Tips for DIY home improvement beginners: Lessons from building a patio

When Joel and I moved into our new (old) house, we had high expectations… for our ability, the ease of completing projects, how much things would cost.

A year later, we’re slightly wiser. Emphasis on slightly. We did successfully do simple things like painting the entire interior, some of the exterior, and landscape the front yard. That said, we recently took on our first bigger DIY project, the task of building a patio in our backyard, and learned many lessons along the way. The handiest of people, we are not.

Here are some of our tips: Continue reading

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Old House Love: Inspiration from the best on the RAP Spring Home Tour

*I intended to get this post up right after the tour, however that didn’t happen due to life (and work and travel and work and a busy social calendar and slow internet and the destructive power of lightening and work). But, now that I’m back with new, faster internet, here it is, more than a month later. Anyway…

There’s no shortage of pictures of gorgeous old homes on the internet to garner inspiration from, but nothing beats the real thing.

So after nearly seven years living in the lovely Riverside Avondale historic district of Jacksonville, we finally went on the Riverside Avondale Preservation Spring Tour of Homes. The tour took place over Saturday and Sunday, April 25th and 26th (like I said, more than a month later…). That Sunday, we hopped on our bikes (including my new/old vintage Raleigh Superbe… more on that soon!), grabbed a map and hit up a bunch of the beautiful homes throughout the neighborhood. Continue reading

Filling out the house: Wall space

When we first moved from our small apartment to our house, our initial problem was lack of furniture. Now that we have accumulated a few more tables, chairs and other pieces, we no longer have a ton of bare space. Our walls are a different story.

Sure, the bright yellows, greens and blues are pretty enough to stand on their own, but we were determined to find a mix of art and photographs to add interest. That became a bigger challenge when Joel and I realized our taste isn’t exactly the same. But we compromised and managed to fill our walls and Continue reading

Decorating for the holidays

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This is the first holiday season we are in our new home, so once Thanksgiving was over and it was officially December, we decided in the Addington household that it was time to get festive.

Joel caught the holiday bug first and picked up one strand of lights at Target over Thanksgiving weekend. After that went up along the roof, suddenly he came home with five more boxes of lights. The result was not a particularly symmetrical display, but definitely a festive one:

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For the inside, I was momentarily feeling crafty (of the creating crafts nature, not the devious nature). I hit up Pinterest and found tutorials for twine balls, twine Christmas trees, ornaments strung up on twine — I was really feeling the twine pinspiration. The results were mixed.

I’d say the string of balls came out the best (probable because they’re the easiest. How can you screw up stringing ornaments on twine?). I hung them everywhere:

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By the fireplace.

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On the bar cart.

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Across the dining room window.

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Across the top of the built-ins.

You can find the original pin here.

I also picked up some clothespins to make snowflakes. The original pin is for glittered snowflakes. I didn’t glitter mine but I think for next year, I’m going to paint them white. Also, I put them on cardboard to dry and the glue stuck to some of the cardboard (you can see it in the very center of the snowflake). Lesson learned.

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I attempted to create this star made from the metal coils from the clothespins but it just looks like a bunch of coils joined together. Fail.

I picked up some wooden letters at Walmart for a “NOEL” display, inspired by this original pin. We already had red, green and white paint that we used to paint the house, which was convenient. My candy-cane striped E even came out relatively successful.

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My less successful efforts were the twine ball and tree.

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I made three twine balls using balloons and glue. One came out decent, yet slightly misshapen. For some reason, the balloons lost air quickly, before the glue dried, so some areas sunk in. This was also pretty messy. I had glue all over my hands — though I’m not sure if that’s the nature of the project, or it was just me.

I used cone-shaped floral foam for the trees because I couldn’t find cardboard ones. One came out okay, the other one started to shed so much that I got fed up with it and threw it out. I used a glitter star that came in a set of ornaments I got at Target to top the tree and cover some of the green foam that is still exposed. Not perfect, but these two made the cut and sit on our foyer table.

The glitter stars are also hanging from the built-in bookcases.

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For the rest of our decorations, I used a few things I’ve collected over the years.

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These colorful wine glasses are festive.

Next year, I may stick to more pre-made decorations. There are a few more Pinterest projects I want to try out though, like these crocheted ornaments, these cute twine-covered bottles (I really don’t know what it is with all the twine) and adorable mini-wreaths made from yarn and shower curtain rings.

What homemade holiday decoration projects have you had success (or complete failure) with?

Happy holidays!

San Francisco: The architecture

During our trip to San Francisco, I was constantly amazed by the beautiful structures that make up the city.

I knew about the popular Painted Ladies, lining Steiner Street in the Alamo Square neighborhood. I knew about San Francisco City Hall and it’s giant dome. I knew about the Transamerica Pyramid, one of the most iconic buildings in SF’s skyline. Of course the bridges – the Golden Gate and Bay — are well known and distinct in their own way. But everywhere you turn, there’s a different style, a different color, a different beauty. I was constantly stopping to snap pictures of random houses, because they were GORGEOUS. And despite being pretty urban, there is greenery everywhere! Who knew?

West Coast Trip Continue reading

Old House Love: Landscaping the front yard

This is a post on landscaping, but I am going to preface it by saying I am the most novice of novice landscapers. I grew up in a very urban area. We had no front yard and a tiny, tiny backyard. The side of our house was an alleyway.

When bought our house, we now had a front yard, side yards, backyards. New territory for me! We started small — mostly by adding flowers and such to the planters built-into the front porch. Joel trimmed the shrubs at one point. Early on we did plant a tiny tree in the front yard. It’s now ever so slightly bigger. But generally, it was meh. Weeds were overtaking the palm plant on the side of the house. Weeds were growing furiously under the bushes.

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One of the listing photos of our house

Something needed to be done to breath life into the front yard. When Joel suggested mulch, it was like the light shone down — of course we should mulch around the house. Our house, like many old houses, does not have gutters. The water pools off the roof in certain areas and makes it muddy and hard for grass to grow. So off to Home Depot we went (or maybe it was Lowes? I can’t keep track at this point).

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We bought some new plants for one section of planters on the porch, a ton of mulch and some flowers to put around the bigger tree in the front yard. First, we grossly underestimated the amount of mulch we needed, so Joel had to make a second trip to pick up more in the middle of our landscaping adventure. He mulched around the rose, the tiny tree and half of the new flower bed we created under the large tree before running out of our first load.

One of my main goals of our first day of landscaping — which was also the most oppressively hot day ever — was to trim the bigger tree in the front yard. It was overgrown and really starting to irk me every time I saw it. So I got out the hedge cutters and went to work. I soon learned my arms are not cut out for hedge-cutting. I could barely lift the things at first, but persevered on. I was dedicated to the cause. The outcome wasn’t exactly how I imagined — five feet barely four inches me + six foot ladder = I could only reach so high — but it looked sooooooo much better afterwards. Add in the new mulch and flowerbed and it looks damn good if I don’t say so myself.

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We then mulched under one bush before running out yet again. Enough for one day.

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Our second day of mulching covered the second bush in front of our house and around the side of the front porch. Pulling up all those weeds was some serious arm work. I’m pretty sure I have slightly defined biceps because of it (compared to the not-at-all defined biceps I previously had). Some of the weeds were basically bushes themselves by the time I ripped them up! But away went the weeds, and in went the mulch. And an Azalea bush. And some other plants.

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Oh, and on our second day, we also did not buy enough mulch. Back AGAIN Joel went to buy more. Mulch really goes fast.

I wandered Home Depot for a good 20 minutes, looking at all the plants. I wanted azaleas, but the azalea section was completely empty. Except for one I found randomly leaning against a pole in another area. I’m not even sure if its a real azalea? It was purchased and planted nonetheless. I also picked up some other pretty vine-like plants, which went in on the side of the porch. Don’t ask me what they are because I don’t know, but they look very pretty. The palm plant also looks so much healthier now that its not being choked by weeds.

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So the front yard is basically done now! I want to plant another azalea on the left side of the house (next to the other bush) but there’s no rush on that (mostly because I don’t think they’re selling azaleas right now). I’m really satisfied at how the mulch looks — it solves our water-running-off-the-roof issue and generally gives the yard a cleaner look. Plus the red mulch complements the red brick of our house nicely.

Joel says our house looks so nice now that someone should paint it (any takers?).

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Old House Love: Exterior paint colors

I’m not gonna lie — the brick exterior of our house was a huge selling point for me. First, I love brick houses. Two, less maintenance. That doesn’t mean there was no exterior painting to do though — and Joel and I spent a lot of time trying to pick the perfect colors.

The doors, shutters and windows were this dull, pea green color when we bought the house. In bright light, it looked almost beige. I was not a fan. I did like the idea of green on the exterior though. And Joel’s request was for a red door. Well, when you have multi-colored brick, finding reds and greens that go was not a simple task. I ended up finding a few colors we liked while waiting to pick up our new patio set at Lowes.

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When I took off the kick panel on the door to prep for painting, I saw that at one time the door was actually blue. Odd color choice, but OK. We knew that we wanted to go with a slightly darker red and eventually settled on Valspar’s Sangria Red, a deeper color that matched some of the bricks. Continue reading