Turning a House Into Our Home

Six months of home ownership down and I’ve got to tell you, it’s been good to us. Throughout the winter, we did a couple updates here and there, including fresh paint, a bit of trim and some new light fixtures. Now we’re approaching the moment we’ve been so anxiously awaiting in our new house: sweet, sweet summa time. Mowing the lawn, picking up sticks, working in the garden; we. can’t. wait. I know, I know, this will be short-lived so let us have our naïve homeowner moments while we can. 

Since we are such outdoorsy people, we knew that our backyard had to keep up and that meant our first real renovation project: landscaping. Before, hostas lined the garage and led back to an overgrown garden and what we assume was a massive strawberry patch. There were various planter boxes, rock and mismatched landscaping bricks. Long story short, it was in desperate need of some TLC. Apologies but I failed at renovation 101 and forgot to take a “before” picture.

It took a few trips to Home Depot, Lowe’s and Menards but we settled on a gray and tan blend of landscaping brick and topper to make a small retaining wall along the garage and back side of our house. Lowe’s delivered the materials (of course, we still had three trips back to the store), but we were ready to dive right in. To do it right, we dug out the brick area and laid a sand base to absorb moisture and prevent settling and shifting down the road. From there, the stone process was to lay, level, adjust, level…adust, adjust, level, adjust, level (you get the idea)…and, repeat. This was a tedious task but I knew the fun stuff was coming next: bringing in the plants. I ordered two varieties of hellebores, a perennial that will bloom in late winter/early spring. One is a light green color with tinted edges and the other is a deep purple that I think will contrast well and look great along the green and white of our home and garage. While I’d prefer plants that bloom in the summer, we needed a variety that would thrive in the shade. Plus, I figure that when March rolls around next year, I’ll be ready for some green in my life.

Photo source: Thimble Farms
Photo source: Thimble Farms

With the plants in, we filled the space with more soil, laid landscaping mesh and topped with black and gray lava rock. We replicated along the side of the house and, wa-la!

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Our next area to tackle was another eyesore. Toward the back of the garage was this rock pile surrounding the sump pump and an irreplaceable concrete slab over the drain. As it was, it wasn’t even level, let alone functional. I can see where the previous owners were at a loss on what to do in the space because the mis-shaped concrete is seriously a pain. In the complimentary pieces to our retaining wall stone was a variety of pavers, including some gray and tan flagstone which we thought would work well around the wonky sump pump area. We measured out a 6×9′ area and crossed our fingers that we could come up with a pattern to work. Alas, we did! (And thank goodness it didn’t take much rearranging because those suckers are heav-y.) Like the rest of the yard, this area was really sloped so we dug it out, laid the sand and stone and filled in with small river rock.

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A couple hours and some sweat equity later, and we now have a small landing to store the Weber and…fire pit chairs! We knew we wanted a fire pit to add to our entertaining space for the summer, but consistently went back and forth between building our own or getting a portable pit from Target. We stumbled upon a set with an insert, screen and accessories for less than we found at the big box stores and knew that with just a few more bricks, we could tie the entire project together.

This process was similar to the others: dig, lay a base, level and stack. Given the diameter of the bricks, the insert wasn’t quite the right size, so each layer is slightly offset to close the gap. Four levels up was the right height and did the trick!

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Aside from the fire pit, we look forward to several warm nights of deck dwelling so we added just a few fun DIY touches. Jared built a side table and an herb garden, both just made out of a couple pallets and a touch of paint. The side table is simply topped with three 16″ square pavers and, of course, decorative accents with succulents, a candle and lantern.

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The herb garden was also easy peasy and only involved rearranging a few boards, painting white to match our side table and adding a splash of color with chalkboard paint. I lined the compartments with landscaping mesh, added garden soil and sprinkled in the seeds. Next up, we’re going to plant our garden and maybe get a small pergola in place over our patio doors and the garage doors.

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We look forward to the fresh herbs and some garden veggies to compliment some grilled meals out on the summer deck with cold beers and great friends. So come on over, y’all!

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