The House’s Big Bad Before and After Post: The Exterior Edition

When we first bought the house on the hill, the landscaping left something a lot to be desired. The place had obviously been vacant for some time, and the surrounding foliage had gone wild.

The house sits on .4 acres, and all but a tiny sliver was actually usable to us. Drake would disappear in the underbrush of the backyard so often we learned to just wait for his reappearance. I don’t have a wonderful picture of the original backyard, but you can get an idea of how dark and thick it was through the windows of this shot of the sunroom:


Eventually we got in there with hand clippers and stripped all of the tiny trees and brush that we could, until we got to this point below. We then decided to take out a huge pine that would kill us in an instant were it to fall, and then the official re-landscaping began. Here are some in-progress photos of the backyard:


Another view of before and after

Another view of before and after

Now the entire backyard is grass, and we love how open and yet private it still is.



Besides the grass, we also took the time to install lattice and put mulch down around the little patio, making it feel more complete and less… unloved. This is one of my favorite places to sit in cool evenings with a book and watch Drake get his zoomies out in the yard.


In the front we had a similar, if not worse disaster, given that all of the weeds and landscaping-gone-mad was firmly rooted in landscaping cloth. I kid you not, that stuff is meant to last and it is a PITA to get up. Many, many hours of sweat, blood, and tears later we turned it into a barren, but easily maintained pine-covered space.


Last, but not least, is the house itself. The original light grey and bright blue shutters screamed 90s, and since it was due for a repainting, we went with a much warmer color scheme of green and brown, with ivory trim. This was another project that took forever (even though we hired people), but it’s another one that transformed the house on a hill.


I like to think that the neighbors are so much happier after we’ve made all our changes to the exterior of the property. It was a long time in the making, but I now think that someone else could easily fall in love with the place and hopefully want to make it their own!


The House: Kitchen Cabinet Makeover

It’s done!

Finally, I can share with you our kitchen cabinet makeover- a work in progress over the last couple months. It’s taken that long because the husband and I limited ourselves to weekends, and what with traveling, weddings, etc, well.. it just took some time. (To see the first transformation – and original state of the kitchen – click here)

Before (Post granite countertops)

Before (Post granite countertops)

We I (he could have cared less) chose the color White Duck by Sherwin Williams. This was potentially the most frustrating part of the process for me, as I spent a lot of time second-guessing myself before finally committing to the color. Our kitchen has so much natural light that I was afraid to go for a bright white because it might look sterile. But in the end, even though the swatch looks hella dark, the cabinets read as white without feeling like a hospital room.

white duck paint

Worrying over White Duck included painting another swatch (right side of cabinet) to prove I wasn't crazy

Worrying over White Duck included painting another swatch (right side of cabinet) to prove I wasn’t crazy

After much research on the interwebs, and talking to friends who have undergone cabinet makeovers themselves, we settled on a process. We decided to split the kitchen into manageable sections and complete each section at a time. Living with 2 cats and a dog, this allowed us to keep our sanity- we would only have to cordon off one part of the room, and for the most part our pots and pans would be protected from roving noses and paws, by being shifted to other parts of the kitchen.

Shifting around kitchen contents

Shifting around kitchen contents

After that, the process was fairly straightforward. For each section, we

  1. Washed the surfaces to get rid of grime and dust (we just used dish soap and warm water)
  2. Sanded with a rough grit paper (and wiped down)
  3. Taped off the area
  4. Primed
  5. Sanded with a fine grit paper (and wiped down)
  6. Painted (x 4 coats, always at least 4 hours between each coat, inspecting for any bumps in between and always sanding lightly before/after the last coat)
Master of the brush

Master of the brush (my weapon of choice – the roller. Also the tack cloth)

The preparation for each section (washing through priming) is the most time intensive piece, whereas actually painting, even given the husband and I’s obsessive carefulness (heaven forbid any drips or hairs get in the paint!) went by fairly quickly. For the doors, we were careful to label the hardware and keep everything organized, since we were warned that matching hardware to its original door can be a bear. Then it was a matter of painting the back of the door, followed by the cabinet frame, and then if the doors were dry enough, flipping them and doing their fronts.

Our cabinets were not in the best shape, but definitely showing wear and tear

Our cabinets were not in the best shape, and definitely showing wear and tear

The tools of the trade that we employed included:

  • 2 Tack cloths
  • Lots of sanding blocks in rough and fine grit
  • Goodness knows how many paper towels for wiping down dust
  • Medium quality angled brush for priming
  • Roller for priming
  • High quality non-shedding angled brush for painting
  • High density foam roller (6″) for painting
  • Drop cloth (safety note: this thing is slippy as shit on a hardwood floor, and if you walk over it without thinking, you may bust your a$$)
  • Paint & Primer

All in all I would guess these materials cost us $150, well worth it considering that the quote we received for having the job done professionally, it would have cost more than our granite countertops! If I were to give any piece of advise for someone looking to do this themselves, it would be this- do not scrimp by with cheap brushes. They will shed, they will leave brush strokes, and you will go crazy picking out or trying to sand off hairs afterwards. Even though I invested in high quality brushes, hairs occasionally happened, and noticing any kind of fiber embedded in a dry coat of paint will drive you to insanity.


After finishing, we laid liner inside the cabinet interiors that needed painting (mostly where the pots/pans go, where large stains were present) to protect the surface and I took the opportunity to reorganize the contents of drawers and cabinets. Overall, I am thrilled with the results. The kitchen feels so much brighter and clean, but the white is soft enough so as to blend with the rest of our neutral palette. We saved ourselves thousands of dollars, and though it was a ton of work, the house feels so refreshed as a result- totally worth it!







Bathroom Renovations

The master bathroom in this house has been… an adventure. Starting back just months after we purchased the house, we noticed a soft spot underneath the disgusting white linoleum. With visions of falling through through the ceiling into the kitchen below, we replaced the plywood and put down octagonal tile, and with that the bathroom renovation officially began.

Classic 90's paper here

Classic 90’s paper here, there, and everywhere

Months later we revisited the room, this time taking down the ivy print wallpaper from all the walls. A light fixture also came down at that time, and I can’t even remember why.

Before: Down to drywall, mismatched knobs, missing lights, and busted cabinets

Before: Down to drywall, mismatched knobs, missing lights, and busted cabinets

Because then it sat. For months. Other projects took precedence, and we hid the bathroom from visitors at all costs.

When Uncle Sam came through with tax returns, we knew exactly which room needed the most loving. The husband was absolutely fed up even thinking about all of the work required, but I was beyond excited to finally have the light, airy bathroom of my dreams.

After a bevy of painters, plumbers, and electricians, and a bit of installation work by the husband and myself, I can finally say- It is finished.

See for yourself!


Color: Sea Salt by Sherwin Williams

My new handmade necklace holder, courtesy of Etsy

My new handmade necklace holder, courtesy of Etsy

No more busted cabinets!

No more busted cabinets!

New acrylic knobs- and look, they all match!

New acrylic knobs- and look, they all match!

It was a long time coming, but I am just in love with the results. What was once a forever-in-progress mismatched disaster is finally my personal spa and little oasis!

2014 Resolutions and Goals


As previously discussed, 2013 was a huge year for us (Parts I, II, and III here) here in the House on the Hill. I think I will always look back and smile when I think of all the changes me and mine have gone through, and be glad for the memories. However, as much fun as it is to relive those moments, now is the time to look forward to what lies ahead. Surely 2014 will not be quite as tumultuous  as 2013, but I still expect to make lots of memories nonetheless! Here are some of the things I hope to see happen in the coming year.


The Horse
Blah, blah, blah, insert yet another comment about moving up to Novice here. But to get a little more specific, my hope for 2014 is to not only go Novice, but to do so with a final score below 35. So ideally, get a 65% or better on dressage and go double clear in show jumping and cross country. I know time is going to be our biggest issue, so I think I would also be pretty ecstatic if another scenario happened- like a 67% dressage test and a couple time penalties XC. Just being honest! 🙂 At the end of the day though, I will be satisfied with a happy, healthy, and fit horse!

We get knees at Novice!

At home, I want to nail our canter transitions (we had some great ones this weekend so this should be entirely possible!) and get our lengthenings solid enough to do a first level test and score in the mid 60s. In order to do this all of our transitions need to be sharp and supple as well, so I will be concentrating on these too.


The House
I pretty much went into this at the end of my accomplishments post, but my main two priorities are the kitchen and the landscaping. We’ve done a lot to the backyard recently (pics to come) but the kitchen will surely be the biggest project of all!


The Rest
Lately I’ve been doing some soul searching, and there are definitely tons of some things I would like to improve about myself. On a purely physical level, I let myself eat poorly over these holidays (who doesn’t?) and want to get back to feeling good about myself and be more in shape. I want to look into calcium supplements and try to decrease my Red Bull intake.

Seriously, it's a problem.

Seriously, it’s a problem.

Then I want to work on my attitude. I’ve always known that I have perfectionist tendencies and somewhat low self esteem, but recently the combination has had a pretty dismal effect on my general outlook. I nitpick at every thing I say or do, and it needs to stop. Waking up the morning after a social interaction and reliving every detail until I find something to feel guilty about is not healthy, and not how I want to live my life. So, I am going to try to be more positive about, and accepting of, myself. I hope in 2014 that I learn to spend more time in the moment and really focus on enjoying the wonderful friends and family I have- I am lucky to be surrounded with beautiful people and there is no reason to be unhappy!

Beautiful (erm, Handsome) on the inside and out- my husband!

Beautiful (erm, Handsome) on the inside and out- my husband!

I’m sure as the year goes on these goals will change, or become more specific. But for now I feel like these are all attainable with work and dedication! A fit and capable horse, an improved home, and a happy lifestyle are what I hope to cement for myself. I hope you guys will be along for the ride! What resolutions do you guys have for 2014? What changes do you hope to see?