Potager Plans and Garden Inspiration

Potager Plans and Garden Inspiration

It’s starting to inch closer to Spring here in Portland, OR. And by Spring I mean, it’s March but the weather is still 27° in the mornings and it’s supposed to snow next week, but hey, who cares right? ME. I care! It’s FREEZING and I am over it. I am ready for warm weather and sunshine and sitting in my backyard enjoying the heat. So I’ve begun daydreaming and planning and pinning my backyard renovation. It’s a long ways to completion since demo and rebuilding of the garage is not on the docket until next summer, but I do want to get quite a few other things done out here this year.

As a reminder, this is what my backyard looked like when I moved into Berrybrier. Very little has changed since then, although the chicken coop is now gone and the vines are less developed since I had help whacking them all back in the fall of 2017.

So since the garage isn’t going to be touched, I’m mainly just looking at the right side of the garden and the rear of the garden this year. There’s a lot of things I want to squeeze into this space: a firepit (how could I not?!), cafe lights (the designer in me requires this), a chicken coop (literally a lifetime dream of mine!), and a vegetable garden! And that’s where my brain really starts to take off…

You see, the front yard (which I worked on a bit last summer with mixed results), I envision as this colorful, English country garden full of a chaotic mix of plants and some veggies with a meandering path leading around the house. Some of this will continue around the edges of the backyard as well. It will be full of life and slightly overgrown, a bit like this but more natural chaos. Lush greenery and bursts of color. Yum.

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In the backyard, I want to grow a whole ton of vegetables and this requires a more organized space. So I hoped on Pinterest and got inspired real quick. I want a potager, people. I want a fancy French kitchen garden and I want it to look a little something like this one below. The composed order of these beds just delights me. I know, I know, I am weird, but seriously, this really floats my boat. I can see walking out my backdoor and walking down my backsteps into this little potager full of veggies with a big firepit in the center and cafe lights on either side stringing from the house to the chicken coop at the back of the yard. Sounds dreamy, right?

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I dream of having something very organized and orderly. Yes, I am extremely Type A, how perceptive, of you! I’d love four large garden beds eventually encircling a firepit centered on the back of the house. A bit like this but with the center being a firepit with four big chairs rather than another planter. This shows a more naturalized garden beyond the potager as well, which is exactly what I have in mind!

The stone lined beds above have so much more of a European vibe than a wooden raised bed to me. They’re pretty, but stone gets expensive quick! I love the bricks here below surrounding the in ground vegetable beds. It’s beautiful and romantic and I love the mix of materials. I am leaning towards this over raised beds or stone lined beds, as it’s a bit more flexible if I want to change things up next year when the garage is demoed. Plus, when I bought Berrybrier, there were a ton of old bricks which I’ve moved around my yard aimlessly and they would be perfect for this purpose.

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This potager is entirely charming and I love the little outbuilding here all in white. I plan on painting my chicken coop white to match the house trim paint and if I’m lucky it will look half as cute as that little she-shed! Although I like the look, I won’t be paving the entire space between my garden beds with brick.

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For my garden pathways, I plan to use flat stones and fill the spaces between them with various varieties of thyme and other low growing groundcovers. I recently picked up some quartzite from a family friend and laid that as a path in the front yard, I’ll pick up more of it to really create a path. And then once the plants grow in, it just might look like this.

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This picture below I’ve pinned at least a dozen times. It is utterly charming and what really catches my eye (other than the darling chickens) is the boxwood hedge lining this part of the garden. Am I crazy to want to attempt that too?! I will need to measure my space to see if it makes any sort of sense, but I am very tempted to create a natural fence like this somewhere on the Berrybrier property. I also love how beautiful the vines climbing the outbuilding is, sculptural and lovely in summer and winter.

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The chicken coop would be a simple little structure with a central door and windows with window boxes on either side. On the inside it would be separated into two spaces one for storage (and maybe future Nigerian Dwarf Goats?!) and the other for the chickens.

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In both the front and the back, I want to add lots of evergreen plants so the whole yard isn’t just sticks in the winter. I have a lot of trouble with sticks all winter here in Portland. In California, winter is green and lush and summer is brown and dry. Here winter is grey and dull and the rest of the year is green and lush. It’s not my favorite.

I’ll also find/built some architectural pieces to support some climbing plants. Hopefully this will add to the landscape and create a secret garden feeling. I want the yard to have several meandering plants and some visual barriers that force you to discover different spots as you walk around.

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Another dream for the distant future would be to add an above ground hot tub to the side yard and surround it with greenery and some cafe lights for a dreamy place to relax and soak in the evenings. I desperately love soaking in hot water and not having a bathtub anymore is definitely not going to work for me in the long term. I love the way this tub seems to be part of the landscape! Mine would definitely be above ground, but if I can channel half of these vibes, I’d be ecstatic!

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It will take years for the plants to mature and grow in this manner and I’m not likely to afford such a luxury as a hot tub anytime soon, but in the meantime, I am going to continue dreaming my dream and planning and planning. Oregon is so nice to plants and gardens and the lushness here is barely comprehendible for a California girl like me. Hopefully with a lot of effort and care and good ole rain, I can achieve something like this dream!

What is your garden like? Did you take time to plan it before planting or are you more of a plant as you go type of person? I am completely in the middle, planning the general direction and planting whatever I fall in love with at the nursery!

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It’s PIIIIINKKK!!! My house is painted pink!!!

It’s PIIIIINKKK!!! My house is painted pink!!!

I give up on trying to call this color coral, it’s absolutely pink and it’s ALL OVER MY HOUSE! That’s right, y’all, Berrybrier is finally painted! It’s been a journey – a rough journey – to get here and I’m so glad to show you this today! My house finally looks like a home, like someone loves it! Remember what it was like when I bought the property? Partially blue with a white corner and lots of flaking paint, it hadn’t been updated in 30 years. I saw a very similar picture to this on the listing and instantly knew this place was my house, my future home. It’s a good thing I’m totally crazy, because normal people don’t fall in love with exteriors like this!

Continue reading “It’s PIIIIINKKK!!! My house is painted pink!!!”

Painting Blues

Painting Blues

Ages ago, I talked about trying to decide which color coral to paint the house at Berrybrier. The windows when I bought the house were aluminum clad exterior / wood interior windows. The aluminum exterior was a dark forest green with slight blue undertone which dictated my color choices on the rest of the house. In the end I decided on coral and dove in whole-heartedly with no looking back! I was attempting to schedule the exterior painting around the same time as the bathroom demo, new plumbing, electrical work, and roof replacement. So I was a little busy and things were a little crazy!

I was stressed and stretched thin; but my mom was in town and she volunteered to interview painters while I was at work. It was a huge load off my chest! Unfortunately it turned out that painters are extremely difficult to find and extremely flakey. My mom finally found some people after a few weeks: a married couple with their own painting business. The lady called me about 4 times to schedule a time to meet to sign the contract. This should have been the first weird sign. But the house looked terrible, my mom thought these people seemed good, and I was ready to paint it pink!

Berrybrier | Roof

The woman came over one night last October – a hot October – to sign the contract. It was the very end of painting season in Portland and she wanted to get started ASAP. I was all for it; I couldn’t wait to see the house all in coral. We walked around the house and discussed various things that night: exactly what I wanted painted the white trim color and what I wanted pink, some trim repairs on the back of the house, prep work needed, and payment. We also discussed timing, since the dormer was still being built, the roofers were still at the house, and the electrical was just beginning to get started. I had bought the paint – Sherwin Williams Emerald – during a big yearly sale, so that had been taken care of. The painters were charging about $4500 for the labor for the job which felt like a great deal. They asked for 50% upfront, which was pretty standard with how I was paying most of the various workers on their projects at Berrybrier. The painters were going to start the following week. I ponied up.

The first day of that week, the electricians shut off all the power at the house to do their extensive work. I probably should have guessed that that would happen, but I wasn’t expecting it since they hadn’t told me specifically to expect this. I found out later they didn’t think I was actually living at the house during these renovations! I had to call the painter and let them know that if they needed power to do their work (they did) they’d be delayed three days. This was an issue because the days were getting colder and wetter quickly. We pushed three days which brought us to a Thursday am start.

The plumber started his work in the bathroom that Wednesday. It was supposed to be a half-day job, the water was off at the main line to the house. Of course, with Berrybrier, nothing goes as planned. The plumbing needed another half-day’s work and the plumber wasn’t available again until that Saturday. This meant no water for the painters’ sprayers. I called the painters again, I asked if they could use water pulled from a hose from the neighbor’s house. They refused, saying they needed too much water for that and would rather push their work. That was a little annoying since access to water is access to water, but they were understandably annoyed at the situation. And I was too. This was convenient for no one! However, they were able to work on the house as soon as the water was turned back on. They planned to start work that Sunday and complete as much as they could on the house in the week of sun that stretched out. I was called out of town that weekend, last minute. I was excited to get back and see the progress on the house!

I returned home the following week, mid-week. Nothing had changed at the house. It did not look like anything had been touched on the painting. I called the painters confused. They told me they had found out they were having twins and were in a state of shock. I had not realized the woman was pregnant when she had come over to sign the contract, so this surprised me. It also frustrated me since we’d been discussing our tight timeline to paint the house. I’m all for mom and pop businesses, but it’s also important for these small businesses to be professional. The real bummer? This no-show thing soon happened again and again.

Several times they promised to paint, several times they didn’t come. I was majorly stressed as my insurance company demanded the house be painted by the end of November. Finally, they got it to the stage where the house was primed and the painters agreed to write my insurance company a letter assuring them the house was painted and water-tight. Thankfully, the insurance company agreed that this was sufficient and extended my painting timeline to October 2018 (a full year extension)! But we were still pushing to paint on the sunny days that fall. Unfortunately the painter still rarely showed and his team of painters were non-existent. One person was trying to paint the entire house in a couple of days. This person also decided to spray all the trim and then brush all of the siding. And then he never showed up.

The painters then refused to fix the window trim on the back of the house and refused to remove the silly little old alarm speaker on the front of the house. They refused to clean up the excess cable wires that were all over everywhere. They weren’t doing basic things like filling the holes from the old stair railing (dime sized holes!).And they continued to not show up when they promised to.

Berrybrier | Big Holes.jpg

Other brand new things like the smooth, new electrical pole on the side of the house were painted, but covered in drips. It looked terrible and definitely not like it had been done by a professional!

Berrybrier | Electrical Tube Drips.jpg

On December 9th, after the painter again did not show up. I took a hard look at the house. It looked terrible and it was increasingly clear in the areas that were “complete” that the prep work was insufficient. Some of the areas that had been primed had sticky oversaturated spray in places. I was extremely stressed, upset, and felt helpless. I talked to my neighbor Erik, he walked around the house and agreed the painters weren’t doing a good job. I sent them a text and told them not to bother coming back to the house, but I’d like to settle up a return of some of my payment. Of course, they fired back that I owed them an additional $600.

Berrybrier | Oversaturated Spray.jpg

I had some painters Erik worked with come look at my house that week. They were shocked by the condition and pointed out a lot of things I hadn’t even noticed before. They said the house would now be more work to properly paint than before. That blow added anger to the stress and exhaustion and unhappiness with this project. Combined with a non-functional bathroom, ripped up kitchen, and way too many other projects to count I was a pretty big mess.

Berrybrier | Flaking Paint.jpg

I had another painter, this one referred by my Uncle Scott’s Uncle Dan (a local contractor) over to take a look. He concurred, the house would now be more difficult to paint than before the other guys had started their work and created this mess. Cue the tears and feelings of loneliness and utter despondence. Daniel’s post on the renovation of the side of his house sums up these renovation feelings oh too well! It was a very low point and the house looked horrific.

Berrybrier | Flaking Eaves.jpg

Winter was already here; my house was covered with papered windows and oversprayed trim. It was an extremely obvious and embarrassing way to leave the house for the winter, but there really wasn’t an alternative. So gutters covered in plastic and patchy front paint and overspray it was!

Berrybrier | Fall House 2017.jpg

Even the snow did not make the house look any more charming! Passersby would jokingly ask if I’d changed my mind on which color I wanted. I’d taken a house badly needing painting and made it into a roadside attraction horror. It was mid January before I took all the plastic wrap off the windows. I didn’t have a ladder tall enough to get to the plastic wrap on the gutters… so that got to stay through August the following year!

Berrybrier | Snow House.jpg

My sister moved into Berrybrier in January 2018 and that March helped me patch the trim over the window and back door where ripping off the porch roof exposed cut up mouldings. This was a small improvement, but every little bit of progress counts!

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Meanwhile I submitted a complaint to the Oregon Certified Contractors Board against the painters I’d hired and tried to focus on the hefty list of other things I needed to work on. The painting would have to wait until summer 2018 and there was nothing I could do about it. This was a HUGE life lesson and a really unfortunate loss of a significant amount of money. But overtime, the stress reduced, the anger faded, and I’ve accepted it and moved on. Because there really isn’t an alternative is there? Have you ever had huge issues with professionals you’d hired? What did you do?

Light It Up, Up, Up! Light It Up, Up, Up! (But please, not on Fire!)

Light It Up, Up, Up! Light It Up, Up, Up! (But please, not on Fire!)

Speaking of things at Berrybrier that were in obvious need of immediate attention, during my first walk through the electrical at this place scared me! I went into the purchase of the house knowing that I would be dumping several grand (not a small number!) into updating the dangerous wiring! I snapped this picture with my phone at the initial walk through in order to have photographic evidence of my nightmares. I don’t know exactly what’s going on in this picture, but from what I can tell, there are three fuse boxes here and there are not enough fuses to power this house.

Berrybrier | Basement Wiring

I became quite acquainted with these fuse boxes as between refinishing the floors in the kitchen and the roof/dormer addition we blew a fuse every few days before the electricians could get in here. I also found out that the oven was on the same fuse as the dryer so the two could not be run at the same time! Needless to say, this wiring was very concerning!

The other terrifying thing with the electrical was the hot mess that was the exposed wiring in the basement. Things were spliced together all over the place by some previous DIY-er without much thought to safety or fire prevention. I had dreams of plugging in a vacuum and burning the house down, which just really makes you feel at home in a new place.

Berrybrier | Electrical

You could tell at some point, a previous owner had updated the knob and tube wiring to a modified mid-century DIY version of wiring. I couldn’t tell if that was reassuring or concerning when the electricians told me that. What I did know is I needed to get things rewired around here asap!

The thing about updating electrical is in order to pull the permit, the city gets to force you to do a few other updates as well. But they sure don’t pay for those additional requirements! One of the things they required as part of the electrical permit was updating and moving the electrical meter to bring it closer to the front of the house. Originally the meter was on the driveway side of the house near the between the master bedroom and bathroom windows. Since the electrical came from a pole on the street though, the wires had to snake along the entire edge of the house under the eaves. It looked about as lovely as the spliced wires in the basement, though the electricians assured me it was far more safe. Which was not reassuring at all, really.

Berrybrier | Electrical Meter Original

With the bathroom demo’ed, the electricians were able to come in and whip up brand new wiring in there as well as cleaning up everything in the basement and installing the new electrical meter. Moving the wires from the street was the first thing they tackled, it was a big change! Since the wires came from the pole on the opposite side of the house from the driveway, they originally snaked across the entire house before they could creep along the eaves. It was not my favorite look.

Berrybrier | Electrical Pole

The city, however, authorized new wiring that would come from the wires that snake through the big walnut tree by the end of the driveway. This meant it could be far more streamlined with a straight shot to the driveway! They added a new pole that jutted through the new roof and installed a new meter. One unfortunate thing about this new location is how dang close the meter is to the front door. Now it’s one of the first things you see on the house and it’s not a location I could dictate at all. This shot below was nabbed before the city came to change the wires to the new entry point, but you can see the new wiring. Now although there are no more wires running along the eaves, in order to get the entry to the circuit box squared away they had to run a conduit pipe halfway down the house. This is because the front half of the house only has a crawl space (no full basement).

Berrybrier | Dormer

Electrical is time consuming too! The guys came out for 3 full days plus one half day to get this all worked out. They updated me daily on all the terrifying discoveries they made – like the wiring to the garage was through a 1950’s extension cord hidden in the poured concrete behind the house and spliced into other interior wiring (AHHHH!!!). My team was super nice, but it took more handholding than I would have thought. In an ideal world, I would have been there to answer questions and generally more available to the electricians. It all worked out in the end, but it could have saved me some hole patching. Ha!

Now, electrical work is not all that pretty or exciting; it’s one of those hidden things that makes your house tick though! The final product cost me a pretty penny, so appreciate some afters okay?! First, check out how light and bright my basement is with some cheap lights picked up at the Restore! It’s so bright, my picture turned out truly horrendous from the blow out.

Berrybrier | Basement Light.jpg

This is a huge improvement over the dark dismal space the basement started out as when I bought the house though! Let’s start a competition for worst photo in this post, shall we? Entering this guy below — which while blurry and taken on an iPhone — shows how dark it was in this space before. The only lights were pull-cord, single bulbs scattered haphazardly throughout. You had to walk halfway down the stairs just to get to the first pull cord light! Now you flip a switch at the top of the stairs and a small sconce and the three big lights above come on, lighting up the whole space!

Berrybrier | Basement Before.jpg

And that crazy batch of wires above? That area is totally cleaned up now! There’s still an electrical box here, but the wires and crazy fuse box on fuse box are gone! The wire in this picture is actually cable wiring that’s been cut and needs to be removed (again on my to-do list).

Berrybrier | Old Wire Location

All the wires that were spliced together all terrifying and dangerous in the basement ceiling are now rewired and organized too. The ceiling is looking much more colorful and much safer now!

Berrybrier | Basement Wires

All these wires lead to the best part of the electrical work too! Look at this new circuit box, y’all! Not only is it labeled, but if something blows, I just have to flip a switch rather than going all the way to the store and buying a new fuse. It’s so amazing to have this and to be able to confidently turn off the electrical if I need to replace a light fixture or update an outlet. It’s a huge relief and it has a much larger capacity! No fuses have been blown since the electrical was upgraded.

Berrybrier | Circuit Box

Speaking of safety, the last upgrade at Berrybrier was adding a grounding wire to the house! Yup, nothing was grounded before. Yikes! Now this copper wire goes from the circuit box through the ceiling to the ground outside. It’s a vast improvement for safety!

Berrybrier | Basement Ground Wire

At this point, anyone reading this who’s had to do any electrical work before is counting the numbers in there head. Yes, this cost thousands of dollars, but this was money well spent, that I allotted for this even before deciding to purchase. There is nothing scarier than fire hazards in the home and old houses go up like kindling. The peace of mind I now have is priceless! But the electrical work was not at all! I spent about $8,500 on this project. This included:

  • updating and cleaning up all the dangerous basement wiring
  • adding new GFCI outlet, sconce, ceiling fan to bathroom
  • moving city electrical meter and rewiring all house electrical to new location
  • adding a new 200amp circuit breaker
  • adding new fan boxes in the upstairs bedrooms
  • replacing outlets in the upstairs bedrooms
  • installation of grounding
  • installing new grounded 30amp circuit for dryer
  • adding a sconce and 3 new light fixtures in basement, removing old fixtures
  • disconnecting power to garage and removing wiring between house and garage
  • adding a whole house surge protector
  • installing a dedicated grounded outlet for the fridge
  • Adding two outlets and an overhead light to the new dormer
  • adding new ceiling fixture at the top of the stair well with a switch be the bedrooms and a remote switch at the bottom of the stairs
  • Plus $200 – $300 in electrical permits pulled from the city

It did not include the installation of any of the fixtures which would have been another $1000 dollars, a bullet I wouldn’t have wanted to take even if it was $250. I don’t mind installing new lights, the electricians were shocked by that! They were also nervous about the liability of me installing my own fixtures, so definitely discuss this at length with your electrician before they start (I did not and it was confusing). Berrybrier isn’t burning down anytime soon though! This place is no longer a fire hazard! Which is a good thing since I came home last week to my sister blowtorch in hand toasting homemade marshmallow fluff on a s’mores cake she made! That’s enough fire danger for me!

 

New Roof For Berrybrier + a Dormer!

New Roof For Berrybrier + a Dormer!

Even before I bought Berrybrier, I knew the house needed a new roof. The listing actually mentioned this and – despite not seeing any leaks after a strong rain during escrow – it clearly needed to go. It was a hot mess of a roof in a city where waterproofed roofs are pretty dang critical. This was no DIY project my friends. It was time to bring in the professionals!Berrybrier | Roof.jpg

Although it’s not currently in vogue, I knew I wanted to replace the roof with another light colored shingle roof. The Portland summer sun is hot, hot, hot! When it bakes down on the house the upper floor becomes an oven of trapped heat. The lower level of the house manages to stay cool if it’s just a single hot day or even two hot days in a row, but any more than that and the house gets sweltering. A light colored roof can do wonders in keeping a house cooler. I picked Owen’s Corning’s Sierra Grey which I knew would go well with the exterior paint color I had in mind.

There was one other thing that I wanted to do when I replaced the roof though: add a dormer. The layout of the upstairs bedrooms with the stairwell made the house a perfect candidate for a dormer right at the top of the stairs. You see, when you walk up the stairs at Berrybrier there’s a large landing between the two bedrooms and across the landing from the stairs is a little door to a storage space. You can see the little crawl space door at the top here.

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Well a simple dormer added at the location of this crawl space could launch a huge amount of potential for Berrybrier. Adding a room in this space with a window would also allow more light into the stairwell. The future potential though is huge. A bathroom at this location would not only add incredible convenience to the upper floor bedrooms, but it would also turn this house into a 3 bedroom 2.5 bathroom house effectively doubling its value from my purchase price. Equity, baby! It’s important!Berrybrier | Crawl Space

I went about interviewing roofers shortly after I bought the house and trying to draw up plans for a dormer to get approved by the city development department. That was stressful! And then there was the whole manner of finding someone who could build the dormer too. A couple weeks into my search I mentioned my need for a roofer to Erik from next door who – of course – had a guy. A few days later Rigo was at my house and he said he could build the dormer too. Woohoo!

After inspecting the roof, Rigo was able to tell me that it had the original cedar shingle roof below two layers of asphalt shingles. This meant, I needed a complete tear off of all three layers of roofing and a new layer of plywood sheathing before the new roof went on. Of course, this is about triple the work of adding a new asphalt single roof and thus about triple the cost. Oh the joys of homeownership!

Berrybrier | Roof Shot

Off to the computer I went drawing up plans for a dormer addition. It took me about a week of a couple hours work after my 9-5 job to complete the plans. I was able to go to the Portland Development Bureau’s homeowners’ night and get my drawings looked at after working hours. It’s a busy Thursday night at homeowners’ night and after waiting two hours I thought I would have to go home without a permit. Luckily, they squeezed me in right at the end and approved my plans quite quickly! Even better, Rigo and his crew were able to start work the same week I finally got permits for the addition of the dormer!

The first thing they did was rip off the entire roof! It was the very bitter end of last September at this point, but 2017 was a hot, dry summer and we managed to avoid any rain. I know, hard to believe it’s Portland, right? They spent about just a couple of days with a crew of 4 or 5 guys to rip off all three layers of roofing. The sheathing then took another couple of days. They layered waterproofing over the sheathing very quickly. They split the roof side by side and did demo, sheathing, and waterproofing on one side before moving to the other. This kept an assurance that just in case it did rain my house wouldn’t end up flooded! I wish I’d gotten a picture of this crazytown Frankenstein roof, but the guys did it so quickly while I was at work a basically blinked and missed it!

They did all of this work on the roof in the existing plane of the roof before on Saturday October 7th in the morning a crew showed up and cut a GINORMOUS hole in my roof! It was amazing to watch them just take a bunch of saws and just go at it! Here’s all the guys smiling once the hole was complete and they were ready to start the next phase of work.

Berrybrier | Whole in the Roof

Within just a few days, they’d built the shell of the dormer and completed the roof! I was amazed that just four days later the dormer went from a dream and a hole to an entire new room! From the outside, it looked like it belonged. I wanted an addition that looked intentional, like it could have existed from the beginning and this one had that vibe. Sure, it was only a shell that first week – just enough to keep the water out – but it felt right!

One thing I wasn’t in love with though? The dark black roof vents on the opposite side of the roof. They looked jarring against the light grey shingles and stood out way too much for my liking. I asked Rigo about them and he was quick to let me know they also made light grey ones (like were on the old roof) and he could switch them out in a couple of weeks. Yay!Berrybrier | Black Vents

Back to the dormer though! A quick couple days later and the dormer was sided and trimmed out to match the house. The guys finished up work on the interior of the dormer, adding appropriate studs and structural elements. The only remaining item was the window… which was on back order until November of course! Brrrrr! The weather was starting to get cold now and there was still a gaping hole in my house! A normal person would have selected a different window that was more readily available. But not me! See those green aluminum exterior wood interior windows? I was duplicating that in the dormer, no matter what!

Berrybrier | Dormer.jpg

This was a long phase of a crazy looking house, but wrapping up the new roof was a huge relief, despite the $12 grand now missing from my bank account, I felt like I’d really gained a sense of security knowing water wasn’t going to start pouring in one way or another. The dormer came in a 4k plus an almost $500 window. Both were huge investments in the house, the dormer obviously was an optional add, but the pricing felt right and the timing was good to ensure everything was waterproofed together.

Waiting on the window proved to be the most difficult thing due to the weather. The house was freezing! I slept in my sleeping bag in order to stay warm. The house felt like a stranger at this point because so much was going on. See that picture above? The windows were all taped off for painting, the new electrical meter and service had been rewired by the city, everything was happening all at once and boy did I have a thousand things to do! More on that soon…

Let there be light!

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!

Winter is Coming

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!

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?