Finalizing Paint Colors

I’ve been threatening to paint this brick since before closing on the house and it seems it may possibly happen this spring. It’s time to cover up the paint splatters, mismatched grout and put some color on this bad boy.

Problem is I am torn on color and finish.  Do I paint in earnest or have the brick white-washed?  There is a strong case for both sides.

I continue to come back to this combination.  Creamy base with a grayish-green shutter.  But what  to do about windows and paneling?  Hmmmm.

And then there’s this house that keeps pulling me back into the whitewash camp.  Green shutters, the white trim, it all would work on our house, too.

Here’s another beautiful house with the same color scheme.


Window boxes

Last weekend we dusted off a couple of the old window boxes left from our country house and hung them on the front windows of the lab.  They aren’t a perfect fit but once filled, I am hoping the plants help me cheat the couple of inches I am short on either side.

img_0531The boxes are protected from the elements and get little sun so they will need some shade-loving plants and a lot of hose water.  Not ideal but there are only two and they are ground floor, so I figured I’d give it a go.




The windows open out and so I had to be mindful of that as well.  The plan is to plant a liner for easy removal should the flowers get too big to open the windows.

I like to line the bottom layer with recyclables.  I have crushed water bottles that won’t add weight but will provide some good drainage.  I will then add the potting soil and plants to the line along with some hydration crystals.  You can also use baby diapers from what I have read online.  No diapers handy here – thank goodness!  Don’t miss those!

Then, it’s just making sure to keep those flowers watered.  The work is well worth it as really the boxes add so much charm!

Charleston has a fantastic display of window boxes all around the city.

via Low Country Walking Tours
via Low Country Walking Tours

If you look closely you can see a watering system rigged which is pretty standard.  I think it takes away from the box aesthetically a bit but it really is the only way these boxes can look good during Charleston’s long, hot summers.

I may be borrowing a few ideas from this picture.  The ferns and ivy like dry shade.

via Flickr
via Flickr

Despite our Charleston climate as of late, it will be fall shortly and I am thinking it may be wise to incorporate some frost-hardy plants as the nights begin to cool.

The bittersweet, hydrangeas, eucalyptus and cabbage make for a gorgeous combination.  

via Southern Living
via Southern Living

While I was moving the sprinkler around this morning, I took a couple of pictures of the garden and its progress. The willows seen here were originally in pots on the patio before they outgrew their home.  They will likely be separated soon but for now they are recovering nicely. They were brown popsicle sticks with crunchy leaves until saved.


img_0536This eunoymous was supposed to go into the ground but because of lighting wires and such I decided to stick it into a pot temporarily.  It’s happy and I’m happy as the green softens the fence.

img_0537These pots originally held the willows but are now home for Eugenia topiaries and some petunias.

img_0538The Little Lymes (dwarf Limelight Hydrangeas) we planted are doing well.  They were hit with some heavy rain one afternoon and didn’t quite recover their better posture.  The Chicagoland boxwood are all thriving and in need of a haircut.  A good sign!  The taller shrubs, Nandina or false bamboo, have berries just starting to set.  They hold onto their berries all winter and so far the birds have left them alone.  The Nandina has moved with us three times.  They didn’t like our most recent house’s soil and all are much happier here.  There are three and after a good pruning back last year and a reshaping, the shrubs are starting to fill out and leaf out nicely.

Everything that was green and lush in the spring is now dry and brown.  It’s an ugly time of year and I am trying to fight it with some sprinkler attention.  I may be too late.


Hopefully I will be back with completed window box pictures soon!  I have a busy week but I also have a deadline for getting this backyard whipped into shape, so stay tuned.

An Outside Before and After

These pictures of the backyard were taken shortly after we had the property cleared that April. You can use the Japanese Maple as a guide as really it’s one of the few remaining vestiges of a troubled yard!

IMG_0361 IMG_0358 IMG_0357The yard sloped considerably and as you can see in the bottom left part of this picture, there were brick-lined “beds” everywhere.  I would love to see pictures of the backyard in its 1960s glory.

Here is the backyard now.  The wall delineated the two sections into an upper and lower and there is the new fence. The fence is one of my favorite additions.

IMG_2078 IMG_2077 IMG_2076

The patio area was a brick parterre garden, which I was so tempted to restore but alas practicality won out.  The parterre garden was originally a rose garden with box edging.  I am sure it was stunning!

IMG_0367 IMG_0368 IMG_0366Here is the same view 2 years later.

IMG_2422 IMG_2421 IMG_2425IMG_2286IMG_2474-1 IMG_2476IMG_2475And, the courtyard befores . . .

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And, afters . . .




Lest we not forget the front yard!  Not quite as neglected but close.  This is a tangle of weeds, ivy and perennials that had spilled out to block the path from the driveway to the front door.IMG_0388


The same bed and new path to the front door.IMG_2446 IMG_2447

And a before and after of the most visible part of the courtyard from the driveway. Like the front of the house, there was little grass and instead tangle of ivy, pachysandra and wild ferns.


Much better! We put down sod and planted spirea and viburnum on the hill, both with white blooms. IMG_2437

The next areas to tackle are the hills facing the street in the front of the house.  There is the same mess of wild ferns, weeds and ivy – all terrible to clear, of course!  I am tempted to rip out the pachysandra on both sides of the steps as well. The symmetry is off and the pachysandra is largely a weed harbor.  IMG_1858

Can’t forget the front door makeover!  The white metal storm door was carted away about 3 weeks ago now and the new custom wood door is up and beautiful. The door is a very high gloss laquer and looks so pretty up close and personal.  Our brass hardware was shined up and I had our painter switch the lab and front door knockers.  This lion is much more substantial and makes a statement.


You may notice we had a mail slot installed as well.  I got a big unlaquered brass one that is already starting to patina.  Now if we can get the mailman to use it!  Our mail has been delivered mainly to our mailbox (that I took down yesterday) and also dropped inside the storm door.  Puzzling.  The mail slot solely functions as a means of kid communication right now.  Opening it up to yell inside is working out nicely for some members of this house.


That light fixture is next!  It is entirely too small. And, toying with the idea of some brass numbers somewhere.   IMG_2452

The prettied up door set off a chain reaction of events and hopefully soon I can log that progress!  Sometimes (pretty much always) prettying just a part of an old house, highlights the other needy parts.  And, painting our door did just that.  Shutters and brick will hopefully soon be painted.  Stay tuned!

The Front Door

My mom went to visit Holland years ago and came back talking about the beautiful doors there. She returned from her trip and tracked down a paint kit at a local paint store that promised the same European mirrored finish.  It was the Fine Paints of Europe Dutch door kit.

The process is not for the faint of heart.  From what I understand, the technique takes quite some time to master, the right tools and a lot of sanding.  My mom tried and ended up abandoning the project as it was just too difficult.  We all know how frustrating high gloss paint can be – it is tacky and highlights every brush stroke and imperfection.

Years later, forgetting about my mom’s Fine Paints of Europe debacle, I first start thinking about laquering something/anything after seeing a couple of Miles Redd’s rooms.  I knew my husband would never agree to laquering the library (the paint is not cheap!) so I figured maybe the front door was the compromise. After a little bit of research, a lot of Pinterest browsing and a friend who tracked down just the right painter for the job, our door is getting a very special treatment today.


That is a can of Fine Paints of Europe Hollandlac paint in their Brilliant finish.  A mouthful!  It is a Dutch marine-quality oil-based enamel with a high gloss sheen and a deep rich color.  It is different from our domestic high-gloss oils.

The crew of two arrived early this morning and sanded away.  They were pleased with our door’s condition as apparently it had not been touched much over the years.  There were not the layers of paint so typical of houses this age.

About an hour in they cleaned the workspace of dust and started applying the first coat.


My hardware is going back to the shop for a good polishing and the cloth is to protect the door from the pollen, rain, dust, and anything else.

Here is my neighbor’s finished door.  Stunning!  You can see your reflection in it and the paint feels like it is going to wear like iron.


The next step for my door will be to sand the door before the last coat.  The second and last coat will really give it that glass look.

The storm door I chose will also get a two coats of the Hollandlac Brilliant in black.  This front door should look quite different soon enough.

This weekend those poor pots will finally get some attention and color.  The stairs are fixed, the landscaping has improved, the door will be prettied up which means the shutters will now stand out like a sore thumb.  I guess I know our next project.