12 September 2016

House to Home II - Big House

Where to begin?  That's what we said too.  Although there wasn't much we absolutely had to do, there were quite a few things we wanted to do.  So we dove in and we're still swimming.

Big Ed (previous owner) had apparently installed this granite island and countertops as a selling feature and although it is beautiful, we just couldn't fall in love with this crazy island bar configuration.

We searched in vain for the same granite (that's pretty much impossible) so you'll see later that we (mostly Jim) found something completely different. 

Jim did all the work preparing for the new countertop which would be completely flat and bigger.

Tada!  We are so pleased with the new look and the work surface is much bigger and better.  Since we were starting over, there was no need to continue cooking on that electric stove top we didn't like.  We knew we'd eventually have to have a gas one so we did that too!

Here's a better picture of that big island being put to good use :)

Jim insisted we paint the insides of all the kitchen drawers AND install all new drawer slides.  With all the other stuff we had to do, this did NOT seem like a priority to me.   I was wrong.  They are so nice now.  The extra good help made it go by quickly too!

Jim has dreams of having a shop out back and perhaps one of these days we can do it.  For now, he decided to convert the formal living room into a violin carving workshop of sorts.  It's a good use of space and air conditioning is a bonus.

All those words, painted by the previous owners Big Ed and Cheri, were uncovered when the carpet was removed.  Things like "Cheri loves Big Ed" and "Big Ed loves Cheri more".  Apparently neither of them loved each other enough - they divorced not long after.  We decided not to add our own graffiti.  Bad karma :)

Jim installed this pine flooring that he tongue and grooved himself.  It smells wonderful and looks great too.

The spot where the clock now sits used to be one of those openings.  It looks like it's always been like this.

In the other opening, Jim installed this antique door we brought back from Belgium.  It's so beautiful I wish we'd brought back a whole houseful!



A much better use of that space :)

I know this bathroom looks pretty good and we liked it too.  Only problem was that the countertop is actually laminate and looked like I had installed it myself.  That really says it all - I'm really bad at laminate installation.

Much better.

So many possibilities for this big space.

A little paint, new light fixtures and all our favorite old stuff.

Here's a better picture of that room :)

This is the second house where we've done this exact thing - a solid door changed to a French door going out to the patio.  So much better.

Although there's no "before" of this room, it was empty with a different light fixture.

We brought this antique table from (and also handmade in) Belgium.

Here's a better picture of that table being put to good use!

25 July 2016

House to Home I - Big Yard

We've always enjoyed and have been pretty good at turning someone else's house into something we call home.  It's always a challenge and this one is no exception.

It all started with a few unexpected outside improvements, but we're trying to chip away at them and put that behind us!

Like this retaining wall - built to keep those amazing palm trees and our pool from sliding down the hill.  You can see there was a huge drop off that the previous owner had attempted to shore up with a menagerie of DIY projects.

This wall was definitely our first priority and, although we are fairly good at DIY, this one was definitely not that kind of project.  Sometimes you need a professional.

Now it's perfectly level and these incredible palm trees and the new sod are thriving.  From this angle it's difficult to see that 4 foot drop off!

See? It took a 4 ft wall to level that hill!  Seven guys worked two 12-hr days to complete it.

We moved more than a few piles of topsoil from here up to the wall before we sodded it.

We had some good helpers!

Now all our grass has come back and the wall looks like it was always there.

Our house was built in 1993 and this fence appeared to be original to the house.  We figured it was only painted to somehow make it look less likely to fall down.

So rather than waiting for the fall, we took it down.

We had some really good help on this project.  Ross loves doing projects like this.  Okay, maybe he doesn't love them, but seriously, we couldn't have done all this (fence or dirt or sod) without his help!

Pop and Norma Grace taking a little break.

It's really a work of art - that curved gate and all.

The shrubbery, which is already long gone in this photo, was also original to the house.  Overgrown with thick trunks and sparse leaves, we decided it had to go.

Here is just a small sample of them.

It was another challenge in itself to figure out how to drain all the water away.  The entire yard has some serious drainage issues.

Like this, for example.  One of a few French drains we now have throughout the yard.

Back to the front landscaping . . .
After a LOT of leveling and reshaping and new trees and shrubs, it looks beautiful.  I put the stone path in myself and I will never do that again :)

There was once a huge oleander bush here.  It actually spread as far as that dirt spot and was nearly as high as the roof.  The fence on this side wasn't much better and it wasn't painted either.

Much, much better.  Jim worked tirelessly on that stone wall there.  It's perfectly level!  Notice the nice new cedar fence Jim and Ross built.

I'm not a big fan of red front doors although our Jefferson house also had one.  I never figured out a better color for it so I guess it's still red.  I tried several colors on this door and even painted all the hardware, but Jim finally came up with the perfect color.

This is 114 Oak Isle painted in Benjamin Moore 10 Downing Street.  Glossy black.  Classic and perfect for this Georgian house.  I removed all that paint I previously applied to the brass hardware and I'm so glad I did.

This sidewalk was broken and sticking up for all to trip over.  The center of this section had sunk several inches.  Everyone who looked at it figured during construction 23 years ago, debris was buried here and it rotted over time.  According to our new neighbors, it had been like this for years, but Big Ed (previous owner) never got around to fixing it.

So we fixed it.  A brand new sidewalk, perfectly flat.

I didn't really like these brick columns, but also wasn't anxious to tear them down.  Redoing the patio is way down on our list of projects, BUT . . . rules of our neighborhood say that fences facing the street must have a brick column at the corners.

So I went in search of this particular brick and turns out, it isn't available any more!  We figured there would be just enough of these brick to make the new column for the fence.  By the way, we chipped off every bit of that mortar ourselves.

More good help!

A new patio is on the list . . . somewhere.

Voila!  Re-purposed bricks into a brand new fence column - mortar is still wet here.  And there's the stack of leftovers.  That was close!  This project also required a professional.  Brick columns are hard!

Where the sidewalk ends.

As part of the new sidewalk project, we also got a new mailbox.  The masons took the old one down, cleaned the bricks and reused them.  Yes, they did the cleaning this time!  I asked them to make our new mailbox look just like the one across the street - wider and with a rounded top.  The concrete guy even laid a bigger foundation to accommodate the new size and shape.

I left the house and the masons for a few hours while they were working on it and came back to this.  It looks exactly like the old one, right?  I was upset at first.  Notice the "extra" concrete pad.  Anyway, I decided to just let it go.  It was done and that was that.  What we have there is a failure to communicate!

This little spot had great potential and I really enjoyed working on it.

Much better. 

Jim had the idea for the little stone path and I transplanted moss from a shady part of the yard and filled in between all the stones.  Makes it feel like my little garden in Belgium.  The moss is struggling here in sunny Texas, but it's hanging in there!

This area of the back forty holds a lot of water so we decided cypress trees were the answer.

Our little cypress grove.  We planted about 20 - some of the smaller ones are hard to see.  One of these days it will look amazing I'm sure!

You can also see our nice new fence on the left and our neighbor's crappy fence on the right.  We've struggled with what to do about it because it's an obvious eyesore.  Rules of the neighborhood allow (supposedly) for a 6 foot fence ONLY so . . .  our options are to (1) break the rules of the neighborhood (like our neighbors obviously did) by covering theirs with our own 8 foot fence (2) make a stink with the neighbors and the neighborhood rule makers or (3) . . . leave it like it is.  Since we are the definition of rule followers and non stink-makers, for now, we are going with door #3 . . .   Grrrrr.

Perhaps the best part of all is this amazing pool which we have thoroughly enjoyed and our main reason for choosing this big yard house!  I think it's beautiful and I love to sit and have coffee by it and crank up the fire pit and have marshmallows by it and watch the kids have fun in it and . . . all that and more.

I think that patio project is moving up on my wish list :)