house tour {front yard}


next stop on the house tour:  the front yard!  for years i flinched at the idea of sharing our yard.  landscaping is just stink in’ expensive, and we couldn’t afford the hardscaping that was necessary for our sloped yard, so it just sat.  and sat.  and sat.


 in the spring time it actually looked decent (see before pic above).  all the weeds turned green and the roses bloomed and all was right in the world.  but once the weather warmed up more, the green became brown and ugly and the weeds looked like, well, weeds.  the kids couldn’t play in the front yard because the slope was actually a bit dangerous and they would fall right into the rose bushes.  that and they might break an ankle in a gopher hole.  minor things, really ;)


we had originally hoped to take out the stairs in the middle of the yard that are cracking and smallish, and offset them on the corner  see that random spot of railroad ties on the corner here?  we were so sure we wanted to do this that we took out the wall here.  then we got bids for building new stairs and realized it was way out of our budget.  way way out.  we knew we had to tier the front yard like the back since the front was sloped on a hill, too.  the problem was that hardscaping is expensive.  a cement wall or pretty block walls or even cinder block walls were way too pricey for us.


then we came up with the idea of using railroad ties!  not my favorite idea until we priced them out and saw the significant cost savings.  that and the fact that we could do it ourselves sold me on them.  and to clarify, when i say “we” i pretty much mean my parents, because they poured most of their blood and sweat into this project for us.


so the railroad ties didn’t stand out too much, we planted rosemary at the top of them and it is spilling over the sides so nicely!


last year we bought bare-root iceberg roses from the home depot and they have done wonderfully!  i think they were around $6 each and we covered the whole front tier with them.


we get blooms all year round (just another reason to love the central coast).  they are also really easy to maintain.


 we also planted  these butterfly plants on either side of the front walkway, and they really work!  during certain times of the year the butterflies are swarming our yard – i can’t even walk out to get the mail without running into a butterfly!  these bushes were supposed to be a dwarf variety and are now larger than we had originally wanted, so we’re relocating them against the house where their height makes more sense.


see the monarch butterfly in the center of the photo above?  its so fun having them in our yard.


 just a quick stop at the front porch, but more on that later…


 we also added a border of railroad ties around the front of the house for a raised planter bed.  the main area of the yard is covered in bark.  i’d love to have more grass, but water is so expensive here that we just can’t afford to keep it green, so the bark made the most sense.


 we added a couple flagstone paths to either side of the yard with stones that were recycled from the back yard of the original house.

photo 1

here’s a “during” picture of the right side of the yard.  once we puzzle pieced the stones in place, we set them more firmly with poly sand from the home depot.  it is a sand with a bit of hardening agent in them that also offers some flexibility.  we spread the poly sand in the cracks of the stones, swept it around evenly, then lightly misted it with water several times.  it acts like a cement grout, but with more flexibility.  after several months, it has begun to crumble a bit in a few areas, but overall i am still really happy with it.


 we just recently added a couple japanese maples to the yard (only $35 each from costco!).  geraniums seem to do really well here and pack a lot of punch with bright colors, so we added them to the front planter boxes as well.


i got this bird bath at a garage sale for only $3!  it looks like stone/concrete but its really plastic!


 on the left side of the yard we have another pathway that leads to a small patio/seating area.  i’m hoping to someday add a pergola of some sort over this area with maybe a porch swing.

photo 2



 a little fire pit in a bowl would be nice, too!


 these 3 plants were in the original front yard just as tiny little plants.  we didn’t (and still don’t) know what they are, but they have been moved several times and are really hardy!  i’m pretty happy with free, so for now these guys are staying!


 this side yard used to be filled with construction remnants and trash.  actually, we didn’t even have the trash enclosure at the top of the driveway – our trash cans were sitting out all the time!  we cleared out all the trash, donated what we could to habitat’s restore, and made some planters surrounded by small pavers we were given from a neighbor, also sealed with poly sand for a firm fit.  this area used to be a very visible eyesore on our property and now its so pretty!  the geraniums under the pop-out on the side of the house were originally just 2 plants that we had in pots next to our front door.  they were getting a bit over grown so we decided to transplant them to see if they would do ok over here.  they are definitely thriving over here, having quadrupled in size, at least!


and there’s our front yard!

let me know in the comments if you have any questions, i’ll do my best to answer them!

oh, i do not know the names of our exterior house colors – sorry!  these were some of the colors that were in cans that sat outside for too long and the color codes were destroyed.


house tour {backyard}

the house tour slowly continues… this time to my back yard!

when we first bought our house, while we were waiting on building permits from the city (long process), we started on our backyard first.  it was originally one level, kind of.  the backyard basically was one big slope, from up high at the back fence to the edge of the house.  no flat surfaces.  since we live on a hill we had to tier the yard.

we have 3 levels: the first level is level with the main house and is almost all concrete.  the second level is the grass and planter beds, and the smallest 3rd level is ever changing – sometimes is a play area for the kids, sometimes it has a hammock, sometimes (like now) it has tomatoes growing up there.  someday we hope to have a spa up there.  i would’ve loved to have a play house for the kids, but by the time we get that done they will probably have out grown it – so sad!


the first level is all concrete, which i love and hate.  we had a diamond pattern cut into it for some visual interest, but its just so. much. concrete.  i kind of wish we had left a 1 foot border around the whole area for planter beds.  but when you’re building a house, decisions have to be made every day, and sometimes you just make the wrong ones and have to live with them.  it turns out, the concrete has been great for bike riding, skateboarding, roller blading and hours of chalk sketching.


we still haven’t invested in furniture for our backyard.  i’d love to have teak, but its so dang expensive!  everything else seems cheap and will only last a few seasons, so i never pull the trigger.  we’ve had the white painted pine furniture since we first got married.  the table was a french bistro table found at long beach flea years ago, and the chairs are also ages old from ikea.


i built this succulent container several months ago and i just love how its been filling out!


the corrugated metal was a free find (!!!) that we just installed after 8 years of living with the worlds ugliest cinder block wall.  i am more than thrilled with it!


we still have to do some sort of treatment on the fireplace, but i just haven;t settled on what will be perfect.  i figured i’ve lived with it being ugly for this long, i can probably handle it a little bit longer ;)


our bedroom has french doors that open to the backyard, which is great for sean since he works out of our room, and can sneak outside for a change of scenery when he needs it.  when silas was just a teeny newborn, my parents made the potting bench for us out of recycled materials.  the giant chalkboard was a hand-me-down from friends.


looking at our yard, i am realizing we are the king and queen of getting hand-me-downs and second hand finds!  this table was given to us by our neighbors when they got a new one.  it needs a little love, but its not bad for free!  there are usually towels hanging on the wooden towel each to the right of the back doors all summer long.


the hydrangeas are my all-time favorite flower and even occupy the wheel barrow we got from my grandparents’ home.


up the stairs to the second tier… this also takes you to my parents’ loft, above our garage.  my parents’ live with us about 1 week a month, and then we can use their space as a guest house if needed.  its pretty adorable.  i need to sneak up there more!


every yard needs a little grassy space to run around on and slip n’ slide on!  we have a sad little non-producing lime tree, an equally pathetic dwarf apple tree, and an amazing apricot tree.


there’s the sad 3rd tier.  next to it on the 2nd tier usually sits our veggie garden, but we just didn’t get to it this year.


we also have some beautiful rose bushes to the left of the steps.  one of the plants grows about 8 feet high!










i’ll share more details soon on how we covered the cinder block wall with the corrugated metal!

as always, let me know if you have any questions!