Let there be light!

Happy autumn, ya’ll! The recent turning of weather is making me nauseous as I try to figure out how to schedule the exterior painting of my house and finishing up the dormer. So much to do! So little time! Seriously, I’m not ready for winter! I’m still hoping to break out those breezy summer dresses and dig up bricks to lay out a patio in my backyard. BUT, reality sinks in and I realize a lot will need to wait until next spring. The exterior paint, however, needs to get a move on!

While I’m waiting on things the professionals have to take on, I have to keep busy myself. I’ve been working trying to refinish my kitchen floors which is taking about 53 times longer than I anticipated. So this past weekend I looked for a new project. Something quick and dirty I could knock out and actually finish. I turned again to the back of the house but didn’t make it quite so far as the yard.

That horrific deck and the roof covering it? It was coming down! Remember how bad it was? It was a deathtrap waiting to happen! Those stairs ended 4″ from the corner of the garage. Now, luckily, the actual deck roof (can we even classify that monstrosity as a roof?) had come down during the first two weeks I owned Berrybrier. It was a wonderful surprise when I came home from work to see my cousins, John and Carla, and my parents, John and Kate happy in the backyard having spend a couple hours that afternoon demoing the deck roof. They’d knocked it out and boy was it a huge change! It not only looked a thousand times better, but the amount of light that suddenly flooded the kitchen was the best part!


Yes that is a new-to-me stove as well (bought it from the neighbors who are also renovating!). Before the kitchen was so dark since the two windows were under the makeshift roof! Plus that wallpaper doesn’t help. Good thing that’s gone now too! (Add re-drywalling the kitchen to my to-do list as well…)


So when this past weekend came around, I said to my mother, “You know what would be super fun? Taking down the deck!” My mother had her doubts, she was nervous we wouldn’t like what we found. But I had a good feeling about this one. The home inspection report had called out the presence of concrete steps under the deck and a few sessions with a good flashlight and a long stick had given me the impression the steps were in good shape. Plus anything would be better than this, right?

I even convinced my mother a few weeks earlier to sawzall off a board on one side to get better access to the steps in order to take a closer look and sweep a bit with a broom. This proved the steps were in great shape to me, but my mother still had her doubts. I finally convinced her I could just pull off one board from the top and we could get a good look at things there.

Once you pull off one, what’s the harm in another? Or so I convinced my mother… and slowly, but surely we got all the deck boards pried off that first day. Now it would have been a lot easier if we could have used  power tools like a sawzall, but the roofers were over and the electrical on this house isn’t a fan of power tools, let alone multiple power tools. So we worked by hand using hammers and crowbars. (And luckily the electrical is getting updated at the end of the month!) Slowly, but surely, we made progress!

Whew! Easier said than done. The work wasn’t that hard, but between the roofers air compressor and staple/nail guns and the sounds of our own hammers hitting the metal of the crowbars I got a powerful headache and my ears wouldn’t stop ringing. We took a break and I picked up some protective ear muffs at Ace Hardware before heading home. Hallelujah! They are my new favorite protective gear, even beating out hazmat suits!

Boy was it looking a million times better that first day and boy did we learn a lot! That deck, as it turns out, was not in as good of shape as I thought. Sitting on the concrete steps, moisture had filled the wood and when we pressed into it, water would actually squeeze out. It had caused the wood to rot significantly more than I anticipated. Beneath the steps, years of walking over and dust and debris had created mounds of compost that covered the concrete. Actual, really nice compost. We tossed it straight into the garden!

The next morning, my mom broke out her favorite tool: the sawzall and took off the sides of the deck. A few quick bangs with a sledgehammer and everything else was loose. Then it saw just back to the crowbar to remove a few pieces off the house and there they were: the original concrete steps!

The cute star gate used to be in function here, blocking off the backyard from the driveway. You can see the hole in the concrete next to it where the fence post used to be. I am in love with how much better this looks! The kitchen is flooded with light and now you can actually walk between the garage and the house! The best thing though? Not being directed down the stairs and into the corner of the garage! Now the flow from the house is so much more open! It allows you to walk into the garden easily and walk into the house from any side. Truly, it’s a small change, but feels transformative! I mean, the house still looks like crap since it needs paint, but it’s still a big change!

Before this view was crazy! Now it at least makes more sense. A good coat of paint will be the true life saver though.

Plus, the whole project took less than 8 hours. So thank god for that! I need more projects like that and less like my endless kitchen floor rescucitation project. This project leaves me satisfied and happy! Now they stairs will definitely need some tweaking – I’m thinking of painting next spring and trying to skim coat the top stair that’s in a bit rougher shape.

But for now, hopefully the weather will hold out long enough for this house to get painted and then I can stick my red pots on these steps and then they’ll really be popping! It’s one baby step in the right direction!

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Winter is Coming

Oh my goodnesss! My brain is doing cartwheels, you guys. There is SO MUCH to do and SO MANY things to plan. It’s hectic and insane and oh so much fun. So what’s going on at the moment? Just a few things:

  • A new roof is going on and so is a dormer!
  • The exterior of the house is being prepped for painting.
  • We’re redoing the kitchen floors… slowly, but surely!
  • I’m designing the bathroom and getting ready for demo.
  • The garden is being worked on, weeded, and seeded with clover!
  • Electricians are scheduled and I’m selecting new light fixtures where needed.

Whew! I’m exhausted just recounting this. Each of these things has taken a whole bunch of time and planning, thinking and rethinking. I’m just a tad stressed and just a tad tired and just a tad sore, but most importantly I’m happy. The major stress lately, however, has been getting the exterior of the house in shape as soon as I can. Because winter is coming. And although Portland winters are not nearly as bad or as long as those in Westeros, you may have heard the rumor that it rains here.

Well, the rumors are true my friends, it rains here in Portland! Which means the roof issue needed to be addressed first. I spent weeks thinking up a plan and drawing up construction documents in CAD. Luckily the City of Portland has a Homeowner’s Permit Night where you can bring drawings to review with their structural engineers for tips and information as well as get permits during non-business hours. I spent two consecutive Thursdays in those offices the first talking with a structural engineer about how to best support the dormer and the second evening actually getting the permit. In between those two Thursdays I spent many, many hours working in CAD to get my drawings ready for approval. It was a huge relief when they passed and I was able to get my permit! The most frustrating part of the process was the long hours on the computer when I really wanted to be at Berrybrier sledge hammering something.

After my drawings were done and the permit procured, I had to select a roof color so the roofers could begin, but how to select a color for the roof without selecting a color for the house? Well, let’s go back to the pictures of Berrybrier. It’s a bit difficult to see in pictures, but the windows of the house are dark green. On the plus side, a previous owner updated all the windows to double-paned, vinyl-exterior, wood-interior windows which is *almost* what I would have selected myself. If it was me, I’d have selected wood interior and exterior windows. But, alas, what’s done is done and I don’t have to do it! The decision for dark green, vinyl-exterior windows though is a pretty permanent one. As these windows can not be painted, I had to pick a paint color for the siding that would coordinate with dark green.

Berrybrier Before | Land of Laurel

What goes well with dark green windows? White? Hmm… an all white home with green windows would be classic. White siding paired with white trim is also very popular right now. I found this inspiration photo which shows a house with white trim and siding, the windows are dark brown here, but you can easily imagine them as green. You can barely see the roof here, but it looks to be a dark charcoal.

White house and Trim | Land of Laurel

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As classic and lovely as this is, it is very popular. Would I recommend it to a client? Absolutely. But, for myself, I wanted something a bit more exciting. I wanted something happy. A house that makes you smile just walking by it. What is colorful and happy that goes well with green? Coral! And coral is another name for salmon and salmonberries are delicious and the house is already called Berrybrier, so really, could there be anything more perfect? (Did you see how my brain works there?) So! A salmonberry colored house it was. Luckily, I had the perfect inspiration in mind.

Young House Love, my favorite blog, bought a beach house last year and they painted it coral! Their house is too cute and much more charming than Berrybrier, so it’s the perfect inspiration. Their home is in the final stages of a complete renovation (which is incredibly exciting to follow) and it’s just too cute!

Young House Love

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Luckily, they documented their careful color selection process and I followed their journey from paint swatch to paint swatch. They landed on Sherwin Williams 6324 Mellow Coral. I was determined to take this into consideration, but select something different. I pulled a ton of samples from work. At first I thought I’d go much darker, but eventually I came around.

Coral Colors | Land of Laurel

Bold colors tend to look even brighter on larger surfaces, so it’s important to select ones that go much more grey than you’d originally think. I ended up landing on Sherwin Williams 6611 Jovial. I picked up a color test pot at Lowe’s and popped some swatches on the house. Instantly it was bright, happy, and colorful!

Jovial | Land of Laurel

It looked good by the door, bright and happy. It’s always shady here and since this is the main way you get into the house, it’s an important view. Of course, it would look even better if the trim wasn’t filthy dirty!

SW 6611 Jovial | Land of Laurel

Still, I wasn’t sure. What if it was just a tad too bright? I brought in a back up swatch: Young House Love’s Sherwin Williams 6324 Mellow Coral. You can see below it’s just a little duller and a little more grey/brown in tone.

Paint Swatches | Land of Laurel

So although I had a color selected, I did not have the exact color finalized. I’m still debating endlessly. Mellow Coral is safer, it will clearly look bold on the home. Young House Love’s beach house is happy and absolutely colorful. Jovial is happy, just subtly different from Mellow Coral, and just a tad brighter. But is it too bright? What do you think? Which do you prefer? Which would you choose?

Luckily, although I’m stumped on the color for the siding, the color selection for the trim is easy: SW 7012 Creamy. It’s a happy white with a warmer undertone which will brighten nicely against Portland’s often cool grey skies.

And the roof? Also a quick decision! I’m going with a 40 year roof by Owens Corning in the Sierra Grey colorway.

Sierra Grey | Land of Laurel

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This is a nice light grey shingle with plenty of color variation. As Berrybrier has no air conditioning (and as someone who’s never lived in a house with air conditioning I have no plans to add it) I wanted something lighter that would reflect more heat in the summer. Dark colors absorb heat. It’s a basic scientific fact that almost everyone knows. So although dark roofs look fantastic and are extremely popular, I knew it wouldn’t be for me. Something light, bright, with significantly less heat retention would be most important. This picture also from Owen’s Corning shows a look similar to what I’m hoping for with the Sierra Grey. It’s light, but it’s not white and it has plenty of color variation. Decision made!

Sierra Grey | Land of Laurel

Now if only I could be one hundred percent sure about the siding color! Help! What would you pick? Random strangers walking by my house are being accosted for their opinions on paint color and I need yours too!

Paint Swatches | Land of Laurel

Brighter or more subdued?

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome to Berrybrier!

I bought a house! AHHHHHHHHH!! That is the sounds of my brain doing somersaults with my stomach. It’s a lovely feeling. But, truly, this is an incredibly exciting thing I’ve been wanting for a looong time. To have a place of my own feels fantastic! We closed on August 18th and I’ve been up to my ears in dirt, dust, and tools ever since. It’s the best thing ever. I finally feel settled in to my own home and you can bet that I’ll be tearing up DIYing the heck out of this place. In fact, I’ve already gotten started, but before I share that, I’ll give you a look around the place!

This moneypit house is a real fixer-upper and not in a cute Joanna Gains farmhouse-y style. As in, this house needs help. BIG HELP. And I’m here to lend a hand! Pretty much everything needs fixing on this place, and yes I do mean everything. Name something that could need to be repaired on a home and this house needs it. Although to some, that could be completely daunting, I’m just looking forward to many years of projects ahead! Which is excellent considering that’s all I’ll be doing for the next long while.

From the very first moment I saw the first pictures of this house on Redfin, I knew it was my house. I literally gasped aloud and got a strange feeling in my gut. THIS was my house. I knew it. After seven months of looking and putting in offer after offer, I had found the one. It checked all the boxes: pre-1940s, 2+ bedrooms, a big yard, room to grow, good location near shops and restaurants, easy commute, plenty of projects. Y’all are going to think I’m crazy when you get a look at these pictures, but something about this house is just so right. Enough preamble, though! Let’s dive in.

That very first image I ever saw of the house looked something like this one below. Basically, you could tell there was a house and that it was blue, but mostly all you saw was greenery!

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At some point, someone really loved this yard and planted tons of wonderful things like walnut trees, redbuds, hydrangeas, asparagus, mint, dill, parsley, fuschias, roses, etc etc etc. That person has not lived in this house for a loooong time though and in the last many years, this yards have become completely overgrown. It’s a mess! But a glorious mess full of glorious surpises like late blooming Magnolia trees and hidden troves of bricks!

You walk to the front door of the house through the driveway, which isn’t ideal, but I’m unlikely to be able to afford to change that any time soon. So everyone who comes over is greeted by the sight of my lovely garage. Don’t mind the doors. That’s just what they look like when they think they’re “closed.”

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The garage is basically falling down. But don’t worry, it’s not the garage’s fault. The garage has a terrible parasite: poorly planned additions. Yup, that’s right folks, the garage has not one, not two, but three additions! Awww, bless it’s little heart, it is still  hanging in there.

If we walk down the driveway to the back of the house, you get to meet yet another fun add-on: an octagonal deck and it’s multi-material roof. Now this is beauty, ladies and gentleman. Oh and yes, it is also basically falling down.

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Does the above picture confuse  you a little bit? Here, let me help. This should explain things better…

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Still confused? Me too. Let me try to state a few facts to help clarify. The above picture shows two of the garage additions: a workshop and a chicken coop. The structure coming out of the garage is the roof that covers the deck. It’s made of corrugated fiberglass, plywood(??), and a whole lot of screws. The supports for this little DIY roof, descend into the garage and chicken coop roofs, essentially ensuring that all water will collect there and all the things will rot. It’s a fantastic design. Truly, I could not have thought of it myself. The octagonal deck is made of 8 sides of different lengths varying from 15′ to 2′, just because, why not? The stairs of the deck descend into the corner of the garage and end about 4″ from it. As far as I can tell, this is designed specifically so that when you fall down the stairs your skull will crack completely open. That’s just my interpretation though. Also, this deck? Covers seemingly perfect condition original concrete steps. God, I love this house.

On to the backyard. This – and no sarcasm here – is what truly won my heart. This yard is bursting with potential. Potential and a whole lot of berries. On the far right is a huge magnolia tree that provides plenty of shade for a future table and chairs. Beyond that? All berries. Yup that huge mound of greenery is all RASPBERRIES!! AKA the best thing on earth except for chocolate. I spent my time touring this house eating raspberries from the backyard and it was heavenly. I cannot wait until next summer! You can also see a falling down fence, 1940s laundry line, and the huge chicken coop window in this picture. Why your chicken coop needs such a large window is a little beyond me, but I am assuming it’s so your chickens can torture Portland’s raccoons and coyotes.

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Here’s another view of the backyard looking towards the front. Here you see a huge rosemary bush, tons and tons of mint, a redbud tree, some parsley, and plenty of bees & butterflies. It’s really gorgeous if you can get past the flaking paint on the house. Yup the house needs painting. And a roof. Somehow I can afford this? I am surprised too. Luckily the windows are all updated! They’re double-paned which is pretty essential here in the Pacific Northwest. They are dark green vinyl exterior, wood interior windows which although it’s not my first choice, I’m pretty happy to have updated windows. I get to pick a really awesome paint color for the house’s siding to coordinate with the hunter green exterior windows and I can paint the inside any thing I want!

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Let’s go inside shall we? Here is the foyer! I am obsessed with this multi-paneled door. I think it is absolutely gorgeous and just needs to be sanded down and re-stained a darker walnut tone. That will make it look far less orange and 1980s. The foyer is open to the living room. Originally, this part of the house was an exterior porch that was converted into living space in the earlier part of the century. You can see the transition of the flooring. When they enclosed the porch they decided to keep the downward slope of the floor (that all porches have for drainage). That, my friends, is called “character.” The light fixture is kind of hideous, but also weird and beautiful, so I’m keeping it. The opening on the right to the dining room.

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The floors in the house are softwood – fir. They’re gorgeous and miraculously in good shape! The living room is relatively spacious and gets great light through south and west facing windows. The fireplace is an “update” from the 1960s or maybe 1970s. I’ll be completely reworking it down the line, but for now, it’s a functional fireplace! Which means s’mores! And fire! The pyro in me is just too pleased.

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This picture explains some of the flow of the house too. Standing in the corner of the room by the fireplace you can look out of the big front window to the front jungle yard and almost see the front door tucked in the niche in the corner. The dining room opens to the living room and you can almost see it on the right.

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The dining room is a little less bright since it has more northern light, but it’s a great size and fits my round table with room to grow. There is also a closet which we can’t close the door to, because it gets stuck shut. Which it is right now. Stuck shut, I mean. Just add that to my to do list, mmkay, thanks! Shout out to my dad about to walk up the front steps carrying tools though!

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Next you go through this teeny hall that has the basement door on one side and this strange hall to the lower floor bedroom on the other side. This is from the end of the hall looking towards the living room. The ceiling in the hall here drops lower because of the stairs. This lovely accordion door could be closed if you wanted to hide the kitchen from view. But yeah, that door already bit the dust. No thanks, accordion door!

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The weird little hall to the bedroom is kinda gross, but there’s a big closet at the end. This will end up being my closet because there isn’t actually a closet in the lower floor bedroom. PFffft. Closets. Whatever. So last year.

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The lower floor bedroom will end up being my bedroom. The other two I will be renting out. This room has nice high ceilings, picture railing, and northern light (good for sleeping). It also has a 24″ wide door to Portland’s smallest powder room.

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If you ever wanted to wash your hands while peeing, this bathroom is for you. Your knees literally tuck right under the wall mounted sink. In a bathroom this small, you’d better add 1970’s faux-paneling though. That’s the cherry on top. Truly, it’s precious, vct flooring and all. Plus look! The previous owner left us toilet paper.

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Let’s go into the kitchen. Look at these cabinets! The wallpaper! The old cast iron sink! This room is pretty dim from the roof that’s over the back deck, but I have a quick fix for that. It’s called demo. I wanted to try to keep these cabinets, they’re not in bad shape at all! Two weeks into the house, and I’m not positive they’re salvageable though. The flooring in this room though? The exact same as what my Oma had in her kitchen!

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Here’s a shot of the room that helps with layout. I took this standing on the landing of the stairs that lead to the upper level of the house. Look how cute the glass cabinets are though! SO MUCH POTENTIAL!

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This is one of my favorite details of the house. a little paint, a little crown moulding, and these will be cute cute cute!

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But why talk about the cute when we can talk about the ugly? Let’s go into the bathroom! Space planning these bathrooms was an issue. They’re also located in part of the house that was originally the back porch and it’s only about 54″ wide. So clearly you should put a ginormous bathtub in there, slap sheet vinyl on the floor AND the vanity, paint the walls dark magenta, and buy a pink toilet to match. It’s only right!

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Okay, let’s move on. The stairs! They’re not so bad! I mean the railing is black because it’s apparently NEVER been cleaned, but other than that, they’re quite pretty and not super narrow like most added to this era of home.

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The bedrooms on the second level are both under the eaves and just so cute. They both get fantastic light and are super cozy. And by cozy, I mean hot as balls right now, but you get the picture. The plaster is looking not so great on that back wall because someone plastered over wallpaper, because… well I’ve already said it.

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The closets in this room are a little funky, but that’s just vintage. A little rehab-ing and it will be completely adorable. Look at the gorgeous door though! Five panels!!!! I love it, love it, love it. Also the daisy flower heat register? THERE IS NOTHING MORE CHARMING.

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The other bedroom is where I am currently sweating sleeping, because I’ve given the lower floor bedroom to my parents who are helping me jump start the renovations on this place. Yay! Parents! The closet in here is a little more spacious and a little less funky. The room is a sweat sweet blue color that will be great in the fall or whenever Oregon decides to no longer be 100+ degrees. It’s just a tad hot at the moment. But my tried and true method of sleeping with a washcloth full of ice is doing the trick.

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And that’s it! That’s the house! I can’t wait to share all that I’ve been up to in the last few weeks and all that I’ve been dreaming about starting in the months to come. Get ready for oversharing and lots of learning experiences. Like this one for instance: I recently learned that I look like this after spending 3 hours moving bricks in 100° heat.

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I promise, give me a few months and this house will be almost as beautiful as that face. If that’s even possible. And if the spiders I keep finding EVERYWHERE don’t eat me first. Only time will tell!

Oh! And I named the house. Or I named the property. I am a total nerd, but I’ve always loved when people named their homes. This place is officially named Berrybrier. I’ll get into all the reasons later, but a good part of the origin starts with that out of control raspberry bush in the backyard!

So what do you think? Am I totally crazy, in over my head? Probably. Did you buy a fixer upper? Have tips for laying brick patios? What is your house called?