A year in review, part 2: Side yard and entryway

pink door and roses

It’s time for our final year in review! This time, I’m focusing on the side yard and our front entryway which needed sooo much work. Have you ever watched the show Rehab Addict? Jesse and I were binge watching for a while there but finally had to call it quits when it started to mimic our lives too closely and was adding to our general anxiety. I’ve hinted pretty strongly that this house (built in the 1930’s) has been a bit tricksy with us and one of the “fun” surprises was the side of the house, where it abuts the neighbor’s property via a pretty steep slope.

back of house

The inspection noted that the retaining wall, and I use that term loosely for what can only be described as a tumble of rotten logs and beams holding back the earth on a wish and a prayer, was in disrepair. We should have used that as a bargaining chip and/or demanded it get repaired but hindsight is 20:20. In addition to the rotten wall, the native rhododendrons and scrub trees had completely engulfed this side of the house causing mold and rot to the wood exterior, not to mention it was just gross and you could barely walk back there. To add insult to injury, the tenant who was living here had a (very cute) dog who used this area as her bathroom and her mess, along with years worth of leaves, was left for us to cleanup. There were also piles of concrete–assuming that someone had left bags out there to harden–which we had to break up and discard. So much fun!

Retaining wall 2

retaining wall 1

The first order of business was to cleanup up the leaves and dog poop as much as possible so the tree guys could get in here and cut back the trees and rhodies. As we went, we also found garbage and the remains of the old invisible fence which we pulled up. Once the tree guys came through, it made it a lot easier to begin work on the wall. We got several quotes from contractors and they were in the range of $7,000-$10,000! I about fell over when the bids started coming in (and this was for various materials we could use from railroad ties, to concrete blocks, to stone.) As much as we both hated the idea, we decided to construct something ourselves.








It was a challenge, to say the least, to get the posts in whilst zig-zagging around all the tree roots and some posts got a bit wonky; our version of the retaining wall may not be perfect but it cost a lot less than 10k and it’s doing the trick! We still need to construct some sort of trellis to top it off but that has been moved down the priority list.



This area leading up to the shed was also completely overgrown. Although it is not yet completed, we cut back the vegetation and widened the path, at least, so we could actually walk up and down the steep, gravely slope without tumbling to our doom.


The exterior of the house had areas that had rotted, which is no surprise given how much moisture was hanging out here from all the plants. We had those areas to patch and repair, including a dog door which we wouldn’t be using. The last order of business to this side area, besides the house paint, was to bring some more gravel in and while we were at it, we tucked in a small bed where we are training an cl. ‘Old Blush’ and I’ll probably plant out some box to line the edge. Jesse also wants to someday build an enclosure for the garbage and recycling. This is the “business end” of the house but that doesn’t mean it has to look terrible!


A window box with cheerful Pelargoniums and it looks much better back here, don’t you think?


Next up, I thought I’d spend a little time talking about how we fixed up the entryway. Remember I talked about wood rot on the side of the house? Well, we had a lot of that going on here, too. We also had a termite explosion come out of this one area the first week we moved in. If I can impress one thing on all of you, it’s get a termite inspection when you go to buy a home. Geez, you guys probably all know that already and are wondering why we were such dumb-dumb heads. I’m wondering that, too. I’ll spare you a close-up of that rotting wood that Jesse removed where the wood exterior met the porch. He replaced it with PVC trim, backed with flashing to prevent moisture from seeping in, all along the bottom edge and around the door. You can see that at one point this house was painted barn red.



It was at this stage, around autumn of last year, that we talked about how we wanted to renovate our home’s exterior and we seriously considered doing cedar shake for it’s entirety. (When my daughter was just a baby, we took a trip to Nantucket & Martha’s Vineyard and I fell in love with everything there, especially the rose-covered cedar shake saltbox cottages.) As we would be doing all the work ourselves, we thought the best way to try it out, so to speak, was by doing the small portion around the front door. Turns out, while the technique itself was not particularly difficult, it took 3x’s as many shingles as we thought we would need and to do the whole house would be too expensive! (Jesse, if you’re reading this, sorry I posted a picture of you with your eyes closed.)




Like any new homeowner, Jesse and I are pretty much obsessed with reclaimed lumber. 😉 Admittedly, we got so weird about it, that my daughter took a candid snapchat of us each with our lumber in hand with the caption, “why do they love wood so much?” Haha! ANYWAYS. We were thrilled to find Asheville Hardware where, among other things, you can purchase small pieces of reclaimed lumber for a song, like this gorgeous walnut we cut and sanded and used as a back for the porch lamp from Lowes. The enameled number plate was made by a company in France and sent over, but I can’t find their website anymore–sorry! The doorbell is from House of Antique Hardware. The urn is from Overstock and it’s planted with a young ‘Belle Poitevine’ which we’ll let bloom there for the summer and plant in the garden this fall. The teak mat is also from Overstock. The paint on the front door is Farrow & Ball ‘Pink Ground’ (this whole door and frame needs to be replaced which is how I got away with painting our door pink for the time being.)

st swithun

In other news, the roses are blooming and I’m putting together a post which will be up in just a day or so. I’ve had some time to think about the realities of creating a brand new garden–one that’s also in a wooded area–and I’ll be sharing my thoughts on that. Be back soon!


17 thoughts on “A year in review, part 2: Side yard and entryway

  1. How beautiful! Everything looks so fresh and bright now. I cannot imagine what a toil that retaining wall must have been. I bet you’ll never regret having done it for a minute, though. For a woodland garden, you simply must plant a ‘Luxuriant’ bleeding-heart. I got one last year and was sure I’d killed it, but in spite of intense humidity it has come back twice its size and is full of flower stalks. I’ve heard that it will bloom until fall when happy, but we’ll see what happens with it. Those pale pink roses look scrumptious.

    1. Thank you for the tip on the Bleeding Heart! Sounds like exactly what we need. And no we don’t regret the hard work, but we could sure use a vacation! 😉

  2. Laurie! You should have your own home renovating TV show! The porch light and the gingerbread, the paint and the shingles, and the huge project on the side of the house, all the work you’ve done with the gardens, not to mention all the work you’ve done inside have created a charming and picturesque home. That front door!! I LOVE it! Perfect with the shingles.

    1. Haha! That’s too funny b/c sometimes we feel like we’re on one! Thank you for the encouragement…I’m glad you like it! 😀

  3. I agree … you need your own show. This is amazing! So much work, but you are creating a place where every view is beautiful. SO lovely!!

  4. Wow! What an exhausting time of it you’ve had. I really admire your tenacity. The after photos are so lovely! Can’t wait to see your rosy post. 🙂

    1. Thanks Anne! I’ll try and get back into regular blogging again once things settle a bit. 😉

  5. Again. Bowing down. Y’all are working so hard. I think I bought this house too. And I battle not a septic, but an old, rotten, out dated sewer. Why. Why. Why do sewers not get camera’d as part of the home inspection? Lord. So. I have what I not so fondly call Poo Lagoon, which turns into Shitterageddon pretty quickly. 6 years and many band aids later, I’m slowly getting it all fixed. Though early this spring I lost my entire garden and fave perennial bed due to a major blowout and must have fix, while I was out of town and unable to move plants. Le sigh. We can do this though! I adore the shake entry. Perfection!

    1. Helen you crack me up! Also I am SOO sorry to hear about your sewer woes that is terrible! I am sending you lots of positive thoughts that it gets corrected soon. Yes, we can do this! 🙂

  6. Great job – I love how you guys have brought so much light to your space, the color of your home, opening up more shrubs and trees to bring light in the garden – it looks really amazing. You could seriously do an HGTV episode! Has your realtor seen the progress, I think they would have a heart attack at the change!

    1. Thank you Cole! Your encouragement has been such a tonic. Nope, I don’t think the realtor has any idea what it looks like now but I thought about sending her a “remember us?” pic. 😉 Haha!

  7. What a wonderful job you two have done! When you moved in, the house was a place that you would look at once and never again. Now you must have people stopping to admire daily. I know I would!

    1. Thanks Kathryn! Admittedly, there have been many, many times where we would look at each other and ask, “Why did we buy this house?!” But it’s starting to feel more like home every day.

  8. Oh Laurie! *-*
    It’s a very beautiful work!!
    Your house is absolutely lovely!
    Many thanks for sharing us!
    Enjoy your spring! I follow you for a long time! Love your roses!

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