Note to realtors: Don’t try to wow me by saying the home has a built-in wet bar. This isn’t a 1940s movie where the guy brings the dame to his apartment to get liquored up.
It’s my home, for gosh sakes. If I want a drink, I’ll slip into the kitchen where there’s a big thing with ice cubes in it, one cabinet with glasses, and another one with the hooch.
Merging the two rooms took about five months. Materials and labor cost $4,600 for the phases outlined earlier in the series.
As I look back on the quality of materials, level of craftsmanship, and final result, I am stunned at the relatively low cost.
What would I do differently next time? Let’s dive in.
Lining up contractors
Contractors make or break a project, and finding a great one will actually enhance the result—if the homeowner will ask for guidance and be willing to listen. Accordingly, I think spending the time to select the best candidate is critical. Once I find someone I can trust, I can step out of the way and let the expert get to work.
After I bought the Carlsbad house, I knew the second bedroom would be my office but wasn’t sure what to do with the third bedroom.
One option not on the table was converting it to a guest room. A guest room! First, I’m not popular enough to have that many guests. And second, why sacrifice an entire room for only few nights’ use a year?
On top of that, I couldn’t name a single guest who wouldn’t be happy to spend the night on a comfy air mattress next to the family room fireplace. Guest room, indeed!
It’s funny how much bang you get just by applying some TLC to small details. A case in point is the wood framing on the dining room mirror.
The builder used very inexpensive (well, cheap if you want to know) knotty pine, barely rounded the corners, painted it white, and slapped it on. If you’ve ever tried to paint this wood, you know the knots will show through or at least look odd no matter how carefully you prepare the surface.
You can barely see the shelf. (click to enlarge)
But wait, there’s more. It was obvious the mirrored surface needed to have a horizontal gap just two or three feet from the floor. The builder’s solution was to insert a shelf that stuck out about a foot and was good for (anyone?) nothing except getting in the way.
Next to the fireplace bricks, I hated that frame the most. And yet I liked the mirror because it made the area feel more spacious and bright.
Today I was privileged to see a private garden through TreeStewards of Arlington and Alexandria, of which I am a member. This garden is about ten years old. It began as an inaccessible hillside covered with invasive plants—ivy, multiflora rose and worse. The owner started by clearing invasives and adding paths. Gradually he planted natives and just watched as they colonized the hill. He said there was no grand plan. Clearly the natural colonies that formed created their own beautiful rhythms. Now he mostly sits back and enjoys the garden and says there is little to do. I looked for weeds, but couldn’t find any! This would be my ideal garden. Enjoy the photos. My next move? I’m buying some native plants at the plant sale in two weeks!
What you can't know from looking at this photo is that these woods are filled with sounds of hundreds of birds.
Thriving at the base of a tree...
Mayapples, once established, will form a lovely community on the forest floor.
I understand that depending on where you live and your particular lifestyle, your guest closet may get a lot of use. But for me, living in California and having neither friends nor guests, the downstairs closet mainly stood there twiddling its proverbial thumbs.
You should know my storage and shelving fixation is matched only by my loathing of clutter. So of course I could not allow such prime real estate to become an underutilized cavern or worse, a catch-all for junk. There had to be a better use of this space.
AFTER: If this isn't anti-clutter, what is? (click for larger image)
When I moved east in 2005, one of the first things I did was to plant daffodil bulbs around the yard. The previous owner had put yellows in the back. I added to those, then tucked soft pastels—pale yellow, pink, peach and white in the front yard. When bulbs were on sale late in the fall, I bought some. In some cases, I ordered early for special pricing with online bulb companies. Since my early splurge, I’ve been rewarded every spring!
This is the fifth year of spring bouquets from the garden.
Buy bulbs that will bloom year after year in your area. If it doesn’t get cold enough where you live, ask your nursery to help you select the right plants. When in California, Alstromeria bloomed profusely with little care and made long-lasting cut flowers in the house. These are sold by florists, but are so easy to grow. They go dormant after blooming in summer, then come back the next year.
Don’t have a beautiful vase? No matter. Flowers in the house don’t need to be fussy. These daffodils seem to arrange themselves in an old mayonnaise jar I placed on a low sill. That’s not to say I don’t own some beautiful vases. One particular heavy glass faceted vase is a favorite gift from a friend. I’ll use it when I have some taller flowers.