Front Yard Painting and Landscaping

My 2016 exterior blitzkrieg concludes¬†here, in our front yard. When we bought the house, it looked dated and lifeless. The awning darkened the front (both inside and outside), the bushes didn’t offer much curb appeal, and the siding and stucco were in bad need of paint. Oh, and a section of our roof was on the walkway.

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Julian Collins has been our go-to guy for several projects since buying the house. He demoed our basement and hauled it away, he painted our exterior, and he helped us remove this hideous awning. I highly recommend him anytime you need extra muscle¬†– he’s fast, affordable, and insanely hardworking.

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Jarrod and Julian conquered this awning ‚Äď my contribution was suggesting they use a board to hold it up and push it away.¬†What I lack in muscle I make up for in smarts.

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Removing the awning made a huge difference in our living room and sunroom.

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Our landscapers dug out the bushes in early spring, and then it was time for house painting. (The landscapers took out that dead light post as well, after I had an electrician sever the power connection.)

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I came to a decision on the exterior paint color quickly, which isn’t usually like me! I tried three swatches and had a clear winner: Gunsmith Gray from Benjamin Moore (the bottom swatch). It’s a gray-green; Benjamin Moore calls it a “deep, blackened gray.” The color is¬†from their¬†Williamsburg Collection. The historical vibe works well on our 1913 bungalow: it contrasts the red brick really nicely, and I feel like it adds some much-needed life to the front of the house. The white is off-the-shelf Benjamin Moore white. We used MoorGard Low Lustre Finish in white for the trim, and¬†MoorLife Flat Finish on everything else.

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Julian power washed the exterior and then returned the next day to paint. He charged around $800 for everything: the siding, trim, stucco, and back mudroom. He and a helper knocked it out in a single day, working from early morning until after the sun set.

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When Julian found out I had bought Benjamin Moore Regal Select paint, he said “Thank you, thank you.” Apparently the coverage is significantly better than Behr, which makes his job easier. I definitely¬†noticed the difference in quality when we¬†used it on the garage. So, I’d recommend it and will use it again. If you’re on the north side of Chicago, JC Licht on Irving Park is a great paint store.

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After painting came landscaping. Here’s the plan Monica from Red Stem put together:

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We used all native plants and shrubs, as we did in the backyard.¬†We disconnected our¬†northern¬†gutter downspout from the city sewer system, extended it to the garden area, and buried it so provides water to the garden area. (“DS” in the diagram above – we didn’t end up doing the southern one because we didn’t want to dig under the sidewalk.) This¬†guide was helpful for us as first-time homeowners:¬†Understanding Your Sewer: An Introduction to the Chicago Area’s Combined Sewer Systems. Did you know there are no ninja turtles in Chicago’s sewer system? That’s unique to New York.

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Of all the things we planted, I’m most excited about the multi-stemmed serviceberry tree. It flowers in the spring, produces berries in the summer, and turns bright reddish-orange in the fall. It will grow as tall as our front porch roofline. The cranberry viburnum bushes flower and berry as well, and they’ll grow at least 6 feet tall.

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The Red Stem crew was great. Really nice guys, who shared a meal on our new patio and were so considerate of our yard. I love this photo with Doozy overseeing the job from the window.

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Plants and sedges are interspersed between the bushes. Everything will fill in and fill out in the coming years. I will also replace and enlarge the windows someday with something more bungalow-appropriate (similar to this).

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One last before and after:

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And that is where I’ll leave you for now. I’ll return in early January¬†with a list of everything I hope to tackle in¬†2017. Happy New Year!

Bedroom Makeover: Before and After

We’ve lived¬†in our house for a little over one year now, and our bedroom has come a long way. There was certainly nowhere to go but up! The only¬†good thing about this bedroom’s original¬†purple paint¬†is¬†that¬†it makes the after photos look so much better.

Let’s start in the landing, which you can also see in my¬†bathroom makeover post.

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I’m still loving those new black hinges, and¬†the rest of the bedroom is looking pretty good these days, too.

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That sign taped on the sloped¬†wall was for our painter: it says “Paint angled walls Irish Mist.” The ceiling¬†is¬†a flat off-the-shelf white, and the walls (including the slanted sections) are Irish Mist from Behr. The room looks much less choppy and steep without the stark contrast of purple vs. white.

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This room is hard to photograph because the window is so huge ‚Äď which is one of those good problems, as far as I’m concerned (e.g.¬†“my gold bricks are too heavy”). These were our curtains for a couple of months:

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Which was still somehow better than what was there before:

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I hung¬†IKEA curtains. It’s a double-rod, and there are actually eight curtains up there: it’s such a wide window that it required two panels per side. So, four white curtains in front, and four blackout liners in back. (If anyone’s interested, I can do a more detailed post with specifics.)¬†We’re still using the same furniture and lamps from our¬†previous¬†apartment bedroom, with two changes: the rug and the bed.

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The rug is a wool kilim I found on eBay for only $88 from www.ecarpetgallery.com. I think the color it adds saves the room from looking too sterile. It is very thin, so a nice rug pad was a necessity. I like dual surface rugs pads: the scratchy felted side grabs the rug, and the latex side grips the floor.

Our¬†platform bed is the¬†P-Series Basic Bed from Night & Day Furniture. It’s nothing fancy: solid wood, sturdy, and cheap. We bought it for around¬†$300 nearly 10 years ago from Right-On Futon in Chicago; I’ve also seen them online on Amazon and Wayfair. I used it previously with my¬†DIY upholstered headboard, but a wall-mounted headboard wasn’t an option here because our bed is in front of a window.

I decided to add a simple, low-profile headboard to our existing platform bed instead of buying an entirely new bed. Thankfully, this furniture company still makes this line, so I was able to buy a headboard that fits the frame perfectly. I went with white, and painted the bed to match.

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I lightly sanded the original finish, primed with oil-based primer, and then rolled oil-based white paint with a foam roller for a smooth finish.

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In the end, you don’t see all that much of it, which is what I wanted:

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The IKEA RAST nightstands that I stained and painted for our apartment are holding up great. Jarrod’s side of the bed features a Chicago hawk illustration by Diana Sudyka, commissioned by WBEZ for a web feature. When he’s not out birding (like he was when I took these photos), his binoculars hang on the peg rack.

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My side of the bed includes¬†a vintage dresser, plants, and a photograph of my mom and my aunt taken in the 1960s. I picked up the¬†perforated metal tray¬†at H&M last week. They have some really nice home items these days and, if you’re in Chicago, the newly-redesigned Michigan Avenue store is much less of a hellhole.

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The closet area is pretty much the same ‚Äď the mirrored doors don’t look as bad now that the purple is gone, but I’ll probably¬†replace them at some point.

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This clearly isn‚Äôt a fully finished room! Those IKEA storage bins aren’t part of my forever plan, and someday I’ll get around to unpacking that box.

My long-term plan includes:

  • Remove the light kit from the fan. The fan is fine as-is: it’s inoffensive, and it’s quiet, but I do not need an additional three overhead lights¬†on top of the four recessed¬†lights. No one wants seven¬†overhead lights in a bedroom! Removing the lights will make the fan even more inconspicuous.
  • New/vintage¬†nightstands
  • New/vintage dresser to replace the IKEA bins, and/or reconfiguring the closets to maximize storage space
  • Upgrade to a king bed. Eventually, this white¬†queen bed will¬†move to¬†the guest room (which currently has a full size bed), and we’ll ascend to a kingdom.
  • Unpack that box

There’s no urgency for¬†any of those things, however. Especially that box. If I haven’t needed¬†anything from it in a year, maybe I should just¬†bring it to Goodwill and let them unpack it…

 

Rental Bathroom Makeover: Before, During, After

Well, now we know the drawback of real-time blogging: sometimes real-time is way too slow. I’ll save the nitty-gritty details behind the delay for another post – instead, let’s check out our newly redecorated bathroom.

Bathroom Door and Antique Rug | Project Palermo

Unfortunately the bathroom is still small and awkward – nothin’ I could do about that – so it’s impossible to get an all-inclusive pulled-back shot. ¬†I’ll include a lot of photos – let me know if anything is unclear.

Antique Rug in the Bathroom | Project Palermo

New cabinet bar pulls from Home Depot and an antique rug from Humboldt House. HH actually had the rug in their shop bathroom. It’s beat-up, which I love because it’s not precious: aside from, like, setting it ablaze, there’s nothing we can do it that hasn’t already been done.

Bathroom Antique Brass Towel Hook | Project Palermo

Antique brass hook from eBay; hand towel from West Elm. I sewed on the hang loop, thus exhausting my sewing tolerance for the year.

Bathroom Vanity | Project Palermo

The soap pump top, door hooks, medicine cabinet knob and doorknob plates all got spray painted oil-rubbed bronze. The radiator cover and toilet paper holder were painted white. ¬†I’ll do a follow-up post about some of this hardware.

Bathroom | Project Palermo

The one electrical outlet in the bathroom is hidden by the mirror. ¬†The cords you see lead to the electric toothbrush in the medicine cabinet and my hairdryer in the basket below. I considered reworking our medicine cabinet to house the hairdryer as well, but… nope. It’s fine as-is. I don’t mind the dangling cord and if it were even one second more time-consuming to blow dry my stupid hair everyday I’d always leave the house looking like a ragamuffin.

Medicine Cabinet | Project Palermo

Aren’t Jarrod’s pills appealing? Makes me want to take one of each. Also makes me think Jarrod might have a pill problem. [Confidential to Jarrod: we need to talk.]

Extra Long Shower Curtain | Project Palermo

Aside from the paint (Benjamin Moore “Soot” color-matched by Behr), the biggest change¬†is our new extra-long shower curtain. 98 inches. Count ’em! ¬†(You can’t. ¬†Just trust me.) ¬†It’s so long and our bathroom is so small that it’s hard to photograph the full length.

Extra Long Shower Curtain | Project Palermo

The shower curtain is custom-made because we’re¬†fancy¬†like that. ¬†Actually, it’s custom-made for lack of any acceptable option available for purchase. ¬†I’ll return with details: it involves a grommet kit. ¬†Spoiler alert: grommet kits are super fun. I want to put grommets in everything now.

Shower Curtain with Brass Grommets and Rod | Project Palermo

There was a lot of hemming and hawing and hand-wringing regarding this shower curtain rod.  Those were dark days.

Brass Shower Curtain Rod and Hanging Plants | Project Palermo

Speaking of dark: people have asked if the wall color makes the bathroom feel darker or smaller. Yes, a bit darker; no, not smaller. ¬†It¬†is¬†small, but the color and the length of the shower curtain now make it feel¬†grander, for lack of a better word. Also, those wall tiles now look lighter: virtually¬†white, instead of the odd-off-white color they really are. ¬†I didn’t anticipate this optical illusion – it’s the best unforeseen perk of the makeover.

Rental Bathroom Vanity | Project Palermo

Long-time readers of this blog might remember that I redecorated this bathroom shortly after we moved in.  In fact, it was featured on WordPress Freshly Pressed and remains my busiest blog traffic day.  I was pretty proud of it back then but think this recent go-round makes the most of the space.

Bathroom Before
Bathroom 2011

Bathroom | Project Palermo

Check out my original bathroom makeover post for details about moving and covering the medicine cabinet.

One more round of comparison photos, for fun:

Bathroom Before

Bathroom 2011

Rental Bathroom Vanity | Project Palermo

That’s it! I’ll return with a couple of posts about bathroom plants and antique hardware.

Bathroom Makeover Day 2

Day 2! ¬†Full disclosure: this weekend won’t end with triumphant After photos because I won’t have our new shower curtain in hand until Tuesday. This is the drawback of real-time blogging.

Antique Grate and Flap Wheel

All totalled, I spent way too much time on this damn grate. ¬†I just wanted to get down to bare metal so that I could give it a clean, even coat of spray paint. ¬†I should have skipped the boiling, scrubbing and sanding and gone straight to the Klean Strip. ¬†I usually don’t go all scorched earth on antique hardware but this thing isn’t precious. ¬†It’s the opposite of precious: it’s heavy as hell and it will survive the¬†apocalypse.¬† So, I shouldn’t have hesitated to strip it. ¬†Lesson learned. ¬†At least it was fun to use the flap wheel sander.

Antique Grate and Stripper

I also spray painted the toilet paper holder, held aloft with kabob skewers.

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Back upstairs is chaotic.  Lola finds comfort on his L.L. Bean box, which is very special to him for reasons unbeknownst to us.

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Finished painting!

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The color is Benjamin Moore’s¬†Soot, matched by Behr – it’s the same inky-navy-black that we have on¬†our kitchen wainscoting.¬†Our bathroom is off of the kitchen and I like that the two rooms will now be cohesive inverses of one another.

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Somewhat Real-time Bathroom Makeover

Our country’s independence gave me a glorious four-day weekend (thanks, Thomas Jefferson et al.!) and I’m celebrating with a bathroom makeover. ¬†My friend Kimberly suggested that I live-blog it.

Paint Swatches

I won’t be doing that exactly, but I do plan to post pictures each day of the previous day’s progress. I’m usually a very slow blogger (it takes me a while to get around to posting pictures of my projects), so this seems like a good challenge.

Bathroom Hinges

Vent GrateDouble, double toil and trouble.

Wall Paint

Wall Paint