Thursday, November 8, 2018

Our big summer project - three months later

We usually have a big outdoor project every year, and this year we chose to put in a big, beautiful shed.  We have limited storage in our garage, so a shed is absolutely necessary.  Here she is newly put up.
We chose to use Tuff Shed because of the 6 inch galvanized steel joists that make it able to sit right on the grass without the expense of a slab underneath.  Unfortunately, Tuff Shed requires a permit to install their sheds, and that meant I had to deal with the village - which sucked.  We have a huge 10ft utility easement on the back property line, and it has to be 5 ft from the side lot line, which meant the shed had to be basically in the middle of our yard.
I didn't want to put it in the easement, because it cost 4k and if they needed to remove it to work on the utilities, we were out of luck.  I agonized over the placement of our 8x12 shed.  Originally, I thought we could put it lengthwise against the side lot line facing our tree...then I realized our side lot line is actually only 10 feet from our house - see orange cup on the stake.  This is in between our houses, with ours being on the right side of the pic.  I guess we've been mowing our neighbor's grass for three years!
With this narrow side yard, the tree trunk would be only 7 or 8 feet from the shed door if we put it along the side line.  No thanks!  We ended up turning it to face front, and landscaped to make it seem intentional that it was so far into the yard.  Spoiler alert - the inspector didn't even measure anything, so all my careful measuring and worry was for nothing!  I was livid!
It was pretty fascinating to watch the installation process.  It was a man and woman, and they had it done in about 6 hours if I remember correctly.  We ran into an issue where I didn't call the diggers hotline before the install date, the Tuff Shed receptionist who scheduled me didn't tell me I needed to, and the village of Palatine requires three foot deep anchors to be attached to all four corners of the shed  You know, in case the all-wood and metal 1 ton building blows away in the wind.  It was quite an ordeal getting them to come back to put in the anchors that we paid for, so that tarnished my experience.  But, they did get in about a week later so we could get inspected and start landscaping.
This shed is absolutely wonderful.  It looks beautiful, it has windows that slide open, and we opted for the built in shelving on the back wall.  Zach loved the shelving until we got it all crapped up!
I upgraded to black hardware, and I'm so glad I did.  We would love to one day get electric run to the shed, and I would probably add two small black 'porch' lights somewhere on the front.  
I love how it looks from the street!  Just like a mini version of our house, minus the brick.  
Once it was up, I bought some foundation plants and came up with a plan to make this thing look less dropped in from nowhere.  
I changed my mind so many times with the landscaping plan!  I realized after we got it installed, that the extra big door can swing all the way back to the window, so we'd have to plant low things where the door swings.  I probably could've gotten two smaller doors that meet in the middle, but we are just working with it.  
I always like when things are new and clean, so I took a formal photo with the shed before all the landscaping, complete with yellow string to help mark it out.  I never get in the photos, so I'm glad I did!
While I loved the clean look of the inside for the first week or two, we had to spoil it all with our junk  We needed tall shovel and rake storage, and lots of heavy duty hooks for our bikes and yard tools.  
We got everything we needed at Home Depot, including the customizable tool rack and pegboard panels.  Warning, I did not tidy up for these photos.  This is my life!
And the other side, minus our bikes which are usually hanging from those ceiling hooks:  
And the lovely view straight on:
Things on the outside started to take shape after I decided to use five grasses along the side lot line to act as sort of a privacy screen.  We had to cut out a lot of grass all around the shed, and the right side had to be extra long.  
I always prefer a curvy planting area, and I worked with the existing circle around the maple tree to make this one big mulched area. 

Zach liked to help with the grass removal, and he found a bunch of cicada shells, so that was a little boy WIN!
Once we got it all in, it was looking so much more natural.  On the right is a Pinky Winky hydrangea, 3 pink phlox moved from another spot in the yard, 5 Northwind switch grasses, a blue star juniper, and native little bluestem grass by the door.  
The left side has another little bluestem, another blue star juniper, a golden barberry, and tall bee balm.  Though, it seems I planted the barberry after this photo was taken!
The grasses along the side should get nice and big, about 2.5 feet around.  I can't wait to see what that looks like!  I also planted tall Joe Pye Weed on either side of the window, they get about 6 feet tall, so it should be a beautiful sight in late summer.
Now, we are into November, and here is what the shed is looking like now:

I love how everything looks like it was always there.  We plan to put some tall evergreens behind the shed to block the unfortunate view of our neighbor's unmowed yard and satellite dish.  I also appreciate how the foliage of my plants are changing with the season.  I need to pay more attention to selecting plants with fall color, rather than putting nothing but beautiful summer flowers in!
This little barberry in the front of our house makes me so happy!  I plan to put in more shrubs that have that beautiful fall color next year. 
One other thing I did this summer was overhaul the planting area in the back corner of our yard.  I'll share that project in a different post!  One last view of the shed from our back door:
So happy to have it installed!

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Landscaping update

I'm pretty sure I start each summer with the same post (I know it's mid-July, sorry!), it goes something like 'once the garden centers open for the season, I feel the itch to landscape!' This year was no exception.  We had a few things die over the winter and cold spring (my roses, a maiden grass, a tall daisy) but other than that, things are looking good.  We got our annual pile of triple ground mulch from the Mulch Center, it's so damn beautiful when it first gets dropped off.
The kids 'helped' me spread it around, it was worth the mess to see them covered in mulch and laughing.
I love the look of new mulch! 
I wanted to spruce up a couple areas I thought were lacking, so I searched for a planter that would fit this weird ledge near our garage.  I found the perfect one on Wayfair, it is like it was made for this spot. 
I planted some annual grasses in there.  The planter is lined with styrofoam too, so they will stay alive longer in the fall. 
Another new addition to this area is the little Ikea table and chair set that we bought in Minnesota.  We found it in the garage, and decided to just set it up on the drive as a makeshift patio while the kids ride and play on the sidewalk.  We don't park in the left side, so this works for us - and I think it looks cute!
 Rules, there are no rules here!
I also wanted to add a planter in the back by our deck.  Found this modern concrete-look composite one at Home Depot, love it!  I'm considering adding a couple more along the deck, electrical is buried there, so we can't plant in the ground. 
You might notice a hot mess to the right of this planter.  Yeah, that is a dumb ass project that I'm not sure what I was thinking when I did it.  We basically had a mud pit at the bottom of the deck, it made a huge mess on the wood and got walked into our house. 
We thought it would be cost-efficient to just remove the grass and some soil, and put in a little patch of paver base as a 'patio' until we did an actual patio.  I got to work on this silly plan. 
It went surprisingly fast, I got all this done in a few hours.  I planted some Stepables plants on the sides, but it turns out that paver base is very painful to walk on.  Duh! 
We made it work with an old door mat until I picked up some (but not enough) rubber pavers for the top at Menards.  It looks awful, that's for sure!  We intend to add a large paver patio next year, so this will hold us over until then. 
Other additions to the yard include a sweet raised garden bed that we made out of cedar.  I can't wait to share how we did it, it's been amazing to have endless amounts of cucumbers, and our corn is so majestic! 
We got a random apple tree from a friend who saw it posted for free online.  We aren't sure what kind it is, but we think it is an upright variety because of how the branches are pointed up.  We will see what happens!
So, things are doing well around the house and we've been lovingly watering the crap out of everything since we haven't had any significant rain for a long time.  Here are some yard shots, it's pretty fun to see how things are filling out. 
A close up of this year's planter in the front...I like it, but it's a little high maintenance and you can't see the Cordeline in the back anymore.  One day I'll get it perfect!
We found a new hibiscus that we couldn't pass up this year, so there will be another large plant taking up room in our house this winter.  Ugh, I just can't help myself!
We have a fun project happening soon, hopefully I can share it before another two months goes by!  Happy July!

Monday, May 21, 2018

Changes downstairs

The last time I shared our family room, it looked like this:
Everything has looked pretty much like that since 2016, then we decided to change up the layout this spring.  The couch was too far from the tv, and there was a lot of space in the front of the room that got all crapped up with kid stuff.  So, we decided to move our shelves together near the far end, and move the couch forward to create a kid area that can't be seen from the door.  Here it is now:
The baby buggy in the corner now lives in the playroom, and in it's place, I put a couple old school desks I found at Goodwill.  I added to the 'coloring nook' with a gold plug-in pendant from World Market. 
The rest of the area behind the couch is sort of a jumble, but I guess that is the point!
I have tried to get some stuff on the walls, too.  I was so tired of looking at a big blank wall above the sectional, so I got a 20x30 made of my favorite image of the boys. 
It was obviously way too small for that spot as a stand-alone image.  See this blog post on my photography site for more info about how I found that out the hard way!  Instead of the picture of the boys, which I moved above the desks, I decided to get these canvases from Target:
These are the proper scale, and I love the retro look of the well as the beautiful colors!  I plan to fill in the sides with gold framed prints to keep with my 'black, gold, and wood' theme throughout the house. 
A vintage cane chair (set of two, actually) that my neighbor was throwing away is living in here for additional seating.  I would love to reupholster it, because the fabric isn't in good shape.  I've also thought about painting it!
You can see I put my white Goodwill mirror from the Russet street house on that back wall.  I'm not sure it will stay, but it's nice to get it out of the garage for now.  The half moon table underneath it is absolutely a placeholder for something better when I find it.  A curtain in the doorway of the laundry room is a nice way to cover the mess with no fuss.  This brings me to my real issue....the color of the doors in the lower level.  They used to be an orangey wood, and I intended to paint them white to match the trim. 
But after I primed (with BIN) and painted the inside of the bathroom door, I got to thinking that maybe Urbane Bronze would look nice on the outside of the door as well.  So, I did my thing and ended up with a nice dark door.  PS - painting over BIN is a dream, it sands perfectly smooth and paint sticks to it like crazy!  Also, I never remove hardware, and always do the insets of a panel door first. 
There is only one coat on the outside of the door, because I'm not sold on the color.  This photo was taken before the mirror was added, but this is a good representation of how it looks during the day.  There is a good amount of light down here, so I'm not worried about dark doors making it look dark.  I do think it might make the old parquet floor look orange, but that may be the other door throwing me off. 
Also, I know it was popular five years ago to do interior doors this color, and I don't want to be 'dating' myself.  I do like the way it looks when opened into the bathroom!
We only have the bathroom, playroom, and door to the garage.  You can see at night how much more orange/yellow the floor looks.  However, I'm not sure white doors will be much better!  
I do love the idea of dark doors from a cleaning perspective, since my white doors upstairs are filthy from the kids.  Along with my walls, but that is a different story.  So, what do you think?
Next post, I'll be taking it outside!