Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Landscaping Time!

I should probably start by saying I love working in the garden.  For stress relief, nothing beats working outside to transform an overgrown yard.  And now that the summer is here, we've turned our attention to landscaping our Mid Century Modern project.
The starting point..... there's a house there somewhere, but it's hard to see from the street!
As you can see, it's ready for a refresh, but we have debated long and hard about how to approach it.  In general we want to:
1) Utilize what's there, where possible. We don't want to rip everything out and start with little 1 gallon shrubs
2) Revitalize the soil and plantings - there is so much shade that we needed a soil test to get started
3) Keep the mid-century feel as much as possible
4) Do as much of the work ourselves - aka: this won't be a quick project

Now I'm not an expert on mid-century landscape style.  But as I've done some research, I've found that it's typically done with bold, rectilinear plantings.  So that means lots of mass plantings of single species - just the opposite of your typical cottage garden!  I can see where that would work well in California, on a nice flat, square lot.  But here in Maine with our rock outcroppings and rugged landscape, we have to be a bit more creative.  We have over an acre of property with lots of different elevations, so it's a bit of a challenge.  And since we can't do everything at once, we decided to break the property into manageable projects.
There are huge faces of rock across the east side of the property-  look closely you get a peek of the house!
Rear Courtyard
With that in mind, we started on the areas right around the house.  First up -  the courtyard by the back kitchen door.  This is the entrance we use for groceries and also were the grill is, so it gets a lot of activity in the summer months.
Courtyard Before
It has this great circular garden area and a large patio space.  The light fixture didn't work anymore, but Richard did some repair and now it's a great accent!
We went up to Fernwood Nursery in Montville to look at some specialty shade plants.  Their nursery is renowned in Maine for their shade plant selection and we had a great time picking out some new plantings.  Don't they look great?  Astilbe, hosta, Brunnera and Stachys....creating a true green & white garden.

The gravel infill between the rocks isn't exactly the look we want!
On the other side of the house, we wanted to do some planting around the deck new deck.  We love how the granite thrusts up around the edges of the deck, but wanted to soften it with some greenery.
 The solution?  Steps of rock with ferns and ground cover filling in the spaces.

But the ferns really soften the hard edges!
The third area we focused on was the walkway to the front door - it was ready for some big updates.
Our starting point.  Steel front doors and overgrown plantings

BIG granite pavers for the front walkway!
With our bold new blue doors, we wanted an equally bold walkway.  After a lot of thought, we decided on granite pavers for the walkway.  They are rugged, in keeping with the exterior of the house and provide clean, simple rectangular lines to the front door.  They can also take a lot of winter abuse - so shoveling and salt/sand to keep them safe won't be a problem.

New doors, new walkway and new plantings

To accent them, I planted a combination of ornamental grasses and black-eyed susans to give some color and texture.
And look at the side by side difference!!  The new front doors, with the giant window above, provide a nice focal point as you meander up the new walkway.

Our starting point.....
New Doors, New Windows, New Walkway, New Landscaping..... and siding is coming soon!
I bought these fabulous fish a long time ago.  Somehow, they never looked quite right at our old house.  But I love them here!
 And as you walk out the front door, it looks pretty nice too!
Earlier this spring, I gave the giant rhododendrons a haircut, to bring them into scale with the front yard and to thicken them up.  It might take a couple of years to get them to the point I want them, but so far so good.....  The neighbors have commented that you can finally see the house from the road!  Of course this also highlights how badly the siding needs to be replaced - but we'll be doing that this fall.  Can't wait!
Before:  Overgrown shrubs, leaky bubble window, not-to-building-code deck
Now:  Work in Progress, but lots of updates!
Look closely and you can just barely see the house in the background.  Taking out some of the bushes and tree limbs has really helped with curb appeal.
Before..... there's a house back there somewhere!!
We've had a couple of sessions with tree cutters, to eliminate some ailing trees and get some more sunlight into the yard.

We've started figuring out how to get rain/melting snow away from the building.  We used river rock to help the natural drainage paths that exist in the mossy area under the giant oaks.  The first big rain was last week and it seems to be doing the trick!

Of course there is so much more to do!!!  We've tackled only a small portion of the property, but this will take multiple iterations.  Hopefully when the siding and landscape are complete, this place will start to look like new!

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Thursday, August 22, 2019

The Storybook Cottage: Before & After

When I renovate a house, I love to find one that has lots of vintage charm intact.  That was certainly true of this project, the same owner had lived in the house since 1955, with very few updates.  But talk about potential, wow!!  It was just oozing with potential!

The exterior had so much curb appeal!  The combination of cedar shingles with clapboards, in a 2 tone color combination was a winner.  As well as the charming 3 board shutters.

But the exterior was in pretty bad shape, so we got to work, replacing the shingles with new white cedar (grown and milled right in Maine!).  
The shutters were pretty rough, so we made new replacements and then gave the house a 'lead safe' paint job.
The result was charming!  The curb appeal was enhanced and it suddenly became a house that everyone noticed, instead of just a 'drive-by'.

And of course we made lots of changes on the interior as well.  The original 3 season porch was the true entrance to the house.  We made it year round space

and created a hard working mudroom to provide space for all the coats and boots that come with a Maine winter.
We divided the porch into a mudroom and a home office

Hooks, baskets and a mud bench provide style and function
We turned the other end of the porch into a home office.  As more and more people work from home, I find that a home office is a valued feature - and this one has a lot of style!

The biggest changes to the house were in the family living spaces.  This started as 4 small rooms - with LOTS and LOTS of wallpaper (a total of 13 different patterns in the house).

4 rooms - hallway entrance, dining room, living room and kitchen
Once the walls were removed, it suddenly seemed so light and bright!  

We made this a true open floor plan with the kitchen open to the living and dining spaces.  

And while dark blue cabinets would be a challenge in some houses, with the new south facing windows, this space is so bright they look fantastic!
Original Kitchen

We built a custom banquette (with lots of storage beneath those cushions!) to provide lots of seating in the dining room.
Dining Room - Before
The back window became the new doorway to the mudroom
And once the old entrance was incorporated into the living room, it's a huge room with space for the whole family.

We also incorporated some other special projects - like this corner hutch that I found at the local Habitat for Humanity ReStore for $30! Doesn't it look like it was always there?

And after many, many hours of work, the newell post and banister are pretty gorgeous.

The first floor originally had a cramped bedroom and bathroom - not to mention the refrigerator that was in the hallway as you walked in!

Seriously, this was the smallest bathroom ever!  Now it's big and bright!

We changed all that by gutting the space and starting over.   We raised the ceiling with a new structural beam, which made the whole space feel much bigger and brighter.  

The new master bedroom isn't huge, but with 4 windows and a private bath, it's pretty special.

And then there was the 2nd floor.  We gave the original, vintage bathroom a facelift by refinishing the clawfoot tub and installing a new sink and toilet.  The marble black and white floor is pretty nice too!
Vintage Bathroom - Before
Vintage Bathroom - After
This cute Dalmatian fabric inspired the whole bathroom design!  Black, White and Gold - a classic!

The large bedroom got lots of behind the wall updates and now feels like a whole new room!
Next door were two TINY bedrooms.  We knocked out the wall between them and suddenly it's a nice big room with space for a bed, dresser and sitting area.  Plus, it's got 3 closets.  When was the last time you saw that in an old house?
Before - two small rooms
After - one large room!

And while we said goodbye to most of the wallpaper, I kept this kitten paper in the closet :-) 

Oh, and let's not forget the basement!!  There was originally a finished room, but it was pretty dark and the paneled walls made it hard to get around the cramped hallway.  Now it's a pretty great bonus room!

And what about the systems?  You know, the stuff behind the walls!  Well, we completely updated the electrical (it had knob and tube wiring with a fuse box in the basement) system, put in a new high-efficiency gas heating system, brand new windows and upgraded the insulation.  Those aren't the things you see, but they make a huge difference on how the house functions.

And the result?  Well the new homeowners absolutely love it!

Want to see more?  Follow along on our next project with Instagram or Facebook!
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