And then you step outside. And "outside" pales in comparison to "inside." Significantly. On account of how everything inside is all shiny and new, and everything outside - well. Let's just say that yard maintenance wasn't high on our priority list when we were mid-construction and living off-premises. Not helping the situation: throngs of laborers and movers beating a path from driveway to front porch (on days when it rained - ALWAYS on days that it rained, because isn't that just the way?).
So, "outside" - which wasn't looking all that fab when we left - really looks drab now.
But that is about to change. Mainly, on account of how I have no projects left to complete indoors. (Okay, I have a few. I still haven't trimmed out the backsplash, and a couple of doors need new knobs. The trim for the master bathroom shelves has been painted but not installed. But, you know, whatever. I have made it this long without finishing those jobs, and I certainly can push them off a little bit more.)
Onward and outward.
In roughly the order that I intend to complete them:
Project #1: Prettifying the broad side of a barn. Because, literally, that is what we are dealing with on the south side of the carriage house. I don't spend a whole lot of time looking at it, on account of how the south side of the carriage house fronts on a very narrow strip of real estate - really, just enough space between building and fence to accommodate a stone pathway to "The Scary." (More on The Scary later.) However, our neighbors to the south just built a very large second-story addition, which, when occupied, will give them a bird's eye view of the broad side of our barn.
Project #1 will be phased as follows:
I'm going to get around to painting the carriage house the same color as the main house. Really, honestly, I am. Some EIGHT YEARS after I repainted the main house, and swore that I would paint the carriage house to match. We even replaced the trim on the sliding barn-style doors on the front. The trim, like the structure to which it was attached, has remained primer white.
But Olympic's "Prairie Dust" it shall be. THIS is an image of NOT MY HOUSE, BUT SOMEONE ELSE'S HOUSE painted "Prairie Dust." (But it gives you an idea.)
It is more of a greenish-khaki in real life. I expended several months and countless brain cells trying to find just the proper shade of not-too-brown, really-quite-green Army khaki. I found, basically, the right color on a house that was en route to the Big Kid's preschool (not the NOT MY HOUSE above - a different NOT MY HOUSE). More than once, I thought about stopping, ringing the doorbell and asking them to share the name of their paint color - but I worried about the homeowners' reaction. I worried that they might be serial killers. Then, some months after I tracked down Prairie Dust on my own, one of my friends BOUGHT MY INSPIRATION HOUSE - and informed me that the prior owners were two of the sweetest gay guys you could ever hope to meet (duh - not to stereotype, but I reaaaaaaally should have known, because, after all, they did pick the BEST possible color to coordinate with their brick), who would have welcomed a pop-in and probably given me a tour of the whole joint, and then offered me a glass of pinot.
Where was I? Oh, yeah. The carriage house shall be Prairie Dust, with white trim, like in the picture.
Second phase - create a gutter garden to hang below the main gable and break up all that broadness. It needs the addition of plant life, and there isn't enough space to plant a shrubbery (channeling Monty Python here), so options are a trellis or THIS:
I choose THIS. Three lengths of white vinyl gutter, some chain and some bedding plants or herbs. The troughs will echo the white house trim and pop against the khaki paint, and the plants will create "visual interest" (a phrase that makes Spouse roll his eyes - kinda like "pop").
Third phase (really more of a Phase 2B) is to find some rubber doormats at the dollar store that look like scrolled ironwork, give 'em a hit of spray paint, and mount them above and on either side of my gutter installation.
Cute, right? And guaranteed not to rust, and cheap to replace when the time comes.
Fourth phase is to tame, once and for all, the unruly landing strip o' weeds that runs along the Broad Side. Black landscaping plastic is in hand, as are step stones and mulch, and I am thinking of sinking some old, starting-to-crumble faux plaster pots in the ground here and there, like this:
Again: cute, right? And tidy. But how to keep the mulch from sliding into the neighbor's yard? Given that we live in an old city neighborhood, we have cyclone fencing, not wood fencing as is typical in more suburban areas. This means that we have problems with materials migrating from one side of the fence to the other. A walkway border like the one above would be difficult to pull off without help.
I present to you . . . GUTTER PROJECT NUMERO DOS. Don't have an image of this one, because I made it up. I'm going to hit some more vinyl gutter with a little brown vinyl spray paint (so it blends in with the mulch), drill in some drainage holes, and sink the gutter all along the length of fence. A little soil, some bedding plants, and you have a floral border that will stay put.
At least, that's the theory.
Project #2: Creating shade on the patio. I really want a pergola over my backyard patio, which sits in front of and along the length of the carriage house, but figuring out where to put the footings for a pergola is an issue. I really DON'T want to drill into my existing, attractively stamped and stained concrete. So I'm thinking about a triangle shade, in a khaki color to match the carriage house's new paint job.
Two corners can be easily anchored to the side of the carriage house - but where to anchor the third? This got me thinking about one of my mom's upcoming yard projects, which is to cement a patio umbrella inside a very large planter pot, and plant flowers on top of the cement, creating a sturdy base for her umbrella which is also green and pretty. Basic idea is like the one below:
Theoretically, what is to stop me from cementing a redwood fence-type post into a pot like this, and anchoring the third corner of the sun shade to the top? Nothing, Spouse tells me. Bonus: if you want to take the shade down in the winter you can roll the stand out of sight and out of mind.
Yeah, this is so happening. Existing redwood dining table with umbrella will create height (and shade) in the southeast corner of the patio), and the new shade structure-of-sorts will offset it in the northwest corner.
Project #3: Achieving sustainability on the Near South Side. Sounds like some sort of city initiative, right? Our front porch wraps around the house at the southeast corner, and there's a little terrace area between the porch and our master bedroom, bordered by two large raised planters. Nice in theory, but the sun beats down on that little terrace area like no one's business, and logistically it's difficult to irrigate over there - options are to drag a hose from the front, or one from the back. Another triangular sun shade, coming off of the back of the porch, will add both visual interest (there's that phrase again!) and relief from the heat. And then I'm adding one of THESE bad boys:
DIY RAIN BARREL! DIY RAIN BARREL! I love all three of those words. And the gutter downspout just so happens to come down in the perfect spot. Spouse is not only on board with this concept but thinks it's a pretty fab idea. Not that we get THAT much rain to make this a consistent watering solution, but it will help some, and it's certainly environmentally friendly.
Project #4: Tackling The Scary. "The Scary" is my name for the rather large area behind the carriage house - said carriage house having been built, rather inexplicably, in the middle of our backyard, the result being to create a large, unseen and unutilized VOID between the carriage house and the back fence. It's not completely hopeless - there's a big shade tree in one corner, and a funky bois d'arc tree in the middle, and the areas in between get enough sunlight during the day that I am thinking that I could do some vegetable gardening back there. Weedy grass is an issue, but if I utilize raised beds, and underline them with black plastic, then I can choke out weeds and grow veggies at the same time.
Project #5: Creating a succulent Death Star. Because, seriously, why not?
I have a ton of unused shepherd's crooks hanging around, and at least one hanging basket. I may even have two of the same size. I just need to buy new coco husk liners, some soil and some succulents.
It's supposed to be a really nice weekend, so I think that I'm going to drag the boys to ReStore to look for used gutters and other raw materials, and then we will shop the carriage house for fun and funky stuff to repurpose. Hoping that I find an old faucet and a rusty old bucket, because I know that I have an old chandelier crystal that I could turn into a drip, like this:
Hmm . . . Carriage House Scavenger Hunt. Coming soon to a sunny weekend near me.