Coming Clean

30 Jul

It’s been awfully quiet around here lately. Not because nothing is going on on the home front, but because I’m way too embarrassed to show you what I’ve been working on. But in an effort to document my progress, I figured it was time to come clean.

You guys, my backyard is a disaster.

I’m not just trying to be dramatic, it’s an actual disaster, and I get a little anxious just thinking about everything that needs to be done with it. I made it my personal mission to get it taken care of this year, but progress has been excrutiatingly slow for several reasons. One, I’ve been at it mostly by myself. Steve has been working incredibly long hours this Spring into Summer, often going in on the weekends just to keep up. Two, the obnoxious amount of rain we’ve received lately has not been conducive to yard clean up (I recently heard it’s rained in Atlanta everyday in July except for 3 days). And three, I’ve been taken out twice with poison ivy. My arms, legs, and sides were covered in itchy blisters for probably a month total. If you’ve had poison ivy before I’ll let you take a second to commiserate with me on how miserable it was. If not, I hope you’re lucky enough to never encounter it. It’s brutal.

Our lot is pretty strange which has made things more challenging. We’re on a cul-de-sac so we have a nice pie shaped lot, and we back up into woods so it’s relatively private. But in the back there are some large slopes which make getting to some spots tricky. Oh, and it’s all covered in ivy. Oh, the ivy.

Here’s a picture of our lot on the plat (which I badly doctored, and the house is not to scale) to help you get acquainted with everything:

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The area to the right (we call it the side yard) is large and flat and more like the traditional back yard. The original owners had several sons and poured a black top back here for them in the 60’s. As you can imagine, after 50 years it was ready to go. Here’s what the side yard looked like in March:

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From the front yard

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Looking toward the front yard

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You can’t really see the black top, but it’s under the branches and dead leaves in the picture above. In the back to the right there’s a creek that runs through part of our property. You can’t really see it here either, but it is so nice to have.

Directly behind the house things get a bit challenging due to the hills. See the front of the house here?

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See the large drop off on the right side? The grade change is kind of extreme. Our basement is completely underground on the left side of the house and about 1.5 stories above ground on the right. So there’s a hill right behind the house. Here’s what it looked like in March:

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Out of control saplings and ivy. You can’t even see the concrete steps leading up the hill.

And around the screened in porch, things get a little crazier. Also from March:

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I know I’ve mentioned some of our plans for out here before, but next year we’re really hoping to convert that screened in porch into a sunroom and enclose the back of the garage.

Things get more complicated in the back of the house with the steep hill.

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Oooh the ivy! I hate it!

Our property actually goes back a good ways. The property line ends a bit before the back neighbors fence you can see in this picture. An awful chain link fence surrounds our lot, but it’s hard to make out in photos.

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I’m not sure we could ever really use the land beyond this little hill without spending a lot of money. For now my plan is clear it up to the top of the hill and keep it maintained there. We’ll also clean up some of the straggly trees.

In March, just after all of these pictures were taken, we hired someone to come in and remove the black top from the side yard and clear that whole area with a brush mower. Because of the steep terrain, they couldn’t reach the back of the house, but they did some serious damage in the side. Here are some befores and afters:

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Then Spring Sprung and plants and weeds popped up where nothing was before and here’s the state of the side yard today:

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The plan here is to clear all of the remaining ivy in the side yard. In the Fall we’ll have someone come out and grade the area and seed grass. I’ll also probably plant a few trees for more privacy to the right (Also, the ivy on the trees situation is obviously a problem. We’ve taken care of most of it, but it can take up to a year for all the ivy this invasive to die once it’s been cut). Long term I’d love a traditional potager in the back here. Wouldn’t something like this be lovely?

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Via Country Living

And/or maybe even a green house?

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Via Better Homes and Gardens

But for now, ivy control and grass are the main goals here. When we take care of the grass in this area, we’ll also take care of the front lawn. More on that disaster here. It was also roughed up when the blacktop was removed because the dumpster was put in the front yard.

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Onto the side hill. Reminder, here’s what it looked like in March:

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And after the brush mowing:

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And now:

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Look at that! Steps! And weeds!

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We plan on cutting down the trees by the foundation. Wouldn’t a row of limelight hydrangeas look fabulous here? With peony bushes? And creeping jenny? One day.

To the right of the steps is a true disaster.

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I was really hoping to avoid using herbicides here, but we’re to that point. I sprayed it two weeks ago with mild success and just sprayed it again last weekend. Once everything has died, I’ll take a weed eater to it to get rid of the bulk. Then I’ll cover it with pine straw until I figure out what to plant here (blueberry bushes! fig tress! options are endless!).

This hill by the porch will likely get the same herbicide/weed eater/pine straw treatment. Here it is today. You can see I’ve made a smidge of progress (we’re also in the process of rescreening the porch which I mentioned here. The screens are up, just need to add the wood supports.).

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I don’t want to block the view from the porch into the side yard, so I’ll need to figure out what to plant here that won’t get too tall. As a focal point, I’m considering a tuteur in lieu of a view blocking tree. Something like this maybe?

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Via Houzz

We also need to deal with the water/gutter issue that’s eroding the bricks on the back of the fireplace.

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Going back toward the garage, things aren’t looking much different these days. I’ve mowed the ivy on the flat parts and that’s about it.

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As I mentioned, I’ll clear the ivy to the top of the hill and plant a garden. I think I’ll also plant more trees by the fence line to block out the house back there in the winter when the leaves are gone. Loooooong term, I’d like to replace the chain link fence. Once we enclose the garage, I’d like to put up lattice against the new back wall of the garage and plant jasmine to grow up it.

As for a patio area, I’ve considered every patio surface under the sun. I don’t think it will make sense to add anything here until the porch has been enclosed since we don’t yet know where we’ll put doors leading onto the patio. Since I imagine we’ll be a little tight on renovation funds after taking on such a large project, I’m thinking a pea gravel patio may be our best option. I love the way they look, and they’re also affordable. Of course, they require more maintenance, but I’m totally willing to keep up with it. Here are some pictures of what I’d like to end result to feel like:

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Via House Beautiful

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Via Houzz

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Via Better Homes and Gardens

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Via Chicago Home Mag

I’ve gone a little crazy on Pinterest looking at garden and patio ideas lately!

So there it is. My needs-some-serious work yard. I’m hoping to have it all looking presentable by the Fall and then continually tweak it forever.

Around Here

12 May

We’ve been making small updates around the house over the last couple of months, so I thought I’d share some of the changes.

We made a headboard for the master bedroom and finally started decorating the space. Here’s what the room looked like the last time I shared it.

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And now (though still much to do):

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I liked the prints of the vintage eggs I had over the dresser, but since you can see the maps we hung in the hallway from the bedroom door, it started to look too busy.

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I found these John Derian plates 40% off and couldn’t pass them up.

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The light fixture came from the Ballard Designs outlet for $50.

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I decided to move the rug that I purchased for the bedroom to the family room and start over in here. The neutral rug was too plain. Ideally I would find a fabulous vintage persian rug for here but finding one in the size I wanted would be waaaay out of budget. I ordered a sample of Pottery Barn’s Isaac Rug, and I think it will add the pattern the room needs.

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While substantially less expensive then a traditional persian rug, it still isn’t cheap so I’m slowly saving up for it. Also left to do is add a chair in the empty corner by the window:

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And replace the existing nightstands that match the bedroom set in the guest room. I’m also considering repainting because I have to repaint a room at least twice to call it done.

Here’s the old bedroom rug in the family room now:

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The herringbone seagrass rug I had it here has been moved to the empty formal living room. Rug musical chairs!

The guest room has also seen a few tweaks:

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I came across these smurf lamps at Target on clearance for $13.48 apiece a few weeks ago.

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I spray painted them cream and replaced the small Ikea lamps I previously had in here.

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A couple of months ago I came across one yard of quadrille contessa fabric on etsy for a steal. I was initially planning on using it in the master bedroom but changed my mind and used it to cover the existing pillow in here.

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I also finally filled the empty frames over the secretary and found a lampshade for the old alabaster lamp I purchased last year.

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Lastly, I’ve been working in the yard every chance I get in an effort to clean up our overgrown (understatement) back yard. And even though we had to push off converting our screened in porch to a sunroom this year, we decided to re-screen it now so we can enjoy it over the next year. It’s only costing us $100 in materials (why didn’t we do this sooner?) and will probably take another 2 or 3 days of work to complete. Here’ some progress shots:

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I think we’re all caught up now! Until next time!

The State of the Yard, Spring 2013

1 Apr

Hello, Friends! It’s been awhile! The unexpected (but very necessary) purchase of a new furnace and water heater at the very end of January kind of took the wind out of our renovating budget sails.

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You’re looking at the end of my dreams for a screened in porch to sunroom conversion this year. Oh well. There’s always next year. Upward and onward.

Now that Spring is upon us, I have been itching to get into the yard. We re-landscaped the front yard last year, but there’s still a bit to do out there. Remember this little bed?

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I planted carissa hollys along the back and filled in the rest with asiatic jasmine ground cover. Looks so promising, doesn’t it? Well, here’s how it looked a few weeks ago.

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Womp. Womp.

I fought an unending weed battle all year in this bed, and I think it’s fair to say I lost the war. Even worse, a little critter came along last Fall and feasted on the jasmine. Half of the darn plants were reduced to sticks.

So a couple of weekends ago I carefully removed the jasmine and took off the top several inches of soil in hopes of getting rid of the majority of the weed seeds. Then I put down some fresh top soil and replanted the jasmine. I picked up some repellent spray to keep the hungry critters at bay, so my hopes are high that we’re headed in the right direction.

I wanted to add a bit more interest to this bed so I decided to add a container garden. I took a container gardening class at a local nursery last weekend, and this is what I ended up with:

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And here it is in the new and improved bed:

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My favorite part is the lemon cypress in the planter. If you run your fingers over the foliage, they smell like lemon. I love it, and I’m so happy to have it.

Speaking of container gardening, I finally got something planted in the urns by the front door a couple of months ago.

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I went to Pikes looking for shade tolerant plants and ended up replicating one of the planters they had on display.

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As for the rest of the yard, I’d like to fill in some of the beds we planted last year and plant summer annuals over the next few weeks. There’s also a pressing need to address our lawn since this happened:

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A few weeks ago we had a bobcat come in and clear the brush and 50+ year old blacktop from our side yard. The dumpster was placed in the front, and here’s the result:

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Thankfully, we’ve been planning on re-seeding late this Spring anyway. We will be busy bees! More on the brush removal in the rest of the yard later. That’s a monster for another post!

How to Turn a Carpet Remnant into a Rug

6 Feb

Thank you all for the nice comments on the finished hallway! We sure are loving the space!

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Now onto how I turned a carpet remnant into the runner rug. I mentioned previously that I was having a hard time finding an affordable 20 foot runner. It would almost definitely need to be custom, but I thought for sure have a piece of carpet cut and bound would be an affordable option. I was mistaken. Lowes (at least my Lowes) has a large minimum required for binding which would make it impractical and unaffordable, and Home Depot only offers it on Martha Stewart carpets. The catch is carpet comes in 12 foot wide rolls, and I was told they don’t seam rugs. So I would have to buy a 12 x 20 piece of carpet which would be enough for 4 runners for my hallway. And it would be seriously expensive. However, this is a great option if you’re looking for a 9×12 – no waste.

So I tried a local carpeting store, and they did not seem to appreciate that I wasn’t dropping $1,600 on a rug. They also really tried to dissaude from some of the more affordable carpets, so I left. I mentioned all of my roadblocks to my dad on the phone one day, and he suggested I try to make a rug myself from a remnant or a piece of carpeting purchased from Lowes or Home Depot. We both did a little bit of research, and I talked myself into this being a really good idea.

I hit up a local discount carpeting store that sold remnants and quickly zero’d in on this roughly 11 by 6 foot remnant for $100.

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Luckily, it coordinated with my entry rug nicely.

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Due to the shape and size of the rug I purchased, I knew I would need to cut the remnant in half and seam the two parts together. I watched a few youtube videos on how the pros do this. Seaming requires a special iron that runs under $100 (or can be rented for around $15 per day) and heat activated tape for about $5. Another option is pressure sensitive seaming tape. It also runs $5 for a 15 foot roll but doesn’t require heat. The tape is sticky enough to hold the carpeting together. I did a fair amount of research on the pros and cons of using the pressure sensitive tape. It’s obviously a bit cheaper and a lot easier to use, but it’s generally only recommended for seaming carpet in small or tight spaces or for a temporary solution. I took my chances with it anyway. If I find it doesn’t hold up, there’s no reason why I can’t replace it with the heat activated stuff. Our hallway is obviously a high traffic area, and though it’s only been a few weeks, we’ve found it to hold up wonderfully. The binding also helps I think.

This is probably a good place to suggest picking out a carpet without much of a pattern if you’ll be seaming it. I knew this going in, but obviously went with a patterned carpet anyway. The seam isn’t perfect, but it’s close enough for me and not noticeable. More on this later.

Speaking of the binding, I used Instabind from Bond Products. They offer affordable DIY binding options plus how-to videos that make the process a breeze and provide a professional looking edge. Before I ordered anything from them, I purchased a color card and picked out the binding color I liked best for the rug (I ended up going with light tan – second one down on the left).

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Now onto the tutorial. Here are the supplies I used to cut, seam, and bind my rug (I’ve linked to products I used where I can):

Carpet Remnant

Carpet Knife

Straight Edge

Sharpie

Seam Tape

Seam Roller (in retospect this probably wasn’t necessary, but I’m a rule follower)

Instabind Cotton Binding Style in light tan

Hot Glue Gun with this tip

I started by rolling the rug out so it was facing down in the basement.

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First things first, I wanted to clean up all of the edges so they were square. When it came to making the cuts, I used my carpet knife, measuring tape, a straight edge, and a sharpie.

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Using the grid laid out on the carpet backing, I used my sharpie to draw a line down the carpet for my knife to easily follow.

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I used my straight edge to keep my knife from slipping.

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Next up, I needed to cut the carpet in half and join the 2 pieces to get the length I needed. This is where it gets a bit tricky with a patterned rug. It’s not enough to just cut the 2 pieces to the same width. You need to make sure you cut the 2 pieces so the pattern is in the same place on both pieces so when they’re matched up it’s consistent. Once I had this figured out, I cut the first piece to a width of 30 inches. Once again, I used my sharpie to mark the measurement up the length of the carpet.

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Once I made this cut, I lined my 30 inch piece up to the other piece to ensure they were going to be the same width and made my sharpie line.

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At this point I had 2 pieces of carpet that were the same width and had a consistent pattern (for example, I cut both pieces so the pattern on the edges were half diamonds instead of full ones). Now I needed to make sure the diamond pattern would match at the seam. This was not easy, but I managed to get it figured out.

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Seaming the two pieces together was probably the easiest part. I cut the seam tape to the length I needed and peeled back the tape to reveal the sticky part.

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I put one of the carpets on half of the tape

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And carefully lined the other piece up before placing it on the tape too.

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Not bad right?? This is where I used my seam roller to push the adhesive into the carpet backing.

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Now it was time for the moment of truth. I rolled the rug up and hauled it upstairs to see it in place.

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The verdict? Too long (which I knew would be the case). I didn’t want the rug to extend past the wall on the right.

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I eyeballed where I needed to cut the length and marked it with my sharpie. Feline supervision recommended.

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I cut the piece to my desired length in place, and then the hard part was done!

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Next up was the binding. If you end up using instabind, I strongly encourage you to check out the how-to videos on their site. Here’s what the binding looks like:

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The back of the binding is a sticky tape. You just peel the tape back

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And adhere it to the underside of the rug.

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To maneuver around corners, make a cut at the turn and fold the binding.

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Then just make your way down the sides.

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When you get back to where you started, cut the pieces so they line up.

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Next up, I cleaned up the edge of the carpet with scissors from where it was fraying (I probably should have done this before I attached the binding).

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To permanently adhere the binding to the carpet, use hot glue. I purchased this nozzle from Bond Products for $12 to make the job a little easier. photo

Put a bead of glue in the crevice of the binding

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Then squeeze the carpet and the binding together until the glue has hardened.

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Where the ends meet, put a dab of glue on the edges then press them together.

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And that’s it! You’re done! A custom rug for a fraction of the price!

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In the end, I spent roughly $200 0n the rug – $100 f0r the carpet and $100 for the supplies. Of the supplies I purchased, all but the binding (which cost $54 and I mostly used up) can be used when I do this again (and I do hope to do it again!). To have the remnant cut and bound at the carpet store I purchased it from, it would have been $260 total. Only $60 in savings, but as I said, it will be much less expensive in the future now that I have all the tools. The project also took about 4 hours total – hot gluing being the most time intensive part of the process.

I should also note that this is just what worked for me with this particular kind of carpet. I would except other’s experiences to be different based on the carpet and materials used.

I hope this tutorial is helpful for someone else out there!

All Mapped Out

21 Jan

My attempt to turn a carpet remnant into a custom rug runner turned out to be surprisingly successful!

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It took about 4 hours total and roughly $100 in supplies.

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Of course, a couple of doors need to be trimmed down now to clear the rug. Can’t win ’em all.

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But I love how it looks with the entry.

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I’ll be back with a tutorial later on. It was a very easy process, and I’ll definitely do it again.

But what I really want to share is what I put up on the walls. Steve and I have been collecting maps from all of the places we visit for years. It started when we found a copy of a map from the 1920’s of DC in a Manassas bookstore in 2005. Then that summer Steve brought me back a map of Paris from a trip to Europe with his brother. After that we made a point to find one on all of our trips. Not all are necessarily maps but instead have something to do with the city we visited.

We’ve had some framed but most have been rolled up in a closet for the past few years. I told myself a few weeks ago that as soon as Aaron Brother’s had their penny sale (buy one frame, get one for a penny) that I would finally get them all framed. And wouldn’t you know it, two weeks ago they had a sale.

So this weekend we got to work hanging them in the hallway. I traced them all out on craft paper and taped to the wall to figure out the arrangement.

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Thanks to Steve’s help, the hanging was relatively painless.

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I love getting little peeks of it from different places in the house.

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At the back of the hallway is a map of Savannah and the surrounding area from 1757 that we picked up last November.

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On the left wall is a map of what Chicago looked like in 1893. It’s from a trip we took in November 2010.

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On the long wall:

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The Angel Oak Tree outside Charleston, SC. It’s the oldest living thing east of the Mississippi. From a trip to Isle of Palms in May, 2011.

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Charleston, SC in 1704. From the same trip to Isle of Palms in 2011.

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The map of Paris from 1889 that Steve got for me in the summer of 2005.

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Representing the hometown … an old map of Atlanta. Not sure of the year.

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The Florida Keys from our honeymoon in May, 2008.

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Blueprints of the Golden Gate Bridge from our trip to CA in summer 2012.

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A guide to the monasteries in Meteora, Greece from our trip in December, 2006

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A map of DC in the 20’s from a trip in March, 2005

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A post card of NYC titled “The Future New York, The City of Skyscrapers” Not sure of the year. From a trip in December, 2011.

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This was a gift from my brother-in-law this past Christmas. It’s the Waldseemuller Map, the first map on record to use the name America. From 1507.

I’m so happy these are finally framed and hung so we can enjoy them!

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2012 House Projects

6 Jan

Now that the 2013 goals are out-of-the-way, I want to take a look back at what was accomplished in 2012.

I started the year by making curtains for the family room and called this room done.

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Later in January we had recessed lights and pendant lights added to the kitchen and family room.

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Next up, I over-hauled our coat closet.

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About six months later, I gave the pantry a similar re-do.

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In March we purchased a new dishwasher which we thought was the last kitchen project.

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But a few weeks ago, I recolored the grout in here with Grout Renew, just like I did in the hall bathroom. Now it’s done! Here’s a shot in-process:

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We kind of accidentally re-did the dining room. Here are some pictures of the room completely done with the new dining table and upholstered chair seats.

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My favorite project of the year was landscaping our yard. It’s been about 7 months, but the plants are already much larger.

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My second favorite project was the hallway and entry where we added crown molding and replaced the chair rail with traditional wainscoting.

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We started re-doing the master bedroom by purchasing a king sized bed, new dressers, a rug and painting the walls. Still a LOT to do in here.

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We moved the old bedroom furniture and rug into the guest room and mostly finished that space too.

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And that’s our 2012 in review!

2013 House Goals

3 Jan

But first, Happy New Year! I hope you all enjoyed the holidays! I certainly did, but I am very happy to get back into the swing of every day life again.

So, every one is doing it and I’m jumping on the bandwagon – 2013 House Goals! We took on a LOT in 2012 which was fun but also exhausting. This year I’d like to scale it back a bit.

First and foremost, we need to finish up the projects still in process around the house.

Like make a runner rug for the hallway out of a carpet remnant and put some pictures on the wall:

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The newly finished guest room still needs curtains and pictures to fill the empty frames on the wall:

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And the master bedroom needs a proper headboard, new nightstands, art over the bed, pillows, an overhead light fixture, a reading chair, and new closet doors. You know. Nothing major.

Here’s where the room stood last summer. I’ve since purchased a white linen duvet cover and properly scaled bedside lamps.

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Also to be re-done is our linen closet which will receive the same treatment the pantry and coat closet got in 2012. This project will require a little bit of macgyvering since a prior owner turned this space into a stackable laundry closet. We do our laundry in the basement, but we would like to keep the laundry hookups (they’re there, why not?). So … I think we’ll need to get creative to create a functioning space. Because this doesn’t function for anyone but Odie the Cat:

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But the big project we’re hoping to take on this year is the screened in porch:

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It’s not in great shape and needs to be rescreened at the very least, but we’d really like to glass it in to create a sun room that we can use year round. We’d like to add a small sitting area on the left (maybe just a loveseat and a couple of small arm chairs) and a dining area on the right (this would essentially serve as our eat-in kitchen since we don’t have one currently).

We’ve done a lot of research on what all this project would entail and cost, but there’s still a lot we need to figure out before moving forward. If the cost is just too high, we’ll either continue to save and postpone the project for a year or two or re-screen it to enjoy only as a screened in porch.

When we’re (hopefully!!!) framing for windows in the porch, we’ll also frame in the back of our “garage.” What started as a carport was kind of turned into a garage when a prior owner added a garage door (which didn’t function until recently when we replaced the motor). However, the back is completely open. We’d like to fully enclose the garage and add a door for access out back. Here’s an old picture of the space from when we were refinishing the old table. You can see the edge of the porch here too.

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Speaking of out back, it needs some serious, serious love. Our backyard is a total, mostly unuseable, disaster. First of all, it’s covered in ivy. Secondly, the steep grade really limits our space back here. There isn’t much we can reasonably do about the lack of space, but the ivy situation can be remedied. One day our lot will be ivy-free. It may take ten years, but it will happen one day. And we’ll start the process this year. Same goes as for the side yard (which is where all of our useable “back yard” space is). Here’s that space viewed from the front yard.

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Well I said we’d be scaling it back in 2013, but this sure doesn’t sound scaled back does it? Oh well.

Extra credit items: Re-seeding the front yard so we no longer have the largest weed to grass ratio in the neighborhood and take on some cheap basement projects.

Oh, the basement. Hard to believe I’m this far into my blogging adventure and have yet to mention our semi-unfinished basement! Here are the highlights: it’s a full basement, currently covered up in 90’s goodness (red, purple, orange, yellow, and turqoise can all be found on the walls and doors), and boasts a legit 1960 bomb shelter added by the original owner. I’ll have to do a whole post on the space sometime in the future.

Have any of you done a house goal’s post? Please link!

On one last note, this week I’m celebrating my one year blogaversary! What a fun year it’s been! Thanks for reading along!