to bring the shutters to the second floor, and it was absolutely the right call.

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It was such a dramatic change that at first I didn’t know what to think. But as the week went on, I knew the gray with white trim and navy accents were the right call. It plays up the craftsman and cottage elements of our home and feels much more like us. And I’m quite smitten with the new exterior lights that B put up the day the painters finished up (I’ll do another post on the lights and the before and after this week – just need to get good close-ups of the new lights first).  Here’s another angle in a the bright afternoon light (which makes the gray look lighter than it really is):

kwal-sweatsirt-gray-house-paint

It’s not unlike our old house. And I’m good with that, because from a curb appeal standpoint, I adored our first house. And now I’m loving our second house from a curb appeal standpoint, too. The outside of our home means so much to me – it sets the vibe as people arrive at our home for the first time or the hundredth time. We still have some work to do: We’ll either remove or replace the storm door (undecided – maybe remove it and if we miss the breezes replace it? We love the functionality of a storm door and the cross breezes they allow from the front to the back of the house, but prefer the look of a solid front door), add some greenery and color with flowers in planters and in the surrounding landscape and pay a little attention to the porch furniture and layout. But the garage door, paint and lights were the biggies on our list for this year, and we’re loving the outcome.

Operation Curb Appeal: Exterior Lights

I have been obsessing over finding the prefect lights for our curb appeal makeover this Spring. Like, asked Mr. B on our date night on Saturday if we could please please please drive around neighborhoods before dinner to look at outdoor lighting options. And then could we maybe just swing by Lowes and Home Depot on the way home to see what they have and so I could get his opinion on styles. Because he adores me, and is a good man, he agreed, but he did say, “Em, I honestly don’t even know what lights we currently have on our house. And I probably don’t have an opinion on lights like you do.” I said, “Don’t worry. They’re ugly.”

Since I’d been obsessing about the correct light for our house for months, I had quite a few pinned to help me narrow down styles. And I was torn between going pseudo-Craftsman to play up the Craftsman elements of our exterior, or going transitional-industrial. So I put together this compilation and realized I knew what style I liked:

outdoor lighting options

One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six.

Turns out, what I thought I’d choose (the Craftsman-esque lines) isn’t what I love most. I’m drawn to the industrial/transitional down lights, at least aesthetically. When the house is painted (and shutters installed – thank you all for your feedback on that!), we’ll make sure we like the actual look and light output, but for now, that’s what I like. And if I like it, apparently in the world of exterior house lights, Mr. B likes it. And after looking at all the options in the store, I picked #5. It’s got a dusk to dawn feature, which I like and scalewise worked will with our house. The reviews are mediocre, but that appears to be about the optional motion sensor feature which I don’t intend to use, so I’m holding onto my receipt, but for the time being we’re going with #5. #4 was my next choice, but I couldn’t see it in person. So if 5 doesn’t work out, 4 it is.

 

 

Operation Curb Appeal: To Shutter or Not?

Back before I had kids…and before there was pressure to not post a picture on a blog unless it was so pretty it was Pinterest worthy, I blogged a lot more. And asked you guys questions about what you would do in blank and blank situation.  Let’s get back to that, k? Starting with an update on the future curb appeal of our not yet appealing house. As promised shortly after we moved in, our big house project for the Spring is exterior work. Operation curb appeal has been consuming my mind since we moved in, and with a promise that one day we will have green grass again, I am itching to get the ball rolling. The curb appeal has always been my biggest “meh” about our house. I mean, our last house was my dream, curb appeal-wise. If we could have doubled the lot size, added a room on each floor and put our current elementary school within walking distance of our old house, I would have never moved. But, it turns out that lot size and the physical location of schools are a lot harder to change than paint colors and outdoor lights.  Who knew? Here’s a look at the current state of affairs:

house issues

I think the main issue with the picture above is how faded everything is. I’m sure that in its youth, this color scheme worked. But in it’s 14 years of faded by Southern Colorado sun glory, it’s not working. You cannot see in this pic the Olympic torch porch and garage lights we’ll be replacing, but those will all change (not necessarily to the lights and door I badly photoshopped in below, I was just playing around and forgot to save the previous draft and am too tired to undo it). The front door and storm door will also change.

So here’s the question. Notice in the top picture how we only have shutters on our garage window? That’s bugged me. Always. When B’s mom met me at the house during our inspection to pick the babies up and take them back to our house for naps, she looked around the neighborhood for a few minutes before hand and said, “Have you noticed that this exact model usually has shutters on all the big windows, and not just the garage window?” And that got the wheels turning. I had originally planned to just yank off the imbalanced garage shutters, but I think bringing an accent color (as long as it doesn’t blend into the house color) to the windows would look great. So we’re adding shutters to the main floor window for sure. Like below:

No Top Shutters And maybe to the top level, too. I think I like the idea of bringing the door and shutter color up to the top floor. The only hangup I have is the craftsman window trim at the top that doesn’t usually lend itself to shutters. Our painter said they just change that out when they install the shutters, so no big deal, but I do like the trim. So above is the top window shutterless. And below is the top window shuttered (my photoshopping is mediocre at best, so this is just to give an idea – not a final representation).

Top Shutters

I’m leaning towards shutters on the top window, to bring the color accent up on the house. But I suppose there’s always the option to get the house painted, and install the top shutters later if we think it’s necessary. But it sounds a whole lot easier (and more likely to happen) if we just do it all at once. But, enough about me. What do you prefer?

It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas

At our first house, B and I always oogled the beautiful, big Christmas lights that perfectly outlined rooftops. We had small white twinkly lights at our old house and I had my wreaths on the windows, but we never invested the time or money into new lights for our roof line – partially because our upper roof line was so steep that B told me from the get-go lights up there weren’t going to happen.

But at this house, the roof is just ever so slightly more walkable, making the upper roof line Christmas lights-able. So, I started looking for Christmas light inspiration, and the first image I came across was basically a slightly grander version of our house. I jokingly sent it to B with text along the lines of, “I expect our house to look like this this year. And if we ever need more room, we can just add on over the garage and add dormer windows!” And B was equally as impressed with the lights (not so much the fact that I’m already doing additions to our house in my head. This girl just likes to be prepared.). So, we went out Christmas light shopping. And then I started to feel guilty, so I declared that the lights and his labor were my “Want” for Christmas this year.

House at Christmas

Every time I pull up to our house I just smile. I think one of the smart things we did was that we immediately started making memories here – from hosting Tom and Nell’s birthday here a week after we moved to just welcoming poeple in regardless of the state of a room or the entire house, moving in and living our real lives here has made a huge difference in making us feel at home. But, there’s something magical about decorating a house for its first Christmas with your family – the decorations inside and out just make it truly feel like its ours.

Our Fall Porch: The Beginning

A few weeks ago I posted our plans for our home’s curb appeal. And in that post, I mentioned that I’d paint our rocking chair black and hang a black porch swing next Spring when we have the house painted, and make a few other changes. But the more I thought about it, the more black didn’t seem right. I had originally mentioned maybe painting our door green, but the more B and I talked about it, the more we realized we wouldn’t like life without a storm door to let air in on cool days. And I wouldn’t cover a craftsman door up with a storm door. So we’re now thinking a black front door and a black storm door (like this) are the answer to our front door needs, and I’m fully on-board and embracing the classic traditional-ness of a black door.

So, with the door going black, black porch furniture seemed like too much, and I was hankering for color. I decided two green Adirondack chairs (like we had in our old side yard and left with the house) were exactly what we needed for our front porch. I started searching and couldn’t find any that were a reasonable price and the color green I loved.

We didn’t love these chairs from our side yard – they didn’t hold up very well (B and our neighbor had to tighten the bolts on the chairs every time we wanted to sit in them), so we chose to buy pre-made ones instead of kits this time around. I found the Westport Adirondacks from Shine Co. at a local Colorado furniture store on clearance for $65 each in Sage Green – great for Fall, and I can always paint them if I want a brighter green next year.

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Nell was napping and T was at his first day of school, so I dug my Fall yarn wreath out of the basement storage and hung that up, too.

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I’m glad we didn’t wait until Spring to add anything to the porch – I’ll plant a few mums in the planter in a couple weeks, and then add Halloween pillows and pumpkins in October – and I think Fall might be one of my favorite porch seasons. I’m anxious, of course, to paint next year, but until then, this is a great first step.

Fall Porch

I’m happy with the direction things are going outside – and anxious to make other changes, but willing to wait now that we have a colorful place to sit and watch the kids on their bikes. What do you think?

Curb Appeal: The Plan

A long, long time ago, I can still remember how the music used to make me smile. Just kidding. A long, long time ago, my cousin asked me to send her a picture of the outside of our house. And I didn’t (sorry, Liz :/), because, truth be told, I don’t love the outside of our house as it stands now so I don’t think to photograph it much. I’m fine with it, I’m not embarrassed of it, but it doesn’t have the charm that our first home did – yet. It was hard to give up that perfect craftsman exterior. And as much as I miss the look of not having a garage at the front of our house, we love the big backyard we gain as a result of having a front garage. Compromises, I guess. Our new house has great craftsman potential – small square windows and craftsman-esque trim, but it’s not there yet. And curb appeal’s a little bit daunting because it’s such a big – and expensive – task.

House exterior before

When we drove up on a snowy Tuesday morning in April to see the house, I knew the curb appeal had potential, but it wasn’t what it could be. I loved that while it did have a front garage, it was at least a side garage so that the majority of the exterior isn’t covered by garage. I also loved the craftsman windows on the second floor. It was also obvious the house hadn’t been painted since it was built 13 years ago, so we knew we’d need to budget for that in the first year of living here. As part of our due dilligence, we had to approve the HOA documents, and I was totally bummed to see that there are approximately 7 shades of brown or beige that our house is approved to be painted – our brown being the best option (when it’s not faded by 13 years of sunlight. So, in the next year, I’ll have to see if the HOA has any plans to expand the neutral color palate of our neighborhood.  I’d love our house to be the same gray as our last one, but, since I’m assuming they’ll say no, I’m making my plans assuming our house will be the same color it is now, just not faded.

house exterior - proposal

So, here’s my plan. Repaint – if we can go with a darker brown or a gray, great, if not just refreshing the existing color will do wonders. We’ll repaint all the trim – which currently blends in with the brown – a crisp white. I want to remove the curvy trim above the porch and install straight trim,and add a railing to our porch. Add craftsman shutters to our windows – the window on the garage, not pictured, has traditional shutters, but the rest of the house is lacking. I’d love to add board and batten shutters to the main window on the main floor and the main window upstairs, as well as replace the traditional shutters on the garage window with the same. New exterior lights and house numbers will also be fun ways to add craftsman touches to the house. We’ll paint the current bland front door (or maybe replace it with a cool craftsman one) – either black or a fun green (our HOA does allow colorful doors, but so far everyone has painted theirs red, so I’m sure my apple green will raise some eyebrows). Oh, and I’ll be hanging a black porch swing on that porch next summer, too. And painting the rocking chair black, too.

Just for fun, here’s a mock-up of our house painted gray. You know, just in case.

house exterior gray

Eventually, we’d love to remove a low-lying evergreen shrub that doesn’t do much for the house (on the right in the pictures above) and replace it with a flower garden. The original homeowner’s invested a lot into landscaping the backyard and some of the front, and I love that it’s low maintenance, but I’d love for a small flower garden and I think that evergreen is the perfect location. The tree and shrubs in front of the garage need some attention and curb appeal, too, but that’s probably phase 2.

Our plan is to save our pennies for these projects and get the house painted next spring or early summer. Hopefully we can do the trim work ourselves before the painting. You can check out my pinterest board to see everything I’m loving for curb appeal these days.  Lots of this hinges on HOA approval, but I couldn’t share our current exterior pic without showing you how we hope it will look in less than a year. What do you think?

Garden Update

We’ve had a very warm Spring for Colorado. Normally I plant our tomatoes and basil the first week of June, but I decided to risk it this year and move it up a month. I have wall-o-waters around the tomatoes and milk jug terrariums for the basil plants at night, and I figure that for what I spent on the plants (super sale got me a tomato plant and 3 basil plants for $6), if my experiment doesn’t work out, no tears will be shed. I’ll hold off another couple weeks on the rest of our starts, but I couldn’t wait to get the basil and one tomato plant (I’m experimenting to see if we can get fruit earlier this year) in the ground. Patience has never been my strong suit. 



Our “cool-weather” lettuce, spinach and kale have been producing like crazy, too, and I love eating our dinner salads from the garden every night. 

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Imperfect Gardening

I’m ready for Spring. We had a really moderate early winter in Colorado – I was at the park with Thomas in a tank top several January days. But February reared its ugly head and I’ve got a big case of Spring Fever.

So, I’m planning our vegetable (and herb) garden. I’m making a conscious effort to be better about eating from the garden this year. I’m not a great vegetable eater, but I know the importance of A) eating healthily and B) setting a good example for my son who’s also not a great vegetable eater, so I’m committing myself to the process this year. Plus, I thought the garden would be a fun project for T and I to work on together this summer. I’ll have plenty of time on my hands this summer with a toddler and a newborn to have special projects for just me and Thomas, right? We don’t have a very big garden, and generally I successfully grow basil, one or two other plants (last year it was lettuce in spring and eggplant in the summer), and a too-late-for-my-patience-level harvest tomato. So this year I’m planning better.

Last year’s tomatoes were super late to produce fruit, so I’m doing an experiment this year – container planting and ground planting. I usually start the tomatoes from seed and am lucky to transplant one. But I decided last week that was ridiculous – we don’t have room to try lots of different varieties, so I’m just going to buy a few starts this year and call it good.. We’ll see how it goes. I’m also considering trying a Wall O Water for an earlier planting date. Verdict’s out on that one. 
While searching for square foot gardening inspiration, I found this photo and it’s a perfect depiction of the space we have, though I think we’ll opt for not building up the garden into a raised bed this year and do it next year if this year is a flop:

Anyone else have their garden plans ready to go? I can’t wait to get the dirt under my fingernails – Mr. B turned over the bed yesterday and we’ll mark out the plots this week, then it’s lettuce time!

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