Here is our back yard. Our back yard at it’s original state, I should say. Is it even fair to call it a yard? There are better terms that could describe this space: waste land, dirt pit, the place where dreams go to die. This wasn’t our favorite spot in our house and I’m sure you can see why.
I feel like I’m always saying this when it comes to the projects we take on, but honestly, we weren’t originally intending to remodel our back yard. We thought remodeling our backyard was a ‘3-5 year out’ kind of thing. But then we were itching to just “get an idea” of how much it would cost us, so that we could, you know, “save for it”. But then we start talking about it, envisioning it, drawing out different ideas of what we could do where and how, and what we could do to cut back so we could afford it ALL. It became somewhat attainable, so we went for it.
Before I begin, I want to emphasize the fact we aren’t made of money. Everything we’ve done so far to our house has been in the spirit of ‘getting the best bang for our buck’. My husband and I are finance people, we budget then research, tweak budget and do more research until we’re satisfied that we’re a) getting everything we want, within reason and b) not forfeiting our kid’s college savings fund to make that happen. With that discipline, were able to pick and choose certain things in the backyard that satisfied our wants and desires, and honestly probably made it look like we spent double, if not triple, what we actually spent.
We had a few needs & concerns with the backyard that we prioritized before initiating work:
- Grading – the yard isn’t level, it takes a hard slope downward towards the right back corner. We needed to grade the yard without creating water drainage issues, or upsetting our neighbors
- Drought tolerant landscape – we live in California and we’re in a severe drought which means mandated brown lawns. Our curb appeal is awful but this drought thing is serious business, so we needed landscape that is drought tolerant but adds some visual appeal
- Dog area – we needed to section off an area for our pups to “do their business”
- Low maintenance – My husband and I work 40-50 hours a week each, excluding commuting time which is an additional 3 hours a day. The last thing we want to do when we get home is prune bushes and mow the lawn. We happily pay a landscaper to do this for us twice a month. I am all about paying for services that make you a happier, less stressed person, and landscaping is one of them! But! We’re also frugal and the added cost of landscaping a huge lawn in our back yard isn’t something we wanted to deal with. And a mandated brown lawn at that. So, we needed to find a better, low maintenance option.
- A fun place to hang out! Our backyard is so huge, I think it’s double the square footage of our house. We needed a space to entertain since our house is on the smaller side.
So, we called up a trusted landscaper (he’s more of a hardscape guy, come to find out) and scheduled a time for him to check out our backyard. We talked, measured, drew lines in the dirt, all to help get an idea of placement and design.
Here are the main design aspects we wanted:
- Modern aesthetic
- Ample seating
- Bocce court (it does double duty! I’ll explain in a sec)
- Fire pit
- Dog area
- BBQ station
Here’s what I drew up for our contractor. Gotta love good ol’ graph paper and colored pencil! But seriously, someone please teach me how to do this digitally (Sketchup? Autocad?). Thanks!
I created a Pinterest page specifically for backyard inspo, I incorporated a lot of my favorite elements into the design (floating slat bench seating, modern concrete foundation, drought tolerant landscape). Here are a few that were most influential to my design:
We broke ground on the backyard just 3 weeks before my son’s 1st birthday party. We may have cut it a little too close! Next, I’ll go into more detail on how we addressed our needs & concerns with our final layout. And progress pics, of course.
It’s been a couple weeks since I updated you on our main bath progress. I didn’t bridge the gap between last two updates very well, so today I’m going to fill you in on how we got from no grout to the almost finished product. We still don’t have a mirror, or a shower door. I refuse to hang a shower curtain and cover up all that beautiful tile. So until we throw down on a frame-less shower door, we’ll continue using our garage bathroom until all is complete.
Here we were a few weeks ago, tile was up but not yet grouted.
I remember clearly, it was at this point I wasn’t convinced one way or the other to go with black or white grout on the walls. Our tile guy was really great with us, he mocked up two sample boards, one with white grout and the other with black. Initially I was leaning towards black grout for two reasons, it helped define the pattern and is the classic choice when you think of subway tile. We ended up choosing white grout for two completely different reasons, white hides any imperfections in the tile job, and although we inspected every element of these walls and the imperfections were slim to none, dark grout can make a beautiful tile job go bad REALLY fast. I felt that the risk of regretting the grout decision weighed heavier with black grout over white. The second reason I realized was the black grout would look a little busy in this small bathroom, and distract from the other elements in the space that should really be more in the spotlight, like the vanity and the floors.
White grout it was!
The tile wraps from the door frame around the shower and back to the opposite wall about two feet. I had our contractor install ship lap on the opposite wall, which wraps around the door as well. I’m really happy we did this, I love the look of ship lap!
Next, we installed the vanity! OH how I LOVE this vanity. This was my first go at customizing a piece of furniture, and since I like being honest, it was part headache and part a total dream. I would definitely do this again. But differently. So many lessons learned with this piece.
One of the headaches with the vanity was over the marble remnant. The cabinet builder we used works with a marble shop, literally right next door. All we needed for the vanity was a marble remnant measuring 20″x 40″, basically a really tiny left over piece. I went to the neighboring marble shop, picked out a slab that I loved (so far so good!), and requested a quote for fabrication as our contractor would install. I waited 4 days.. 7 days.. 10 days! 10 days before they sent me a quote. OK fine I understated our project is small, but you’d think the quote would come a lot faster, right? Maybe the business world has me jaded, that turning things around same day is too much to ask for? Whatever.. anyway, so we finally got the quote, 10 days later. Can you guess how much they quoted us?
What the! Did you just fat finger an extra zero?! No, thank you. I’ll continue my search.
I was estimating like $400, maybe. So I went home, complained a little to our contractor and he offered to check out some places in his neighborhood. We also talked about a sad fact – if the homeowner (me, a woman, shopping for a remnant in the middle of the day looking like a rich stay-at-home wife-y) goes shopping they’re bound to get quoted double, maybe quadruple the price compared to if the contractor (a work-boot wearing sweaty dude) shopped for the remnant and mentions self install. The truth hurts. Our contractor was able to get the remnant you see above for $350, including fabrication! There’s still a lot of sex-ism out there. Whatever, I saved a ton of money having him shop for us!
Here she is! Remnant installed, gorgeous light fixtures installed, hardware installed. Although this mirror-less thing is seriously cramping my style.
Catch up on the remodel!
Happy Monday!!! Get your Pin-it buttons ready friends, this is the brittanyMakes moment you’ve all been waiting for!
The full kitchen tour is here. If you’re new to the blog, check the bottom of this post for quick links to the progress on this makeover. Now, get ready to feast your eyes…
This is the view of the kitchen/dining area from our sofa. It’s hard to believe less than a year ago there was a giant wall blocking this view.
I love this angle. There’s nothing like a farmhouse sink flanked by symmetrical doors and drawers. And that gold faucet. Heart eyes all day long.
You remember the before? Woof, right?
In hindsight, I kind of wish we had waterfall-ed our island. It would have added $$$, and the space is rather small, so we probably made the right decision. The other thing I’d like to fix are the switch plates under the island. It’s not something that keeps me up at night, so I’m cool for now.
I really lucked out with those roman shades. They match the cabinet color perfectly! More details on those soon!
Our sliding door broke within the first week of owning the house. We used the remodel as an opportunity to widen the doorframe and install outward swinging French doors. We LOVE how they look! When both doors are open, the sunroom feels like an extension of the house, when before it felt completely closed off.
We usually have a third counter stool in the below photo, but I move it out of the way to take the picture. You can really see the wood tile in these photos too. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about how much I love these floors.
The last thing we have to finish is the void above the refrigerator. We need to add a piece of trim or whatever to finish off the fridge. It’s just kind of a bummer to see the bottom of the plywood cabinet. I could probably just paint the bottom of the cabinet and it wouldn’t be so noticeable. Whatever! It all still looks good to me.
For those who have been here with me through this entire process, thank you! It’s taken a while for us to finally get here. I feel so lucky that we were able to make improvements to our home, I love everything we’ve done so far. If you haven’t seen the before yet, click on the posts linked up below. You’ll be shocked what we started out with!
Have a great Monday!
Sources: Wood tile floors | Carrera marble counters | subway tile backsplash | farmhouse sink | exhaust hood | refrigerator | range | lower cabinet paint color: Cyberspace by Sherwin Williams color matched to Kelly Moore Dura Poxy | Target Windsor style counter height stools | Lew’s brass hardware | Cedar & Moss pendant lights | CB2 bell flush mount light | Delta faucet | Target polka dot vases (in stores only) | Target gold & cement vase (in stores only) | Oh Joy for Target gold pitcher | footed chopping board | vintage rugs | brass globe chandelier | dining table | dining chairs – vintage | black china cabinet – vintage | mid-century style bar cabinet | Roman shades
Get caught up on the remodel!
- We’re finally remodeling our kitchen & living room!
- The wall is gone and the beam is in!
- The kitchen take-down
- 5 kitchens influencing our design
- Countertops & 3D rendering of our plans
- Walls are up, floors are bare
- Cabinets installed!
- Painted cabinet drama
- Kitchen (pre flooring)
- Why wood tile
My first woven wall hanging
Summer is practically here! We’re essentially done with our indoor and outdoor renovations, just those annoying finishing touches like sealing the concrete and paint touch ups. I plan to tackle some of these projects this weekend. How about you?
- I can’t stop making this recipe, seriously. I have a rather large piece in my hand right now.
- Totally obsessed with The Flea
- Congrats to The Classroom Collective on reaching their goal! I can’t wait for my hand dyed indigo dyed fabric to arrive
- Enter to win in $1000 to Anthro!
- Damn it. I signed up for Snapchat. I’m @brittanymakes. Someone needs to show me how to use it.
Our kitchen/dining area has pretty much held the spotlight on the blog here since we began renovating last September. Soon the rest of our house will finally get some attention! It’s like our kitchen is our first child – we’re the parents posting way too many photos of our kitchen on social media, talking ‘kitchen this’ and ‘kitchen that’, and almost going as far as saying our kitchen is so smart for it’s age, it’s going to grow up and be the president of the United States!
We’ve been doting on it for way too long. It’s about time we turned the spotlight onto our next “children” – the bathroom, the sunroom, the backyard! And maybe even the nursery. Oh yeah. The nursery…
BUT! Before we do that I must share the after-afters of our kitchen and dining space. And don’t be mad, but I’m going to break them up into two posts because, well, I feel like it.
Let me remind you of the before, taken the day we bought the house. My goodness, can there be any more beige?
And after a lot of blood, sweat and tears, we have the after!
Please tell me you see that chandelier! Holy crap, right? It’s incredible. Let me introduce you, that is if you haven’t yet been introduced, to the uber talented Sarah of Lucent Lightshop. Sarah made this chandy with her bare hands!
Sarah is known for her ever popular line of brass light fixtures. She is a downright genius, a crazy talented maker and has her finger on he pulse of today’s hot modern lighting. There is something for everyone, and the price point is so right.
Make sure you check back here on Monday! I’ll be posting the full kitchen reveal. If you can’t wait that long, you can read more about the dining room AND get a sneak peek of the kitchen over on domino.com today!