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.

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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!

A Late Spring Look

All the pots are finally planted and filling out and the patio is finally filling out as well. We have a place to eat – at last!  Still working on a wood holder for the fire pit.  Baby steps.

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These are Cleveland Pear trees.  They are supposed to be a better, hardier version of the ubiquitous Bradford.  We’ll see.  Right now they are tied down because we’ve had quite a few windy days lately.


And some color.  It was touch and go as the early spring brought a couple of very cold nights and I lost quite a few annuals but the petunias, lantana and sunpatients made it through. IMG_2453

The blue pansies are still going strong.IMG_2451 IMG_2440

On the other side of the patio the Nandina we transplanted from 2 houses ago are finally starting to thrive and grow.  The green in between the taller Nandina are Little Limelight Hydrangeas.  They are just showing signs of the first buds so it will likely be another couple of weeks before we get blooms.

We newspapered and mulched this side bed hoping it is helps with the weed growth like it did in the courtyard garden.   IMG_2459 IMG_2457

Next on the list is to tackle the rest of the pachysandra out front.  We will likely restore the hill to all grass as it was once upon a time.  I am still trying to figure out why the hills in front weren’t as steep in the 1930s as they are now.

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A Little Bit of House History

On a warm day last summer there was a knock at my back door.  It wasn’t who I expected it to be . . not even close but that knock turned into emails, phone calls, a dinner and just this past Wednesday a very special project unfolded in our backyard laboratory.


The above picture was taken by our little production assistant who was allowed to stay home from school because of the excitement.  He spent most of the afternoon sitting outside the lab watching the live feed – a Gatorade-filled plastic wine glass in hand.

IMG_1344 copyOne of my favorite parts of the day was playing host to siblings who had grown up in our house.  The oldest daughter brought this picture with her.  It was taken in the early 1930s just after the house was built.  The garage in the upper left hadn’t been converted to her father’s lab yet.  That was to be shortly thereafter.  The porch is open air as we suspected and the addition wouldn’t come for another 10 or so years.

The scientist’s children had not been back to the house since the 1960s when the family moved to a bigger property in Westtown.  As I suspected, the house looked very much the same; the second owners had changed the kitchen and porch, but everything else has remained just as it was originally.

We are about to shake that up and hopefully in a good way.  The lab is first on our project list.  I am still hemming and hawing over its function – future teenage hangout space, guest house, dinner party house, offfice space.  Maybe a little bit of everything – who knows!

It’s funny how much our house pre-addition reminds me of our long-ago Wilmington house.  The white just through the trees on the far left of the below picture is the garage.  This house was built in the early 1940s.

And, it has been officially confirmed: penicillin discoverer Alexander Fleming had dinner in our dining room.  Pretty darn cool.