Naughty And Nice Holiday Window Boxes

Naughty And Nice Holiday Window Boxes | laughingabi.com

Naughty And Nice Holiday Window Boxes | laughingabi.com

I’m so excited to share my Naughty And Nice Holiday Window Boxes with you! We built the boxes a couple summers ago but this is the first year I’ve decked them out for Christmas.

It all started when I saw this garden flag at Lowe’s. You can’t see in this pic but “Team Nice” is on the back. Cute, right? I didn’t have a place in my yard that would show off both sides so I decided to buy two and use them as features in my window boxes. Of course they would require some modifications first. Here’s what I did.

Naughty And Nice Holiday Window Boxes | laughingabi.com

I started by shortening the stand so my flag would hang at the right height for the window box. I marked approximately where I wanted to cut.

Naughty And Nice Holiday Window Boxes | laughingabi.com

Used a hacksaw to do the deed.

Naughty And Nice Holiday Window Boxes | laughingabi.com

And taped off the rough ends with electrical tape.

Naughty And Nice Holiday Window Boxes | laughingabi.com

Then I was left with two pieces that looked like this.

Naughty And Nice Holiday Window Boxes | laughingabi.com

The last step was to put the two pieces back together with a few more strips of electrical tape. (I am a little worried about the tape holding up in the Chicago weather. I might go back to reinforce things with zip ties if I need to.)

Naughty And Nice Holiday Window Boxes | laughingabi.com

With the stand finished it’s time to start filling the window boxes! Luckily I have neighbors on one side who let me cut branches from their evergreen tree and an abandoned house across the street where I can do some “volunteer pruning”.

Before I started putting in my live greens I lined the top of the boxes with this super cheap, super fake-looking artificial garland. This serves as a filler to hide any gaps or holes in my finished arrangement. Then I put in the flag – on it’s new, shortened stand.

Naughty And Nice Holiday Window Boxes | laughingabi.com

The next two layers are branches that hang over and spill down the front of the boxes. (Wish I knew enough to tell you what kind of tree these come from. Anyone?)

Naughty And Nice Holiday Window Boxes | laughingabi.com

To hold everything in place I used these wood picks I bought at Michael’s.

Naughty And Nice Holiday Window Boxes | laughingabi.com

They come with floral wire already attached so all you have to do is wrap the other end around your branch and stake it in the dirt.

Naughty And Nice Holiday Window Boxes | laughingabi.com

After two layers of draping greens I added just a few straight, non-hanging branches for some height in the top of the box. These metal landscaping pins came in handy for this step.

Naughty And Nice Holiday Window Boxes | laughingabi.com

You might have noticed some tiny lights in the last photo. They’re actually part of a garland Josh bought at an after Christmas clearance sale last year. They aren’t super bright but they do add a sweet twinkle to all that green so I layered them on top, pushing them toward the front so they could be seen from the street.

Naughty And Nice Holiday Window Boxes | laughingabi.com

Almost done! After walking out in the yard (in the rain) a dozen times to see how things were looking I decided to add a pop of color. I used ornaments because they’re cheap and easy to find. I attached them using the same wood picks as before.

Naughty And Nice Holiday Window Boxes | laughingabi.com

Naughty And Nice Holiday Window Boxes | laughingabi.com

And with that last touch of color- they’re done!

Naughty And Nice Holiday Window Boxes | laughingabi.com

Naughty And Nice Holiday Window Boxes | laughingabi.com

I should point out that I had a third window box to fill. I used the exact same greenery, lighted garland, and ornaments but added a Santa hat in place of the flag. It’s held in place with more wood picks/floral wire that I simply threaded through safety pins.

Naughty And Nice Holiday Window Boxes | laughingabi.com

Naughty And Nice Holiday Window Boxes | laughingabi.com

Naughty And Nice Holiday Window Boxes | laughingabi.com

Naughty And Nice Holiday Window Boxes | laughingabi.com

naughty and nice collage

I’m so far behind with my holiday decorating that I almost didn’t do this project at all. I’m really glad I did though. It makes a big impact and looks so cozy when I pull up to the house every day.

Do you have all your decorating done? All your presents bought? I’ve started but I’m soooo far from done.

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A Garden Walk With Friends And Wine

A Garden Walk With Friends And Wine | laughingabi.com

Have you ever been on a garden walk that featured the grounds of only one garden? My friends and I went to one last weekend and it was so amazing I had to share it in this “garden crashers” post.

Before I hit you with the pics I have to mention the gracious home owner, Theresa Flamini, and the charitable work she and her family do. In 2004 the Flamini family decided that instead of purchasing gifts for each other they would pool their resources and purchase gifts for children that were spending the holidays in the hospital. This became a family tradition and over time grew into the creation of a non-profit organization, the Flamini Family Foundation. Through this holiday giving and other annual events, like the Summer Garden Walk, the foundation provides donations to over a dozen area hospitals and all of the Ronald McDonald houses of Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana. Don’t you just love it when people with brains AND money put them together to help others? LOVE it!

So let’s take a walk, shall we? Here’s the end of the driveway where the garden starts.

A Garden Walk With Friends And Wine | laughingabi.com

And this is the beautiful gate you walk through to enter this slice of paradise. Everything after this is in random order because I kind of lost track of all space and time in the real world. It was partly because of the gardens and partly because of the wine. Did I mention there was a wine booth? More on that in a minute.

A Garden Walk With Friends And Wine | laughingabi.com

I could never capture all the details but here are some of my favorites.

A Garden Walk With Friends And Wine | laughingabi.com

A Garden Walk With Friends And Wine | laughingabi.com

A Garden Walk With Friends And Wine | laughingabi.com

A Garden Walk With Friends And Wine | laughingabi.com

A Garden Walk With Friends And Wine | laughingabi.com

I loved the shape of this tree. If anyone knows what it’s called please let me know.

A Garden Walk With Friends And Wine | laughingabi.com

Sometimes I would see something beautiful like this . . .

A Garden Walk With Friends And Wine | laughingabi.com

. . .  then look back after we had passed and see it in an entirely different way.

A Garden Walk With Friends And Wine | laughingabi.com

This is the patio off the side of the house. So big. So beautiful.

A Garden Walk With Friends And Wine | laughingabi.com

And I had to share this whimsical sculpture sniffing the flowers.

A Garden Walk With Friends And Wine | laughingabi.com

At the back of the garden you follow these stepping stones to an opening that looks like it leaves the property. (Does that path look familiar to anyone? Yep, it’s the same style I used here, but on a much larger scale.)

A Garden Walk With Friends And Wine | laughingabi.com

But when you pass through the opening you find this.

A Garden Walk With Friends And Wine | laughingabi.com

A Garden Walk With Friends And Wine | laughingabi.com

It was here that we decided we should sit and share a bottle of wine. Can you think of a better place? So we backtracked to the wine booth I mentioned earlier and Lisa of Aged 2 Perfection hooked us up with a couple bottles of deliciousness. I won’t admit how long we sat in that gazebo but I expected security to round the corner at any minute.

That was how we ended our day but I can’t finish this post without mentioning an incredible glass artist we met. Her name is Kim Jongsma from First Glass Gardens and she creates garden art from upcycled glassware. Here are a few samples of her work.

A Garden Walk With Friends And Wine | laughingabi.com

A Garden Walk With Friends And Wine | laughingabi.com

A Garden Walk With Friends And Wine | laughingabi.com

Did you spot all the different pieces she puts together? My favorite is the salt shaker in the middle of the last photo. If you’re not into flowers she’s got a huge portfolio of other sculptures to choose from and can even create custom items from your old glassware. You can just see one of her birdbaths in the corner of this shot below. Sorry I didn’t get a better pic.

A Garden Walk With Friends And Wine | laughingabi.com

I was just amazed by her creativity. It’s the perfect mix of upcycling, DIY, and garden art. You can see more of her work here.

So that was my perfect Sunday afternoon. Good friends, creative surroundings, delicious wine, and all in support of a children’s charity. Just doesn’t get much better than that.

Playground Climbing Wall Repurposed As Outdoor Daybed

Playground Climbing Wall Repurposed As Outdoor Daybed | laughingabi.com

Almost every night after dinner we settle in on the couch, turn on the TV, and chill. And almost every night after I get all snuggled in and comfy Josh asks me to go sit on the back porch with him.

Ugh!

It’s not that I don’t want to, it’s just that all the seating out there is so . . .  vertical. I want to lay down, stretch out, and put my head on a pillow. So I started looking around the house for a camping cot or air mattress I could use. I was stoked to find a roll-away bed stored in the basement. I bought it a couple years ago at a friend’s garage sale and my kids use it when they have someone sleep over. I didn’t remember to take a picture but it looks like this one.

NewClassic

Nothing pretty but it was free and portable so I lugged it outside one afternoon, threw a sheet and blankie on it, and laid down. And then it happened.

The clouds parted, the sun shone more brightly than ever before and a cool summer breeze lifted all my cares away. My daughter curled up next to me and closed her eyes too. I swear I even heard a unicorn trot by. It was that magical. Why hadn’t I thought of this before? There had to be a way to make this bed a permanent fixture on my porch. Had. To. Be.

My first idea was to keep the roll-away bed out there – maybe fix it up with some pillows or something. I asked my daughter’s opinion and she said it looked like we had a hobo living on our porch. Hmmm. Maybe not.

So I went online and found plans to build this perfect outdoor daybed by Ana White (minus the canopy).

daybed1 ana white

The plans seemed easy and the cost came in at a reasonable $225, so we made our list and started stashing away money for the materials. In the meantime we were busy tearing down the backyard playground since both of our girls had outgrown it. Then somehow in this pile of scrap . . .

Playground Climbing Wall Repurposed As Outdoor Daybed | laughingabi.com

. . .  Josh saw a daybed frame (and a workbench for the garage but that’s another post for another day).

Turns out the climbing wall was the same width and almost the same length as my hobo bed mattress. So with a few modifications it could easily become the base of the daybed and still support the back and arms from the Ana White plans.

Modification #1: Square off angled end and “cap” it with a 2×4 to match the other end.

Playground Climbing Wall Repurposed As Outdoor Daybed | laughingabi.com

Modification #2: Trim any overhang from the ends so there’s a flush surface to add the arms when we’re ready.

Playground Climbing Wall Repurposed As Outdoor Daybed | laughingabi.com

Modification # 3: Add legs using 2×4 scraps from the playground. This photo looks like there’s only one screw holding the leg in place but I promise there’s three more in the side.

Playground Climbing Wall Repurposed As Outdoor Daybed | laughingabi.com

And of course it needed power washing, sanding, and painting. I chose the same color we used on the porch ceiling since we had some leftover. Here’s a shot of the underside all painted out so you can see the finished construction.

Playground Climbing Wall Repurposed As Outdoor Daybed | laughingabi.com

And here’s the top without a mattress. Disregard the filthy floor.

Playground Climbing Wall Repurposed As Outdoor Daybed | laughingabi.com

Finally, all made up and ready for a lazy Sunday morning or after dinner relaxing.

Playground Climbing Wall Repurposed As Outdoor Daybed | laughingabi.com

Playground Climbing Wall Repurposed As Outdoor Daybed | laughingabi.com

Playground Climbing Wall Repurposed As Outdoor Daybed | laughingabi.com

Here’s what happened when I was trying to take these photos.

Playground Climbing Wall Repurposed As Outdoor Daybed | laughingabi.com

Playground Climbing Wall Repurposed As Outdoor Daybed | laughingabi.com

Oh and to protect the hobo mattress in our wet Chicago weather I bought a waterproof, zippered mattress protector at Walmart for around $19. This is what the packaging looks like when it’s being transformed into a robot by a 10-year-old.

Playground Climbing Wall Repurposed As Outdoor Daybed | laughingabi.com

For added protection I added a waterproof mattress cover we still had from when the kids were potty training. If the forecast calls for thunderstorms I bring the mattress in just to be safe but so far it’s stayed dry during our regular rain showers and humid days.

Playground Climbing Wall Repurposed As Outdoor Daybed | laughingabi.com

Next we plan to add a back and arms but we’re starting to rethink the design based on how we use the bed so far. I’ll be sure to keep you updated.

Playground Climbing Wall Repurposed As Outdoor Daybed | laughingabi.com

What do you sit or lay on when you’re outside. Do you need to be horizontal to relax too. Or is that just me?

DIY Stepping Stone Path

DIY Stepping Stone Path | laughingabi.com

Have you ever had one of those spaces that says, “Nanner-nanner-boo-boo, you can’t finish me,” every time you pass it? Well this was mine and to make matters worse, it was the first thing I saw when I pulled up to my house each day.

DIY Stepping Stone Path | laughingabi.com

If it looks familiar you might remember me writing about it here. We’ve battled before – and I lost. So I decided over the long July 4 weekend to pull on my big girl work gloves, pump up the fight music, and kick some grass.

LET’S DO THIS! 

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My first plan was to cover it all with grass. More specifically sod since this is a high-traffic area and delicate grass seed probably wouldn’t survive. Then I thought: high-traffic + new grass + monsoon season in Chicago = deadgrassmudpit. Not the look I was going for.

The next idea was on the opposite end of the spectrum: an all stone path using the leftovers we’ve had sitting on our basketball court for three years.

DIY Stepping Stone Path | laughingabi.com

Functionally it seemed like a good idea but I wasn’t excited about more hardscaping in an area that was already sporting a two-tiered stone patio. Again, not the look I was going for.

So if grass OR stone won’t work then the obvious solution has to be . . . grass AND stone. Stones spaced for walking so there’s no mud pit during the wet season. Grass to soften the edges and make it feel like part of the yard, not the patio.

Boom! I had a plan. Round 1 winner? ME.

Now it was time to get down and dirty. First, picking the stones and laying them out. The only rule I followed was to be sure they allowed for a natural, comfortable stride. After a lot of “practice walking” we were happy with this layout.

DIY Stepping Stone Path | laughingabi.com

Since I was going to plant grass around the stones I needed them to be flush with the ground so my mower could easily roll over top without any extra trimming or edging. That meant digging out and setting each individual stone. This was my tool of choice.

DIY Stepping Stone Path | laughingabi.com

Here’s a quick rundown of my method.

DIY Stepping Stone Path | laughingabi.com

1. I used my tool to outline the stone so I knew where to dig.
2. I flipped the stone over to get it out of the way but kept it close by so I could work with it for the next steps.
3. Using the same tool, I dug out approximately an inch of soil, depending on the depth of the stone I was setting, and added a couple scoops of paver base for leveling. (We had this leftover from another project but it’s inexpensive if you need to buy a bag or two.)
4. This is the step that got kind of tedious. I put the stone back in place and wiggled, and pushed, and adjusted until it was solid and level. Actually the word level is deceiving. This area of our yard needs to slope downward for proper drainage so I adjusted until it was the grade I needed.

It’s important to tell you that no two stones were the same. On some I needed to add more paver base to one side. On others I needed to dig out more dirt. More than once I dug out way too much soil and had to back-fill. It’s definitely not a precise science so don’t overthink it.

Once that was done I added soil around the edges of the stone. Here’s one almost done. You can see the three I’ve already finished at the top of the pic.

DIY Stepping Stone Path | laughingabi.com

I’m not gonna lie, it took some time. I had a helper for part of the afternoon. Did you see her toes in the photo above? Here she is making 100% sure there are no spiders in her gloves.

DIY Stepping Stone Path | laughingabi.com

Together we got it done and while I was hot, sweaty, and mosquito-ravaged I really liked the way things were looking. Round 2 winner: ME

DIY Stepping Stone Path | laughingabi.com

Before we go any further I want to point out that I also took the time to level and set the smaller stones around my flower beds. See them at the top and bottom of the last photo? If you scroll up to the before shot you can see how they looked when I started.

Finally it was time to plant grass, my favorite part. My method is to sprinkle a handful of seed, top it with a handful of good topsoil, and keep it watered. This time I added some starter fertilizer because I had it on hand. Wow, what a difference that made! In just three days I had sprouts popping up.

DIY Stepping Stone Path | laughingabi.com

In seven days, which is when I usually notice the first sprouts, it looked like this.

DIY Stepping Stone Path | laughingabi.com

It’s kinda thin around the first few stones but that’s easily solved with a little more seed. I think I’ll be able to mow it next weekend. Is it weird that I’m so excited about that?

I’m calling Round 3 a win.

Unfortunately it’s too soon to call Round 4. I’ll let you know after I mow and get some more grass seed down. Hopefully I won’t be writing about this space again next summer – unless it’s to share the new arbor I’ve been planning.

Do you have a problem area that you can’t seem to conquer? Is it inside or out? What different ideas have you tried?

Easy Spring Porch Decorations

Easy Spring Porch Decorations | laughingabi.com

I’m a little behind this year (just like Mother Nature it seems) but my front porch is finally ready for spring. As usual I kept things simple, opting for a few hot pops of color rather than a big collection of flowers and “stuff”.

I started with the same rug I painted last spring. You can see it’s faded a bit over the winter but other than that it’s in great shape. No holes or snags or frays. I think this summer I may tape the stripes off again and hit it with a can of black spray paint just to give it a face lift.

I used a chair again like last spring but instead of stealing it from the back porch I used a roadside redo this time . More on it’s transformation in another post but for now behold it’s newly-found beauty.

Easy Spring Porch Decorations | laughingabi.com

And that popping pillow? I made it with a bit of outdoor fabric I scored at Jo-Ann’s for 50% off. (I bought a full yard so you’ll probably see it in some other projects soon.) Oh, and thanks to Josh, it will never blow away in the Chicago wind. He had the great idea to add these ties to the back. That’s why I love him.

Easy Spring Porch Decorations | laughingabi.com

The colors in the pillow inspired me to buy these red and yellow flowers from Lowe’s which I transplanted into a pot I use every year.

Easy Spring Porch Decorations | laughingabi.com

Then I finished up this side of the porch with my favorite cement flower pot and a little plant I can never remember the name of. Is it Creeping Jenny or something like that? Anyone? Bueller?

Easy Spring Porch Decorations | laughingabi.com

The other side of the porch has to stay small and simple or people can’t get in the door. So I picked up a big hanging basket, cut off the hanger, and put it on a plant stand. Done.

Easy Spring Porch Decorations | laughingabi.com

And that’s it. No muss, no fuss. Just some bright, cheery color and a place to sit and have a drink. What else do you need for spring?

Easy Spring Porch Decorations | laughingabi.com

Easy Spring Porch Decorations | laughingabi.com

Just as a tease, here’s my next project in the front yard. Can’t wait until it stops raining so I can get started.

Easy Spring Porch Decorations | laughingabi.com

What are you getting ready for spring? Any pops of color or roadside redos?

12 Days of Easy Christmas Decorating: Christmas Porch Decorations

12 Days of Easy Christmas Decorating: Christmas Porch Decorations | laughingabi.com

Welcome to day four! Today we’re taking it outside and adding a little Christmas to the front porch. I scored this old sled at a thrift shop forever ago.

12 Days of Easy Christmas Decorating: Christmas Porch Decorations | laughingabi.com

I don’t know the story behind it but this stamp on the back lets me fantasize that wee children in Paris once used it to fly gleefully down a hillside.

12 Days of Easy Christmas Decorating: Christmas Porch Decorations | laughingabi.com

I used to just hang a swag of greenery on it and prop it on the porch. Then somebody gave me these.

12 Days of Easy Christmas Decorating: Christmas Porch Decorations | laughingabi.com

They were supposed to be for my daughters but I was afraid they would get blisters and be cold and possibly fall on the ice and get permanent brain damage. So for the sake of the children, I took them for my holiday decorations. Best mom ever.

I also changed them up a little to make them more festive. A $4 investment transformed them into this.

12 Days of Easy Christmas Decorating: Christmas Porch Decorations | laughingabi.com

To attach them to the sled I just tied the laces together and hung them over the middle bracket.

12 Days of Easy Christmas Decorating: Christmas Porch Decorations | laughingabi.com

Then I dug through the Christmas boxes and came up with this little wreath that used to hang over my shed door. Looks much better here and finishes off the whole thing.

12 Days of Easy Christmas Decorating: Christmas Porch Decorations | laughingabi.com

12 Days of Easy Christmas Decorating: Christmas Porch Decorations | laughingabi.com

12 Days of Easy Christmas Decorating: Christmas Porch Decorations | laughingabi.com

12 Days of Easy Christmas Decorating: Christmas Porch Decorations | laughingabi.com

12 Days of Easy Christmas Decorating: Christmas Porch Decorations | laughingabi.com

12 Days of Easy Christmas Decorating: Christmas Porch Decorations | laughingabi.com

PLAN B:
Can’t find a sled? Any tall skinny piece would work. Maybe an old, recycled shutter. Or you could buy a few cedar fence pickets (about $3 each), screw them together and hit them with a coat of paint.

PLAN C: 
No spare ice skates floating around your house? (Or maybe you actually let your kids use theirs.) Try using a pair of mittens from the thrift shop.

What do you use to decorate your front porch? Do you use the same thing every year or are you making something new this time?

This post is Day 4 in the series “12 Days of Easy Christmas Decorating”. Click these gallery pics to see all the projects in the series.

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Back Porch Season Finale: Ceiling and Floor Wrap-Up

I’m not gonna lie. I’m over this porch project.

I’m dance-a-little-jig-happy with how it’s turning out but my brain is ready to focus on something else for a while. Plus it’s getting cold here in Chicagoland. So this post is a wrap-up of the details we’ve been working on for the last couple weeks, and then we’re calling it quits on outdoor projects for the season. I like to think of it as the “Back Porch Season Finale”. Let’s start at the top and work our way down.

THE CEILING: The last time we chatted about the ceiling we had installed beadboard, painted, and covered our seams with trim. Now it was time to fill all bajillion nail holes and caulk all the seams. I circled the holes that needed to be filled in this small section so you could see what I’m talking about.

Back Porch Season Finale | laughingabi.com

After I filled them, using the same caulk we used on the walls, they looked like this. (I don’t know why I took a picture of just one hole. Sorry.)

Back Porch Season Finale | laughingabi.com

Next we had to caulk all the seams, meaning any place two pieces of wood fit together. This step isn’t absolutely necessary but it serves as a seal against the weather and it’s one of those details that really makes the job look professional. All the white lines in this pic are where I caulked but still needed to paint.

Back Porch Season Finale | laughingabi.com

This before and after photo shows what a big difference caulking can make. It creates such a clean, seamless look.

Back Porch Season Finale | laughingabi.com

Finally, it was time for the last coat of paint. This is where I started racing against Mother Nature. Since it needs to be at least 50 degrees to paint and our highs have been around 54, I had a very small window of time to work each day. But I got it done, tiny step by tiny step. Apparently I was so excited that I forgot to take any photos of the finished ceiling. I’ll try to post one later today for you.

THE FLOOR: I haven’t talked much about the floor because I haven’t done much to it – until now. My hope was to at least get a coat of primer on before it got too cold so the wood would be protected over the winter. First though I had to fill all the holes and seams. (Anyone else hear a broken record playing?) We used wood filler for this step instead of caulk because it had to be sanded smooth for painting. Surprisingly, this turned into a family project.

Back Porch Season Finale | laughingabi.com

It took several coats, 4-5 depending on the depth of the hole or seam, and so so so much sanding. This is the first coat.

Back Porch Season Finale | laughingabi.com

Here it is after all the patching is done and the entire floor had been smoothed down with a palm sander. (That was a loooong day.)

Back Porch Season Finale | laughingabi.com

And finally, primer!!!

Back Porch Season Finale | laughingabi.com

I thought I was done for the season but then the temperature shot up to the low 60s and I couldn’t resist the chance to put some paint on the floor. We chose this grey/blue/green for the base color and have plans to add a stencil down the road.

Back Porch Season Finale | laughingabi.com

Truth is, I’m worried about the paint holding up. We get a lot of snow and rain on that floor and because it’s a shady area it tends to stay there for a long time. Oh, and when it rained last week the floor was super-slippery. Has anyone else dealt with the slip problem on painted porches? I’ve seen non-skid paint but it seems like it would be impossible to clean.

So I guess you could say I’m skeptical about the painted porch floor. I know it needs a coat of poly for better protection but the cold weather here just wouldn’t allow it. Hopefully the paint will at least protect the wood until spring. I will let you know what it looks like next March – keep your fingers crossed for me.

The “finished” porch floor.

Back Porch Season Finale | laughingabi.com

An attempt to show you the floor and ceiling in one picture.

Back Porch Season Finale | laughingabi.com

So that’s the end of the porch project until the thaw. I’m thankful for the break and ready to turn my attention to some holiday ideas. Are you racing to finish up any outdoor jobs before it’s too cold? Have you started working on any indoor DIY or decorating plans?

Let the porch painting begin

Last time you visited my back porch I was scrubbing and scraping. It was absolutely dis. gust. ing, and I wanted more than anything for it to be DONE.

The good news is, I finished scrubbing and scraping the inside.

The bad news is, I still had to do the outside. And it was so much grosser. What’s that you said? Why yes, of course I’ll share some of the nastiness with you.

Let the porch painting begin | laughingabi.com

Let the porch painting begin | laughingabi.com

Enough already. Let’s put on some paint and start making things look better. First the inside.

The previous owners had unwisely decided to use drywall to finish this outdoor space. When we ripped it down we were left with this.

Let the porch painting begin | laughingabi.com

Rather than trying to cover it up, we decided to work with this “rustic” look. (By rustic I mean natural & simple, not country.) After all, this is a back porch, a place where we will spill many beers and track much mud. We had no intentions of trying to make it perfect — at least that’s what Josh kept telling me.

So we went straight to the paint, specifically Valspar Duramax Paint + Primer. This is how things were looking after the first coat. (The photo was taken along the opposite wall but it’s the same thing, different view. The other ones came out blurry.)

Let the porch painting begin | laughingabi.com

Definitely better but still a little too rustic for me. Enter the magical product called caulk. Have you ever used it? Do you know what an amazing thing it is? Basically, it fills in and seals all the little cracks and gaps. So what starts as two boards nailed together becomes a clean, seamless wall of beauty. (I may be overselling it a bit but I love this stuff.) There are a million different types and brands out there for every project you can imagine. Here’s what I used on the porch.

Let the porch painting begin | laughingabi.com

After I caulked all the lines I went back and hit it with a second coat of paint. VOILA! The perfect finish for a simple, natural, outdoor space.

Let the porch painting begin | laughingabi.com

The next challenge was the door frame under that newly finished wall. It looks pretty in the picture above this but here’s where we started.

Let the porch painting begin | laughingabi.com

Let the porch painting begin | laughingabi.com

Again, in their attempt to make this an indoor space, the previous owner had covered every rough or even slightly imperfect surface with this. (I found the leftover can in the basement.)

Let the porch painting begin | laughingabi.com

The problem came when I was scraping the paint. Chunks of this exterior spackle (the yellow parts in the photos) started flying through the air like shrapnel. But not all of it, just enough to leave huge uneven gaps and holes in the wall.

Since there is a difference between rustic and just plain ugly, we had to do something with this mess. Ironically enough, we decided to cover it.

Josh (formerly known as The Hubs) picked up some 5.25″ lattice from Home Depot then we simply trimmed it, painted it (front and back to maximize protection from the weather), and hung it around the door. After that I caulked the seams and painted it all again.

VOILA! A finished door appropriate for an outdoor space. (Spoiler: we had to do the same thing to the outside of the door. You’ll read about that next week.)

Let the porch painting begin | laughingabi.com

So all that was left for the interior was the overhead beams. They were by far the easiest thing we tackled in this whole project. I just scrubbed them down, scraped a bit of flaking paint, and covered them with two coats of white. Easy peasy. This is also a great “after” shot of the wall I showed you in the 4th photo.

Let the porch painting begin | laughingabi.com

I was planning to share the exterior today but it’s not done yet. Mother Nature didn’t seem to care about my DIY schedule over the weekend. Or else Josh ordered a day of rain so I would have to stay inside and do laundry for a change. Either way, I’m still working on it. Can’t wait to get it done so I can start on the floor. Not 100% sure what I’m doing yet but leaning toward this idea. Whatcha think?

Are you finishing up any outdoor projects? Or discovering any questionable decisions the previous owners of your home made? Sometimes you just have to shake your head, don’t you?

Installing Beadboard Ceiling On A Screened Porch

Waaaay back when, in this post, I hinted about a huge summer project we were working on. Little by little, we’ve been chipping away at it and I finally have something to share.

So, without further ado, I give you The Back Porch Beadboard Ceiling.

Installing beadboard ceiling on a screened porch | laughingabi.com

Installing beadboard ceiling on a screened porch | laughingabi.com

Before I talk nitty-gritty details I have to back up and tell you how we got to this point.

When we bought the house seven years ago we knew the porch roof, floor, and ceiling would have to be replaced. We planned to tackle it all right away but a million other projects took precedence (like ripping out and rebuilding the deck because a raccoon died under there).

Two years ago we finally tackled the roof. Last year we put in a new floor. And I’m soooo happy to announce that 2013 is The Year Of The Ceiling! (In case you’re wondering, I didn’t have this blog when we did the roof and floor. That’s why I didn’t share those projects.)

So what was wrong with the ceiling? Unfortunately, the previous owners used interior drywall when they built it. (Why, why, why people?!) We live in Chicagoland so you might imagine what it looked like after a couple of winters. Actually, you’ll have to imagine it because I didn’t take any pics. Sorry.

The first obvious step. DEMO! We ripped down all the drywall, pulled all the nails and screws, and cleaned up our giant mess. Which left us with this.

Installing beadboard ceiling on a screened porch | laughingabi.com

Step 2: Choose an outdoor-appropriate material to use. We chose beadboard because  — well, because that’s the only thing we could ever imagine on the ceiling of a screened porch.

It came in 4 x 8 foot panels which we primed and then cut to fit around the ceiling beams and new outlets The Hubs installed for me. (More on those later.)

Installing beadboard ceiling on a screened porch | laughingabi.com

Step 3: Wrangle those big beasts up onto the ceiling. This was a challenge because those panels are bleeping heavy and, as you can tell, the ceiling is vaulted. The top peak is approximately 13 feet high. After several tests of our marital strength we decided to phone a friend. A tall, strong friend. Here are him and The Hubs getting things started.

Installing beadboard ceiling on a screened porch | laughingabi.com

And here’s a couple shots of the panels going up. See where that electrical outlet is going to be?

Installing beadboard ceiling on a screened porch | laughingabi.com

Installing beadboard ceiling on a screened porch | laughingabi.com

Step 4: Paint! I love this phase because it finally feels like we’re getting somewhere and, in this case, because I can finally help again. We picked an exterior grey/beige because it’s the same color we used on the kids’ playground several years ago. We originally chose it because it matched the tree bark in the backyard and we thought it would help the playground blend into the surroundings. Here’s the color going up.

Installing beadboard ceiling on a screened porch | laughingabi.com

Here’s The Hubs laying down — a much-needed break.

Installing beadboard ceiling on a screened porch | laughingabi.com

Ta-Da!!! Painting done. (The hole in the middle is where the ceiling fan will go.)

Installing beadboard ceiling on a screened porch | laughingabi.com

Once everything was painted we were able to finish up the outlets. We put one next to each beam so we can string rope lights along the tops for some sweet night-time mood lighting. Can’t wait!

Installing beadboard ceiling on a screened porch | laughingabi.com

Step 5: Cover those ugly seams with some tidy trim. We just used inexpensive lattice board (the same material used to trim out our DIY window boxes), painted up to match the beadboard.

Installing beadboard ceiling on a screened porch | laughingabi.com

A close-up.

Installing beadboard ceiling on a screened porch | laughingabi.com

And a fuller view.

Installing beadboard ceiling on a screened porch | laughingabi.com

There were a few little places where the ceiling meets the house that we had to double up the trim to cover all the seams.

Installing beadboard ceiling on a screened porch | laughingabi.com

Of course we still have some things to finish, like this triangle, caulking all the edges, and painting the beams, but we can finally sing from the new rooftop, “THE CEILING IS UP!” Phew.

Installing beadboard ceiling on a screened porch | laughingabi.com

I didn’t include some details like our costs, or what kind of tools we used, etc. If you’re curious about that stuff I’ll be happy to share. Just let me know.

Oh, and if you’re curious about what’s next, it’s this — picking a finish for the new porch floor. Any ideas? Suggestions? Bueller?

Installing beadboard ceiling on a screened porch | laughingabi.com

Cheap spring porch makeover with a DIY painted rug

Spring has finally arrived in Chicagoland and since we have a huge project coming up this summer in the back yard my top priority for the front porch makeover was CHEAP CHEAP CHEAP!

Cheap spring porch with a DIY painted rug | laughingabi.com

Two things you should know before we go any further. One, this is what the porch looked like before I started.

Cheap spring porch with a DIY painted rug | laughingabi.com

Two, my house is very traditional on the outside – two story, box shaped, white with black shutters. It’s a pretty place but it doesn’t look much like the bizarro family living in it. So besides cheap, I wanted it to be more “us”. I wanted people to giggle a little when they stepped up to knock.

My first idea was to dig around the garage and see what I already had. I scored this chair, pillow, plant stand and concrete planter. I picked up a black plastic planter at Home Depot ($2.70) and filled it with a sweet potato vine ($3.60) and red petunia ($1.00). Total spent so far: $7.30 (The other petunia you see is included in the price. It was a three-pack I split up into different pots.)

Cheap spring porch with a DIY painted rug | laughingabi.com

Cheap spring porch with a DIY painted rug | laughingabi.com

Now for the other side of the porch. Things I already owned: a bright green planter, a fake stone with a Ralph Waldo Emerson quote on it, and some cobblestones from another project. What I bought: another petunia plant ($3.60) and a “Be Happy” flag ($13.00). Total spent so far: $23.90. 

Cheap spring porch with a DIY painted rug | laughingabi.com

Cheap spring porch with a DIY painted rug | laughingabi.com

STOP. I have to take a minute to tell you how much I love that little flag. Usually these things fall into the cheesy-fru-fru category for me but this one has bright, modern colors and a message that’s perfect for our front door. And what a happy coincidence that the green color on the letters matches the planter I already owned.

With all those pieces in place I went searching for an outdoor rug to tie it all together. Holy crap. Do you guys know how much those things cost? I had no idea. The cheapest one I could find was $60 and it was ugly. So I was scrounging around Menard’s and found this number for $10. Total spent so far: $33.90.

Cheap spring porch with a DIY painted rug | laughingabi.com

Cheap spring porch with a DIY painted rug | laughingabi.com

Not much to look at but I had an idea. (Insert The Hubs rubbing his temples and shaking his head.) I could just cut the cheapo rug down to size, pick up one of those sample size cans of paint for $3, and paint my own design. Easy squeezy.

Confession time. This idea was an epic fail. Actually, I love the way it looks but the budget was a hot mess. The problem is the rug soaked up soooo much paint. Here’s how far the little $3 can of paint got me.

Cheap spring porch with a DIY painted rug | laughingabi.com

I couldn’t even get all the way around the rug. So I went back and bought a quart of paint for $16.65. It was still cheaper than the $60 option. Right? Total spent so far: $50.55.

Here’s how far that quart of paint got me.

Cheap spring porch with a DIY painted rug | laughingabi.com

One. Stripe. Left. I’m not gonna lie. I said some very inappropriate words at this point. Really, really bad ones. Then I went and bought another quart of paint. ($16.65) Total spent so far: $67.20.

And finally . . .

Cheap spring porch with a DIY painted rug | laughingabi.com

Cheap spring porch with a DIY painted rug | laughingabi.com

And a night shot, just for fun.

Cheap spring porch with a DIY painted rug | laughingabi.com

Some notes in case you want to give this a try.
1.If you’re working with a porous fabric like I was, buy more paint than you think you will need. I could have saved some money by buying a gallon of paint in the beginning but who knew 11 little stripes would take over a quart of paint?
2. Use green Frog Tape to tape off your design. It really does do a better job of sealing the edges and keeping the paint from seeping underneath.
3. Make sure you rub the edges of your tape down before you start painting.
4. PUT NEWSPAPER UNDER YOUR RUG FIRST. My paint bled through to the porch.

So altogether I spent just over $67. Not bad for a 3.5′ x 9′ porch but still $30 more than I planned to spend. Sigh. The good news is, I love the way it turned out. It is happy and fun and colorful and modern. It is not traditional or stuffy or fru-fru or boring. Mission accomplished.

This post is part of the Spring Pinterest Challenge going on over at Young House Love. Make sure you click over and see the amazing projects being linked up. Here are some of the pins that inspired me.

tatertots and jello cottage porch

What spring projects are you working on? Any that turned out different than you planned? Are you still happy with the results? Did you overspend?