Curb Appeal Upgrades: Landscaping

You know why I find landscaping and gardening frustrating? Because those activities require patience. Ain't nobody got time for that!

When I go to plant nurseries, I always want to buy the big, gorgeous mature plants and trees that will instantly transform our yard. I have no interest in those tiny things that will take years to become the tree/bush/vine that I envisioned. But inevitably my cheapness wins out (along with my fear of killing an expensive plant), and I come home with a bunch of small plants I know will take years to look as great as I imagine – and that's taking the risk that I will actually keep them alive until then!

 Anyway, we've been batting around ideas to improve the landscaping in our front yard. We are very fortunate to live on a lush, tree lined street. The mature trees and greenery were one of the main things that attracted us to the house when we were searching, especially after viewing a lot of newer houses that lacked mature landscaping.

However, the yard is almost completely shaded for most of the year, and that can be challenging for landscaping. There are a lot of plants that need full sun to grow properly – including most forms of grass. Fortunately for us most of our grass is growing OK, but we have some other blank spots in our landscaping that we really want to fill in. I think some simple landscaping would drastically improve our curb appeal. We've been hunting for partial shade/full shade plants and trees that would work with our heavily shaded lawn and add some much needed color.

Our house is very... brown. I want to pick plants and trees specifically for their ability to break up some of the brown color on the house. We have a couple of blank brick walls that are calling out for some taller plants, like this big wall in front of the garage.

We have the same problem with this wall directly to the left of our front door:

This is another area of the lawn that could use some love. It's not looking that great these days. 

I put some of the photos into Polyvore to do a couple mockups of what I think could really spiff up our curb appeal. My favorite options include adding colorful and sculptural trees, plus framing out the windows with some dark shutters.

exterior shutter idea

Exterior Curb Appeal

Can you see the difference between that mockup and what we have right now?

Our plan is to add some colorful bushes and trees to the wall in front of the garage, along with something really bright on the side of the house where we have nothing but a blank wall. Then we'll fill in that other blank wall by the front door with some sculptural evergreens. And I really think the shutters add a lot to the house. We'll probably have to make those ourselves to be the perfect size. I'll add it to the husband's honey-do list!

Once the storm season is over here in Dallas/Fort Worth, we'll probably replace our roof and have the trim and siding repainted a slightly lighter color. (We had a hail storm shortly after we moved in last year and still haven't used our insurance money to replace the roof. We were told we should just wait out the current storm season and do it in the fall.)

So what's on my landscaping wishlist?

landscaping wishlist

Clockwise from top left: Japanese maple (preferably a laceleaf version if I get my way), Nandina (my parents brought us a bunch they bought on clearance), Creeping Jenny for bright green ground cover, emerald green arborvitae, knockout roses and a beautiful Robinson Crabapple.

The good news is that we have a gorgeous inspiration home right down the street. Our neighbors have by far the nicest landscaping on the block, so I've been studying their plants for inspiration. If it works in their yard a few hundred feet from us, I figure it will work for us!

Isn't their yard gorgeous? It's definitely maintained by professional landscapers, and we don't have that luxury. That doesn't mean we can't take our cue from the plants they chose and the way they layered them, right?

We have a friend who does landscaping, so the plan is to use his wholesale connections to buy the plants at a low price point. Hopefully we can buy them this week and install them this weekend!

If you have any tips about choosing plants for shaded areas, please let me know in the comments. I'm so uncomfortable with plants and anything that requires a green thumb, so I can use any help I can get! I want to make sure I choose wisely because there is nothing worse than forking over a lot of money to buy plants only to helplessly watch them die a slow death in our crazy Texas weather.

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Bathroom Renovation Cost Breakdown

When I finish a big project, I always wonder how much we spent. I keep a running tally in my head, but stuff always comes up during the process and my head count is not completely accurate. I decided to break down all of the costs we encountered during our recent guest bathroom renovation, just in case you're considering doing something similar. I definitely think it's possible to achieve a high end look on a fairly low budget!

In case you missed it, we went from this:

To this:

Along the way, we replaced the floor, vanity and toilet. We added some bead board and a strip of accent penny tile. We painted the walls and window, replaced the baseboards and relocated the existing lights. We also added two new recessed lights to brighten everything up. We definitely saved ourselves some important dinero by leaving the bathtub and shower surround intact. Thank goodness!

When I was explaining the process, I forgot to include my favorite part– the part where my husband, who I constantly tease about his inability to multitask, actually did two things at once! Here he is, sanding down the texture on the walls while simultaneously vacuuming. He swears it cuts down on the mess of sanding everything. (Apparently I didn't take a picture of him doing it in the bathroom, but here he is in the kitchen. You get the picture. It cracked me up!)

Anyway, back to the bathroom! The most expensive part was the vanity (Montaigne Double Vanity from Home Decorators Collection). We caught a break because it was 50% off when we bought it, bringing the tally to $500. But then we had to pay $150 in shipping. Yet, that $650 was still $350 less than the exact same vanity costs at Home Depot. I'm totally happy with spending that much because I feel like the vanity totally makes the bathroom!

Beyond that, the other expenses definitely added to our final tally. I rounded up on all of these numbers below to make the math easy:

Vanity: $650
Floor tile (Carrara Polished Porcelain, Floor & Decor) and grout: $100
Penny tile (Gray Penny Porcelain Mosaic, Floor & Decor) and grout: $75
Bead board behind vanity: $50
Trim above penny tile and new, bigger baseboards: $40
Toilet: $100
Recessed lighting: $35
Plumber services & upgraded chrome pipes: $280
Accessories (new hand towels, soap dispensers): $30
Painting services and drywall patching (hired out): $125
Bathroom wall hooks: $16

Total: $1,501

We started out with a general budget of $2,000, so we were pretty excited about what we ended up spending. We expected to spend more on the vanity and tile, so it really helped our bottom line when we shopped around and got good prices for those. You can't beat $3/square foot for backsplash tile!

We kept these existing items to save some cash, and I designed the room concept with these in mind. That way all of our new choices would blend nicely with the stuff we wanted to salvage.

Two faucets
Two mirrors
Two wall sconces
Towel bar
Towel ring
Shower surround

Of course we also saved some labor costs by doing the tile, electrical, trim work, etc. ourselves. We did shell out cash for a professional plumber and a painter, but we bundled the cost of painting the bathroom with the kitchen cabinet project, so it was much cheaper than if we had painted the bathroom by itself. 

As we spent money on each little part, we kept reminding ourselves that we would see a high return on investment for this money. Kitchens and bathrooms sell houses, and this bathroom was the worst and most dated part of the house. And when we thought about our three guest bedrooms sharing this one bathroom, we thought it was important to make the space as nice as possible (within reason).

My parents, who are definitely our most frequent guests, couldn't be happier about "their" new bathroom. My dad helped Scott do the tile, so he even has some sweat equity involved. They were here for Easter and thoroughly enjoyed the higher vanity height (they're both tall) and the increased lighting. They kept talking about how light and bright it was. My mom said it was "master bathroom worthy." We put a lot of effort into it, so it was nice to hear the positive reviews!

So what do you think, is $1,500 a lot for a bathroom makeover? I don't really think so, but what do I know? We haven't worked on that many bathrooms. Did you think we spent more or less? It can be weird to talk so freely about money, but I think it's important to keep it real and transparent around here!

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Easter at Our Home

I may have purchased these Target eggs (79 cents) just because I liked the colors. So sue me!

We're hosting a low key Easter brunch for six at our house, so I scrounged around to make a simple Easter tablescape. Both sets of DIY eggs found a home in our formal dining room.

Wishing you and yours a wonderful Easter!

"He is not here; he has risen, just as he said." Matthew 28:6

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DIY Easter: Realistic Robin Eggs & Colorful Watercolor Eggs

With Easter approaching quickly, I was planning to hard boil a bunch of eggs so I could try different decorating techniques. But then I saw these awesome faux eggs at Hobby Lobby and couldn't resist the idea. If I'm going to spend time painting these little eggs, they might as well last longer than the hard boiled variety!

They sell each egg for $1.69, which I think is a decent price for an extremely realistic fake egg. When you think about using them year after year, that $1.69 price tag seems pretty reasonable. You can find them in the section where they keep the plain items you can paint yourself, back by the t-shirts and cardboard letters. Bonus points to Hobby Lobby for selling them in an actual egg carton!

I bought myself a dozen eggs and decided to split them up so I could try two different painting styles.

First up, the realistic robin egg:

I mixed up two similar colors of light blue acrylic craft paint (Sea Lavender by Martha Stewart and Robins Egg Blue by Craft Smart) and painted each egg. You can use just one color, but I think the mix gives it more depth and a realistic look.

Once they were dry, I took a small paint brush and dabbed on small dots of brown paint all over each egg. It's important to do the dots randomly because you don't want them to be perfectly spaced out like polka dots. Try to paint the dots in different shapes and thickness; I think that's the key to making it look like a real robin egg.

I decided to display my eggs in this crystal tealight candle holder. It was the perfect size and shape for my six eggs! It would be a chic and minimal centerpiece for Easter brunch, don't you think?

Not bad, right? 

Once those were finished, I decided to try something totally different with my last six eggs. I wanted bright colors done in a modern way, so I figured I would try a watercolor treatment. 

I have a simple set of watercolors meant for an elementary school aged child, but I love them even more than my fancy watercolors. The paint doesn't bleed as well into each color on an egg like it would on watercolor paper, but I still think it produced a really pretty look. 

So, have you decorated any eggs this year? I'd love to hear what techniques you used!

If you're looking for simple Easter wreath ideas, check out this post from 2013. I have my cross up on my wreath again– it's so easy to bring it out every year!

Check out the other fun Easter ideas on my "Modern Easter" Pinterest board:
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Reveal: Guest Bathroom Makeover

We are finally finished with the guest bathroom renovation! It's my favorite bathroom project we've ever done, and every little DIY headache we encountered throughout the process was totally worth it.

Are you ready for a really long blog post? I have a lot of details to divulge, so I'll get right to it! You remember our plans, right?

Guest Bathroom Plans 2

And before we see the good stuff, let's remember where we started!

And here we are now:

Much better, right?

This bathroom was a doozy. First, we tore out the former vanity (three 27" cabinets) and ripped out the tile floor. 

Then we put in this carrara marble-looking porcelain tile from Floor & Decor. Like the real deal but much, much more affordable. 

See that yucky moldy section behind the former toilet? We replaced that with fresh new drywall. 

Once the floor was grouted and sealed, the husband added bead board behind the former vanities to match the opposite side. Then we added the penny tile accent strip above the bead board, and I was the official grouter for this project.

After that was finished, we added a strip of moulding above the penny tile, added taller baseboards and cut notches in the chair rail and baseboards to fit the vanity perfectly.

This is when we began the plumbing fiasco. Because the new vanity was not the same size as the cabinets we had there before, we had to adjust the plumbing to curve in toward the new sinks. It proved to be a tricky situation, so we decided to hire professional plumbers to make sure it was done correctly.

Unfortunately, the plumber didn't do his job correctly. We ended up having to call his boss the next day to tell him the plumbing was leaking. The boss came out himself (at 8 p.m. at night, poor guy), and unfortunately the previous plumbing work was done so poorly that he had to remove the bead board and drywall behind the sinks (that we had just cut to size, painted and installed!) to fix the problem.

Long story short, the plumbing finally got fixed, but not before it set us back about 5 days of work! It was pretty frustrating.

I should mention that while we worked on the plumbing, we chose to replace the PVC plumbing with chrome since it would be visible from certain angles in the bathroom.

Once the plumbing was finished, the husband had to make cuts into the second shelf on the vanity so that the vanity would fit perfectly around the plumbing.

He also stained the inside of the cuts to match the wood perfectly. He's very detail-oriented, that  husband of mine!

Since the sinks were no longer in the same place, we also had to relocate the mirrors and lights above the mirrors. Naturally, that left holes in the wall where the lights used to be, so we had to patch that up.

(Would this project NEVER end?!)

Then we installed the brand new toilet.

Finally, it was time for the fun stuff! I wanted some vintage-y hooks to hang on the wall opposite the sinks, but I couldn't find any in the style I wanted for a decent price. I ended up taking some off of this $16 set of wall hooks at HomeGoods. (This was a huge bargain because I found some very similar hooks at World Market for $10 a pop!)

I completed the scheme with two pieces of art from Jones Design Company. The "Give Thanks" print hangs above the toilet (complete with DIY polka dot mat), and the pear art hangs above the hand towel. 

How about one more bathroom before and after, just for fun?!

Phew! It feels SO great to cross that project off our list. What do you think?

If you have any questions, hit me up in the comment section!

As always, thanks for reading. :)

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