June 8, 2017, posted by Gina – When I was a young girl I was a bit of a tomboy. I would much rather have been riding my bike with my hair on fire than playing with dolls. When I did find myself in the midst of a bunch of Barbies, I would inevitably decorate the dollhouse and totally ignore the dolls. So, I suppose that decorating houses somehow just came naturally to me.
For as long as I can remember friends have asked me to help them decorate their homes. I have never promoted myself as a professional and people understand it’s simply a passion of mine, but still I am asked. I love the thrill of before and afters and making anything look beautiful. While I have helped with projects on interiors quite often, I have never worked on an exterior other than changing paint colors. That is until now.
A friend of mine started telling me about her home over two years ago. She and her family were unhappy with it and had even looked at moving. I began to ask questions. I learned that her home was in a beautiful, well-established neighborhood with lush greenery and great neighbors. I found out that she was mostly unhappy with her kitchen. It turns out that her lighting had caught on fire leaving her with very minimal lighting which is not ideal in any home but even more drastic for a family with 5 children. I also learned that the area in her kitchen that was intended to be the breakfast nook had been taken over by her two adorable Goldendoodles.
She also shared with me that the exterior windows had seen better days. She now reminds me that during these conversations I told her that I could make her fall in love with her house again. Lord only knows how I had this kind of confidence, or maybe it was stupidity. Upon my first visit to her home we toured all the trouble spots. After completing my list of items that needed to be addressed I told her I needed to let things “marinate”. I always seem to use this term and I truly believe that you should give things a minute to settle in your head before you start making decisions.
I made a booklet for her full of ideas for making improvements which were to begin with the exterior but we jump-started some work in the kitchen. Roll back to the fire that left them without lighting. I sent her some ideas on chandeliers and recessed lighting to her and before I knew it, she had ordered all of them and called an electrician.
One of the critical things I told her we needed to work on next were the windows. They needed replacing and the whole exterior needed a new paint job. She was also unhappy with her front door. New windows and fresh paint somehow did not seem that exciting and I could tell that she was happy but not very enthusiastic. I began looking closer at the house. Most of the time, I think that keeping the original integrity of the architecture during a renovation looks the best. I was having a hard time trying to figure out what would bring her house back to life and make it appear fresh and updated.
First, they had never had shutters on any of the exterior windows. In studying the front façade, I realized that if we accented just two of the windows we could really change the look of the house. She was very excited about this. In the back of my mind, I just could not shake that something still was not right. The house had a small front porch but for some reason it just looked unfinished to me. The front door was not defined. It looked exactly like the two doors beside it. Our original idea was to get a new front door. Still, the house was lacking something. After much thought, I realized it needed posts. I drove around looking at houses for days until I finally hit the jackpot. Cedar beams would be the ticket! They would complete the porch and update the 1990’s home all at once.
Then we got bad news on the front door. The one we selected was not going to work because of size and trim issues unless we did a whole lot of work. I told her not to worry that we would make her front door look nice. After the paint went up (we tried Sea Salt by Sherwin Williams) on the front door, it was very clear that it needed to be the same color as the other doors. The body of the house was painted Alabaster and the custom shutters were painted Pavestone, both by Sherwin Williams. Sometimes I guess you just should let the house speak to you. Still, the front door needed to stand apart from the others in some way. I decided that a light fixture beside the door and an address plaque would help it stand out. Of course, a nice welcoming floral basket would be a nice idea too.
We were both very happy at this point. Until we started looking at the landscaping. It had lived a full life and was no longer attractive. Some shrubbery had died and others had just grown too large. I told her I thought she should take it all out. Before I knew it, she had called someone to pull everything out and grind up all the stumps. And then the hard part came; I needed to select the new landscaping. I drew a plan on paper and she really liked it. I went to the nursery and priced everything out and then I felt ill. What had I done? What was I thinking? Was I suddenly a landscaper? Was I selecting the right plants? Would it look good? Would the plants work? I have no idea how I had the confidence to do this but I did. The plants were delivered in a few days and we placed them where they were to be planted. The landscaping crew planted them and put out new pine straw and it all looked great. I could breathe again.
The work was coming to an end on the exterior of the home. She called one day and really wanted to work on the kitchen, the one thing she really wanted in the first place. She wanted to paint her cabinets, get new pulls and find a new use for the area the dogs had taken over. Pulling all the cabinets out was not in the budget now. If you remember, the house was built in the 1990’s and back then there were not a lot of really tall cabinets like you see in today’s new homes. I kept studying the cabinets and the walls but could not decide on a paint color for the cabinets. We looked at a million colors and then a light bulb went off. Why not paint the cabinets the same color as the walls which was Revere Pewter by Sherwin Williams? It was a great color, she had the walls painted not too long ago, so why not? There would be no harsh separation between the shorter cabinets and the walls. So, the painting began. I was a nervous wreck. Would this look boring? What if she hated it? I was scared to call her. Literally. And then she sent me a picture and it was wonderful. We selected some beautiful gold hardware that really changed the look of the cabinets.
One day, one of the furniture stores in our town was having a huge sale. For some reason, I told her about it and said maybe it would be a good time to get furniture for her breakfast nook. I had learned that her family did not eat in that area because the dining room was much better suited for their family of 7 (5 children and 2 adults). I suggested they turn that into a keeping room. My new home had one and initially we had no idea how we would use it but now it is the most used room in our home, so I thought her family may enjoy it as well. We drew out a plan consisting of 2 club chairs, a loveseat, and a coffee table. She liked my idea of getting the furniture while on sale. I met her at the store and in about an hour we had selected the chairs, loveseat, a small table to go between the chairs, a coffee table and a large cow print now more commonly referred to as “Ellie” as named by my friend and her oldest daughter. Once the furniture arrived at her house, we determined that while the coffee table would fit, it would just seem too large. I recommended she cancel it and I would find something else. I finally realized that some garden stools would be the perfect addition to the cozy space.
One other thing she wanted to change was the tile floor in the kitchen. We decided to keep her current ones and top them with some seagrass rugs. This ended up working better than we originally thought all because of Ellie. That one painting brought all the colors together including the floor. Suddenly, the floor and the whole kitchen was transformed.
Now that everything is complete I can breathe a sigh of relief. It’s one thing when it’s your own house but an entirely different story when it is someone else’s. I absolutely loved working on this process which my friend made very enjoyable. She did not stress over anything. I wish I could be like that. I think moms with 5 children must have super powers and my friend is certainly one of them.
The biggest thing I learned from this process is that you don’t have to gut a room or an exterior to make big, wonderful changes. We made the best of her budget and she tells me she loves her home again. For me, I learned to trust myself with renovation decisions and that makes me very happy and ready to help with another project. And now for the pictures….
Here is the before photo of the house. There was a deep orange front door, olive green trim and no shutters.
Here is the after: New paint, shutters, landscaping, light fixture, address plaque and front door arrangement.
This was the front porch before. The furniture was a bit large for the space so we removed it and hope to find something that is a better scale for the area in the future.
And here is the after of the front porch and new landscaping.
Here is a close-up of the custom made shutters. The gentleman who made these worked meticulously until he got them just right.
Another look at the shutters and landscaping up close. You also see that we chose bamboo shades on the interior windows. While they are for privacy they also serve as a decorative element from the exterior of the home.
Here are the windows on the far, northern side of the home. Hydrangeas were planted where they can be seen from the new keeping room.
Another view of the porch and shutters…
An up close view of the new columns that were custom made; the oil ribbed bronze light fixture and the address plaque. These design elements helped to define the front door.
Front door arrangement from GDFC and light fixture…
Here is a before photo of the windows without shutters and the overgrown landscaping.
Again, here is the finished exterior… Renovation Success!