Before and After at the Quirky Old House

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted.

I’ve been having trouble concentrating on writing and reading since my brother-in-law passed away in July.

Writing, like most activities, should be done frequently in order to continue to do it well.  So, I’m back at it.

I have a number of things to write about, but I chose to show share the before and after pictures and story of our new “old” house as my first post back.  I didn’t think we would get much work done on the exterior of our new home since I spent most of the year and well into the summer with my sister and brother-in-law, while he was sick, and they live nearly 10  hours away in another state.

The good news is that my sister bought a new “old” house, too!  And it’s three blocks away from our new “old” house.  By the middle of the month she will be moved and living nearby, and I couldn’t be happier.  For her and for me.

Houston Home (1)

Here is the real estate picture of the front of our new “old” house.  By the time we were able to start working on it, the wisteria on the arbor over the sidewalk had totally engulfed it so that you could not walk through it.  The ivy tumbled down to the sidewalk and the landscaping in front of the house was overgrown obscuring the porch.

Our first outdoor project was to have the chimney tuckpointed.  It became a necessity after the chimney cap blew off in a storm shortly after we bought the place.  Tuckpointing is expensive!  Fortunately, however, the guys who did that work noticed that our upper gutters on both sides of the house did not have any downspouts!  That was overlooked by us, our real estate agent, and our home inspector.  Several hundred dollars later, we were on to our part of the exterior work.

My goal for all projects is to pay as you go, i.e. nothing on credit, and to re-purpose whatever possible rather than to replace.

DSH and I have spent a few weekends working outdoors on our new home, and there have been some major changes that are helping to make it our own.

House facade partly complete diagonal view

We spent a good amount of time cleaning up the landscaping.  The wisteria over the arbor is completely gone.  The kids hated the arbor, but now that it is cleaned up, I’m really liking it.  It’s a bit quirky and different, too.  It was really rusty under all of the foliage so I bought some Rustoleum primer for highly rusted metal and spray painted the entire thing.  I had so much fun spray painting that I refused to let DSH near the can and am thinking I may have missed a calling as a graffiti artist.

House facade partly complete

I spent several hours over a few days cutting back the ivy.  We didn’t realize that we had a such a nice little stone border in front.  It needs some work, but that is a project for next Spring.  The kids hated the ivy, too, but now that it is cut back, I think it’s charming.

It’s staying, too.

We took out the overgrown burning bush by the corner of the porch and removed all of the ivy and overgrown weeds in the planting bed along the house.  We added a few knockout roses, some metal edging, and black mulch.  I am not a fan of the red mulch that seems to be so popular in the area.  I can’t wait to add black mulch to all of the planting beds since it ties together the roof colors and the shutter and porch colors so well.

I really wanted to get rid of the yews, but I didn’t want to make that much of an investment in new plantings.  Now that they are cut back, they aren’t so bad.

I have spent a good amount of time digging up perennials and moving them around.  Most of the plantings at this house appear to be random.  I like the natural look, but I also like to have some order and symmetry, too.  But, I didn’t want to just dig stuff up and toss it.  I moved stuff around.

I love re-purposing plants!

We painted the lattice-work that was trimmed in a green color that was different from the green porch floor.

We added lattice to the area on the side of the porch steps.

The clean up made a big difference.

But I had more things in mind.

House Facade After

I thought that this home was begging for shutters.  Nearly every home in the area has them.  So I added them to the front and painted them a color called Phantom Mist which is a gray with black and brown undertones that I think pulls in the colors of the roof.  I also think it plays down the yellow of the siding.  Our real estate agent says that shutters are like the mascara of a house.

DSH thinks we need to add shutters to the side of the house, and I think we need to add them to the garage windows (which you can see in the back).  That will be a project for next Spring, but when we get it done there will be continuity from front to back.

123 Houston Street (2)

The front porch was charming, but I didn’t care for the green floor or the white door.  I also wanted to eliminate the brass accents and return to the aged bronze which is more era appropriate.

Front door before

Here is the thing about front doors.  I think they are a reflection of your personality.  There are many studies that support this notion.  White doors.  Boring.

Front porch partly complete

So I painted the front porch with the Phantom Mist paint that we also used on the shutters.

front door before (1)

Here is the white front door.  What was I going to do about the oval insert?

front door after

I didn’t replace the door.  I just replaced the insert with a glass that provided more privacy and is called “Rain”.  It matches the glass on the new exterior door fixture that I selected.

I kept the old insert and am trying to think of a way to add it as a funky accent in the garden.

True Story – I was laboring over the color to paint the front door.  I didn’t want a red color to go with the yellow house that made you think of ketchup and mustard.  I was considering colors, other than red, when my niece said to me, “It has to be red.  Every house you’ve lived in has had a red door!”  Decision made.

The color of the door is called Spanish Tile.  Red doors suggest that the person inside is passionate.  That’s about right.

Front porch complete

Here is the after picture of the front porch.  Same front door with new glass insert, new color, and new fixtures.  The storm door is the same, but I spray painted the brass trim and handles.  Spray paint is wonderful.  I’m now considering the use of spray paint in other applications.  I’ve used more spray paint on more things in the past few weeks than I have in my entire life.

We eliminated the light fixture at the end of the porch, and DSH replaced a few pieces of the siding that had holes in it with pieces that he found in the garage attic.  We replaced the light fixture at the door and the old, brass house numbers with new, aged bronze floating numbers.  We eliminated the tiny brass mailbox with an architectural mailbox that has a lock on it.  This will be good for when we travel.  I kept the tiny brass mailbox to possibly use as another planter in the garden.  Once I spray paint it, of course.

I then added a 3′ x 10′ outdoor carpet runner in black and gray.  I found two little gray metal plant stands and am looking for a little wooden bench or similar object to complete the project.

House side facade

When we added the metal edging along the front, we took it around to extend the planting bed up the north side of the house.  This is where I moved many of the hostas that I dug up.  This is a shady spot in our yard, and I see some nice, colorful mounds of Impatiens here next year.

That big hosta in back by the fence is gone and has found a new home in another sister’s updated planting beds.  The thing about those giant overgrown hostas is that you can dig them up and split them apart to make several new plants.

bird path turned into planter

This is my re-purposed bird bath.  This bird bath was left behind by a homeowner when we lived in Dallas.  I’ve been dragging it around for years, but we never got around to trying to repair the motor that turned the New Orleans style jazz frogs that sit on top.  I re-purposed it as a planter.  DSH drilled drain holes in the two basins, and I added some rock and soil and some pansies.  It now greets visitors at the entrance to our front porch.

Now that the weather is turning cold, I’m moving to indoor projects.  I see a lot more painting in my future.

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