• Lily

    Date: 2011.04.18 | Category: home improvement | Tags: ,,,

    I mentioned a few weeks ago that my hubs and I enjoy fixing up and personalizing our home.  I thought it would be fun to show you some of the projects we’ve done over the years, and I thought I should start with our California house on Lily Ave.  We were fortunate to find a small fixer upper in the Bay Area that we could (sort of) afford as it’s one of the most expensive places in the country to live.  Though it was only 1150 square feet, it felt roomy and had a good interior layout.  One of it’s biggest selling features was it’s location across the street from a 20 acre cornfield!  Yes, right in the middle of the Silicon Valley there was still a hold out agricultural property!  It was unfortunate that our house had zero curb appeal and was in desperate need of some TLC (and had iffy schools, exorbitant property taxes, sketchy neighbors, a view of a major expressway, etc).

    Lovely Irish green trim, overgrown bushes that aren’t centered, cement pavers bordering the grass- that’s nothing!  What we have here, people, is a faux front wall in front of a carport- constructed of painted yellow plywood (but only facing the street- just plywood color as you’re leaving!).  With two doors installed in it.  Even though it’s open on the side.  Classy.  And that huge antenna?  They just strapped it to the chimney (so unsafe!), dropped the cable down the front of the house and drilled a hole into the living room.  To weather proof the hole they stuck an old used plastic pot on the front of the house with an entire tube of silicone caulk.  Right there by our fake front door.  I kid you not.

    As you walk in along the carport you come to this space by the real front door- a covered deck area.  Complete with plastic corrugated roofing and a handmade plant shelf (with uneven scallops) brimming with fake flowers.  And a spigot.  And termites in the deck coated in nasty gummy stain.  And storage for every scrap of wood leftover from every project ever attempted hanging from the roof of the carport and along the side of the house (Perfect for all the birds and other critters who need a home.).  Plus a mail slot in the door so the mail ends up in a pile on the floor of the garage.  And the real garage door that actually opens into the garage.  And a downspout that’s angled across it to the side of the house.  And see how everything is open along the side even though there is a front “wall”?  Just so strange.  And tacky.  And horrible, really.

    Just in case you weren’t counting, that’s 3 potential front doors for guests to choose from.  They had to be brave enough to open the door into the carport- not knowing if they should knock or just barge on in, continue along the driveway, ignore the door for the garage (even though it was straight ahead, stuck out like a sore thumb, and had a mail slot) and go up onto the porch area to find the front door.

    In the backyard we had two (different) corrugated overhangs built with random pieces of wood, plastic and tin- and rickety as all get out!  The fences were literally falling down along both sides of the property.  And painted several different shades of white.  All knot holes were covered with cut up tin cans with rusty streaks from the nails.

    The view from our master bedroom into the back yard.  We’re not sure what they designed this area for.  It was an area of red lava rock with a landing pad of unmatched cement pavers and bricks that took up about 1/3 of our potential lawn area.  With built in wooden benches that had rotted away to almost nothing but splinters and rusty nails (you can see the bench on the left is missing it’s seat altogether!).  Was it an area for a hot tub?  There was no electricity and who would want to walk across lava rock to hop in?  It’s another mystery.

    Now I want you to see what we had to work with inside the house.  In the living room we were treated to a dirty builders grade brick fireplace with ancient brass doors to match the ceiling fan.  The tile on the hearth was ugly brown and cracked and uneven.  (Though they did leave us that mirror- to cover an unpainted spot on the wall.  I love it and it now hangs in our current bedroom!)  A dog had chewed up the window sill.

    Ahhhh, the kitchen.  With a wood framed flourecent light fixture and hand painted Irish tiles on the back splash.  Our best guess is a previous owner’s children painted them to demonstrate their Irish pride.  We had a castle, a flag and a shamrock to contend with.  Not to mention the grout which is actually white on the countertops though at first we thought it was dark brown.  The second picture is the view from the kitchen into the dining room. We had several of these solar tubes throughout the house- they added so much light and really brightened the house up.  It’s too bad some of them were placed in odd spots- like this one.

    I would like to interject here that this kitchen was one of my favorite parts of this house.  It had a huge range with 5 burners and an oversized oven, tons and tons of storage and great views of the field.  But it did lack one important feature found in most kitchens.  A silverware drawer!  Yes, that’s right people.  There was no drawer for our silverware!  I have always been curious about what the previous occupants did with their utensils.  We created a sliding holder inside one of the deep drawers so we could easily slide the silverware holder out of the way and access the cooking utensils underneath.  We went ahead and left it for the next owners so they wouldn’t have to come up with their own solution!

    The Irish pride extended to both bathrooms.  Yes, those are bright green tiles randomly scattered across the walls.  And yes, that grout on the floor is also supposed to be white.  And it’s hard to tell, but both the medicine cabinet and the light fixture project 6 inches or so off the wall- they had to build out the light fixture because of the medicine cabinet.  Rink. Y. Dink.  Oh, and the vanity is made of paperboard or something and is totally disintegrating over on the tub side from the moisture.  They also did a terrible job cutting out for the outlet- I wish you could see it better in the photo.

    And finally, the master bath.  So spacious!  So luxurious!  It’s like a spa!  Or not.  More Irish tile.  Frilly curtains.  Plastic towel bar and cup holder.  Hollywood light bar.  It’s so tiny your knees could hit the wall while you sat on the toilet and it required a pocket door.  And see the nice job they did cutting the tile for the outlet again?  Geez.  One fun thing we discovered during the home inspection- the shower drain wasn’t connected.  You would never know it from inside, but the water was draining straight into the dirt under the house.  Yup.  Really.  We went ahead and had that fixed.

    Every door in the house had been scratched excessively by a very large dog.  Probably the same dog who ate the window sill in the living room.  The doors also had old brass hardware in terrible shape- you know how it gets dull and greenish and dented?  All of the door and window trim in the house was painted the color of the walls and ceiling rather than a contrasting color.  It was so weird and murky inside with no contrast anywhere.

    So, we wasted no time and went right to work!

    Before we moved in we rallied the troops and painted the entire interior.  We got my dad, Bill and Daniel to help paint during the day, while Chris and I painted long into the night after work each evening.  That red wall took 7 coats of paint and primer!  (The street in front of my parents house also got a nice red coat when we dropped one of the paint cans from the trunk- oops!)  Good bye dirty (really really dirty) off white paint on every surface!  Hello bright new colors in every room and white ceilings and trim throughout!

    The master bedroom, the yellow room (notice the new white paneled doors and glass knobs- since there were only 5 interior doors in the entire house we just went ahead and replaced them) and the blue room.  The blue room is the only room in the house we didn’t paint- we just ran out of steam at the end.  We had Bill paint some clouds on the ceiling and called it good.

    We installed a new light fixture and used small appliances to carefully hide all of the “fancy” tiles in the kitchen after bleaching the grout.  I couldn’t find a good after picture with the walls painted, but it was a great color called peanut butter which you can see in the second picture where I’m painting the ceiling.  In the dining room, all of those coats of paint turned out great and were well worth it!  The mirror is the one left on the mantel by the previous owners- doesn’t it look good?  We brought my chandelier from my old condo and rehung it here (drat!, the shades are crooked in this pic).  Also, notice the great views of the field across the street.

    Ugly stained brick fireplace- be gone!  We bought granite (online) and installed a new hearth and resurfaced the face of the brick, then we installed a custom fireplace surround (also purchased online) and painted it bright white.  A new set of doors and we were so pleased with the result!  This is also a great shot of the main interior color.  A nice warm tan- almost a little fleshy in hue.  Such a great contrast with the white trim.

    In the main bathroom I scrubbed, scrubbed and scrubbed some more!  Then we replaced the vanity, medicine cabinet and light fixture.  A shower curtain and the towels hid most of the green tile and the shower doors.  I am so bummed we don’t have a picture after painting, but I choose the same peanut butter color that I used in the kitchen.  I also think it’s amazing how updating the towel bars can make such a difference and it’s so easy to do.  When we replaced this door we had to change out the whole door frame.  It looked like at one point the door had swung the other way- which means it used to swing out into the hall.  Have you ever seen a bathroom where the door swings out?  Me neither.  Someone had done a crummy job filling the old holes and everything was out of square and it was just easier to start over with this one.

    In the master bath I also scrubbed grout for ages and we replaced the light (raising it 5″ or so and shifting it to the right- making an effort to center it over the sink- unlike the previous installation) and towel bars and painted the room this great green color.  Just before we moved we had the vanity and mirror replaced by the stagers to make the room look bigger even though it reduced the room’s storage significantly.  It turned out almost spa-like, if I do say so myself.

    In the backyard we hauled a zillion loads of red rock and pavers out and extended the sprinkler system to cover the back corner.  These pictures also show off the new fence we had installed and the Japanese Maple we planted.  Some of the plants along the fence were transplanted from the front yard when we re-landscaped up there and some were new.  We also had friends help us remove the overhangs from the back of the house.  More sun, but less ugly!

    In the 1st picture you can see how we ripped off the plywood faux front, removed the antenna and it’s plastic flower pot, added bold street numbers, changed the fence line and added a small patio off the dining room when the new fences were installed.  I spent 2 summer vacations ripping out bushes, laying a brick path up to the gate from the curb and changing the shape of the flower beds along the front of the house to curve along the new patio.  I loved the profusion of color with the hydrangeas (so hard to see, but they’re against the house) and impatiens.  I also removed all of the pavers along the sidewalk, extended the sprinklers and planted more flowers there.

    In the second picture you can see the difference painting the gutters and shutters made!  I loved the look of the yellow and black- no more kelly green!  You can see the hydrangeas and the small tree we planted in this shot, but nothing is really in bloom and this is after the stagers planted oversize pokey plants right along the sidewalk where I had flowers.  I don’t understand that at all!  You can also see that I painted the door into the garage yellow to help it blend into the house and remove confusion about where to go and I added a cute black mailbox so we didn’t have to go into the garage to get it every day.

    This picture shows off our brick path- our next door neighbor had completely bricked his driveway, porch area and a good portion of his side yard with free recycled bricks.  We had piles of his extra bricks sitting around randomly on our property and when I mentioned the project I had in mind he offered more off the pile he still had in his yard if I didn’t have enough.   It’s not in any of the pictures, but we had a palm tree removed from this front corner of the yard- it had pokey palm fronds right at eye level- threatening any who dared to walk past on the sidewalk!

    The patio deck was power washed to remove the gummy stain and refinished, a lemon tree and a fountain hide the spigot, the flower ledge has been removed, the green trim is painted white, and the jankety screen door was replaced with a roll up disappearing screen (love these!).  This photo is after the stagers added flowers and a rug when the house was on the market.  Barely visible in the upper left corner of the picture is one of the new porch lights.  They’re black and have built in motion sensors- LOVE!

    We owned the house on Lily for almost exactly 3 years.  I think we accomplished a lot during that time, especially considering that the 1st six months we owned the place Chris lived half an hour away and we were planning our wedding!  Since many of these projects were simple painting or manual labor I haven’t gone into much detail, but if there’s anything you’re curious about please ask.  I may eventually write a post about the fireplace redo since that was more involved and I am so pleased with the difference it made in the room.

    I had so much fun looking through all of the old pictures and reminiscing about the first years of our marriage.  I’m not sure how we got so much done during those years.  It was obviously before kids!