Fence Staining!

If you’ve gone through a major renovation project and you live in a place with seasons, you might know what this time of year feels like. There was a time in my life when fall was my favorite season, but now it’s all stress and craziness and just trying to get everything OK for the impending winter. It’s not like everything comes to a screeching halt in these upcoming cold months, but cold and snow are definitely added challenges that don’t make anything any easier. Multiply that by three houses (yes, Bluestone and Olivebridge Cottages are still in the works…exciting updates to share on both fronts, FINALLY!) and you’ve got yourself one crazy, nervous little blogger person who is me. Hey, October? YOU WERE BANANAS. Hey, November? You don’t seem much different. Just darker.

garage1

That’s not really the point of this post, though. The point of this post is my fence. Remember my fence? To review, I used to have a really awful chainlink fence until the nice professional installers from Lowe’s came to replace it with a nice simple wood dog-ear style privacy fence that I love. It was maybe the single biggest quick improvement this house has seen to its exterior bits under my care. Now my backyard is pleasantly private and my house almost looks fancy from the street, which is unusual and thrilling after living with chain-link surrounding my property for 2+ years.

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Last year, I built a short (in comparison—it’s still 30-ish feet long) section of fencing to demarcate the front yard from the back, and I stained it with an opaque black stain. Black might seem like a weird, goth-y, ominous, bold, scary, whatever kind of a choice, but I think in this context it works. Greenery, which I keep adding more and more of, looks great against the backdrop of the black fence, and I think the color helps offset the white house by allowing everything else to recede. It was one of those things that I figured I’d try out—worse case scenario, I could spend a day painting over it with a different color, but I ended up feeling glad I trusted my instincts because I really love it. No regrets!

handpainting

After living with my black fence for a while and really liking it, I committed to doing the rest of the fence to match. I may have underestimated how arduous of a process that would be. Staining both sides of 200 linear feet of fencing (2,400 square feet, with nooks and crannies all the way) is a big job, just in case that wasn’t impeccably obvious to everybody except me.

I started the staining process by working between a roller and a 3″ angle brush. It was taking a long time. One side of each panel took maybe half an hour (more?) and I quickly started to feel like this was a really bad plan that I wish I hadn’t signed up for.

edwinspraying

Then Edwin got home, saw me working, and immediately offered the use of his paint sprayer. A paint sprayer! What a guy. So he retrieved it from his basement and brought it over with a slice of watermelon for each of us and taught me how to use this magic futuristic device.

I’ve always written off paint sprayers as being more trouble than they’re worth and a big waste of paint (or stain, as the case may be), but YOU GUYS. It was so amazing. I don’t feel like I can really justify buying one for myself (this is the kind of tool you really don’t want to skimp on, and I guess the good ones are several hundred bucks), but if I ever have a really huge project where it’d come in handy and save me lots of time and money, I’d budget for it for sure.

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Holy cow, this poor backyard. I promise I’ve really cleaned it up since this picture was taken. Mostly.

The trick with the sprayer, by the way, is very short, consistent strokes that sort of “feather” in and out at the ends. It’s harder than it looks or sounds and definitely takes a little practice to get into the groove of it, so I’m glad I got to get my sea legs on the fence with a product that’s really forgiving—if I sprayed it on too thick in sections, it was easy to just back-brush the excess and move on, and you can’t tell once it’s all dry. Since the wood is so rough, there wasn’t really any need to back-brush to avoid that sprayed-on finish that can look bad on the siding of a house, for instance.

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ALSO! Sprayers are, well, sprayers, so you have to be very cautious of what’s around you when you’re using them! Professional painters actually need additional insurance to use sprayers because of the risk of overspray messing up someone’s car or house or whatever. One area of my fence is very close to the neighbor’s house so I switched to hand-brushing for those sections, but masking off her house with plastic would have also worked.

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Anyway! Even with the sprayer, staining the whole thing took several days of 3-4 hour sessions, but I got it done! You can kind of see some lighter spots in this picture so after I was done I just went around and did touch-ups where necessary, and that was pretty much it!

cabotstain

Let’s talk for a minute about this stain? I used about 15 gallons of stain for this project, but the friendly folks at Cabot decided to help a brother out and send me 8 cans on them! So nice. I love this Solid Color Acrylic Siding Stain—it’s such good stuff. This is the same product I used on the other section of fencing last year, which still looks basically like the day it was done. Unlike any stain that I’m used to using, it has about the same consistency as a normal can of paint and the application is the same (you don’t need to wipe off excess or anything, like when you stain a piece of furniture), but it seems to really soak into the wood more than paint would and provides a really nice, totally opaque and totally matte finish. Because it’s water-based, clean-up is just like a normal latex paint and it cooperated beautifully with the sprayer! I think opaque stain is such a great alternative to paint especially when you’re dealing with pressure-treated lumber, which is typically supposed to dry out for several months before being treated especially with normal paint. Even after letting PT lumber dry out for longer than the recommended period, I’ve had a couple experiences now with regular (but high quality) exterior paint flaking and peeling after only a few months, but never with this stuff.

By the way, you also don’t need to prime—in fact, it’s probably better if you don’t. This goes right on the wood. According to the folks at Cabot, it can also be used to cover previously painted or stained surfaces too, which is pretty cool. I’ve only ever used it on fencing, but I also wonder if I should be using it on the clapboard on my house, except in white. Since it still allows the wood to breathe, it seems like it would last much longer than paint without peeling? Hmmmmmm. It might be worth buying a gallon just to see how it looks…

The coverage is also really amazing—I was concerned before starting that I’d need at least two coats but it just took one (!) to achieve the deep, even finish I wanted. YAY!

Cabot products used to be sort of tricky to find, but they recently started selling them at Ace Hardware locations nationwide which is great. Cabot for everyone!

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This picture was taken while the stain was still drying (which is fast—totally dry in about 30-45 minutes) but check it out! I really didn’t mind the way that the wood fence looked with the black garage, but knowing how it would weather makes me glad I pulled the trigger on treating it this way.

postcaps

The final piece was staining all the little post caps! These are just these simple wood post caps from Lowe’s that I think REALLY finish off a fence. I think functionally they’re supposed to extend the life of the posts by creating a peaked surface on top for rain and snow to run off of (much like the roof on a house), but aesthetically they also just make the fence look fancier and more finished.

I used the sprayer to get a good coat on the tops of each cap, but ended up staining each one with a brush so I could get into all the nooks and bottom edges and all that.

liquidnails

Post caps have a little adhesive strip inside of them to hold them securely to the posts, but they don’t seem particularly strong so I added some construction adhesive (liquid nails) to them before putting them in place. I placed all of them pretty quickly and then went back around and hammered them down with a rubber mallet to get them level and really set on the posts.

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So! Here we were back when I bought the house…

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And today! There’s still some serious landscaping that needs to happen even here, but I’m really happy overall with this as a foundation to work off of.

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Those garage windows look a little funny because they’re sort of blown out in the photo, but there’s actually a cute ticking stripe fabric on the inside of the windows. I’ve been so busy and just wanted to get SOMETHING up so I rummaged through my extra fabric bin and pulled out this window shade I bought a while ago for a couple bucks (just for the fabric) and it was enough to cover all four windows. It’s just stapled to the door on the inside…it’s like the OPPOSITE of fancy but it looks nice from the outside and more importantly doesn’t expose folks on the sidewalk to the jumbled mess on the inside of the garage…

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Also, I wired some lights on the garage! I like them! I don’t love them, but I like them! I ended up ordering the Harbor Sconce from Restoration Hardware during a sale. This is the large size in “weathered zinc”—the finish is kind of super lame and faux-looking in person, but the shape is cute and they look fine and sometimes fine is…fine. The bulbs are LED faux-edison bulbs which I LOVE because they are so super hokey but they really look good at night and the light is so warm and glow-y. The lights are on a timer switch (found at Home Depot) so they come on and off more or less with sunset and sunrise. Boom!

I know people have problems with exterior lights at night from a light pollution and environmental standpoint, but these have been met with GREAT enthusiasm from the neighbors. This is still an urban area, and this is a small under-lit cross-street—beyond just looking cute, a reasonable amount of light at night actually improves public safety, so I’m glad to have done this.

house-now

So here was the house about a year and a half ago, all chain-linked and mudroom-ed and white garage-d.

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And today! I feel like the absence of the lush summer foliage isn’t making this comparison as dramatic as I want it to be, but whatever. You get the idea! This side of the house has a MAJOR makeover ahead of it, but it’s come a long way! And I really do feel like the black fence and garage go a long way toward sort of visually isolating the house and letting that be the focal point, which is kinda the goal.

In case you’re thinking this, I’m thinking it too: the contrast is TOO stark. It’s this big wash of white, and then this big wash of black, and that is not the intent nor do I think it looks particularly good as it stands. There are two major things that I totally believe will fix this:

  1. The fence and garage need to be softened. Everyone will tell me I’m an idiot, but fuck it: I’m going to let some english ivy do its climb-y thing on that sidewalk-facing side of the fence. I know it’ll spread. I know it’ll be hard or impossible to get rid of. I know it’s bad for the wood on the fence. I want it anyway. I’ll guard it from the house with my life, but the fence needs something to naturalize it into the landscape and I think it also needs that shot of traditionalism that ivy would offer. It would also be nice all winter, and…well, that’s that.
  2. The house needs more black accents! The house itself will stay white, but it’s very traditional for Greek Revival houses to have black (or dark green) windows, shutters, and doors. My window sashes are already black (whatever previous owner did that, thanks a bunch!), but the storm windows are yucky 70s aluminum and the shutters are longggg gone. Spray-painting the frames of the storms will make a bigger difference than you’d think, and I’m determined to get shutters back on this baby! Doing shutters “right” is one expensive endeavor—let me tell you—but of course I want them to all be sized correctly, with period-appropriate hardware and the correct style and all that. Bad shutters are a big pet peeve of mine so it might be a while until I can splurge on that exciting improvement, but let’s all just keep it in the back of our brains, cool?

 This post is in collaboration with Cabot! Cabot generously provided a portion of the products used here but all opinions and stuff are my own, like I do.


128 Comments

  1. It looks so good!!!

  2. Hi Daniel…okay I’m just going to say it..I’m not loving all the black..I do love the fence black…will look so good eventually when you have a proper backyard and the fence has plants around it for the contrast…but there is something that bothers me about the garage…not sure if it’s the matte black or what…but it just seems kinda dead ….sorry….maybe if the garage door was a different (not crazy obvi) colour and the trim around the round window to match…
    not sure…but it needs something
    I do like your ivy idea…damn the haters…love ivy…

    you are a inspiration kiddo.

    • That’s ok! Personally I feel like the answer is plants…I planted a couple boxwoods on either side of the door but I think maybe some ceramic planters or something with more height and a little color might be better. I don’t know, though—I think what you don’t like about the garage is what I DO like about it, ha! The garage is pretty worse for wear and not especially nice…I feel like something like painting the door would just highlight that as a feature, and I definitely don’t want to highlight that basic 70s garage door, ya know? I’m fine with just letting it disappear to be a flat backdrop for greenery and stuff. :)

      • haha…don’t forget about hanging ferns too…they get really big…last well into november if the weather stays nice and they add a punch of green to anything….
        I do love the striped window coverings though…exactly what I would have done..staple guns at the ready!

      • Hmmm I was thinking what Debbie said but I see your point. What about doing a milder contrast. Like doing the window trim and garage door cross thingies (a technical term :). In a milder contrast like a shiny black, or a darker black or a grey. Just enough to break it up a little but not so stark as a black and white (which I thought would be a cute reversal of the house scheme

  3. In that last picture I barely saw the fence. It is like magic – that black paint does make it disappear. Great work! I’m curious if you painted the other side of the fence where you share a lot line? If not, did black bleed through a bit to the other side?

    • I painted every side except past the gate in the neighbor’s backyard (the little white house near my garage). She actually wanted me to paint it up until the gate, which is toward the back of her house, so when you look at it from any angle on the street it looks like the whole thing is painted…if that makes any sense?

      The only place I really had to be careful about bleeding is the top plane of the pickets, since it’s hard to get any excess to fall only toward the side you want to paint. Careful brushwork and a steady hand!

  4. ,Hanukkah wish lists due by Thanksgiving. Spray painter? I’d need details.

  5. Man your backyard looks huge in these photos. I’m jealous. It’s a great blank slate right now, it’ll be exciting to see how it turns out. Also, agree that shutters would be an awesome addition. Maybe you can add them in phases starting with the windows on the front of the house?

    • It’s big!! I’m on a really large lot for Kingston, which is great but kind of intimidating! And a lot of work. And money, as it turns out. Ha!

      The shutter thing is so tough…the LEAST expensive quote I’ve gotten came in at about $700 per window, excluding the cost of hardware or paint! So it’d be a huge investment…and I can’t rationally put it before a bathroom or getting the floors refinished or all the other MANY MANY things. I’m sure you get it! Salvage is of course an option, but it just seems like the chances of finding what I need, at the right sizes, matching, AND in salvageable condition are basically zip. DIY could also even be an option down the line if I work really hard on developing my woodworking skills. But yes, if/when I can throw some money at it, that’s probably going to be exactly my strategy…one wall at a time! In the meantime, I really do think painting out the storm windows will make a HUGE difference, even though it doesn’t seem like it would. I think it’ll just give the windows some weight and make them appear bigger than the do now.

      • Yeah $700/window is pretty spendy. Prioritizing a functional bathroom over aesthetic exterior improvements is probably a solid plan. But in any case I’m glad you’re holding out to do the shutters right — little decorative shutters that aren’t even wide enough to cover the window when closed (not that they’re even capable of closing since they usually aren’t mounted on hinges) always look really off to me, especially on an older house.

      • I’m a jerk, but I DESPISE what this country has done to shutters! My understanding is that postwar housing turned shutters into a purely aesthetic decorative element, and as a result totally incorrect installations became the predominant standard. A lot of people actually PREFER the look of too-slim shutters mounted directly onto the siding on either side of the window frame because that’s what they’re used to seeing. On a newer house, sure, whatever, but on an old house that had shutters originally? It looks so flat and dimensionless and wrong. I’d so much rather see no shutters than bad shutters! So it may take me a decade, but when I do it I’m determined to do it right!

      • I agree that painting the storms black will go a long way. I also have the aluminum storms and they make my house look shabby and soul-less. I want to replace the storms with wood frames with swap-able storm/screens since all of my windows are in-swing casements (and all of my storms are designed for single hung). I saw how great Anna’s windows looked after she spray painted her d16 storms and have thought about doing it myself. But then I think I’ll magically find someone affordable to make my custom storm windows (I’m also planning to replace them one side of the house at a time to keep the costs down.)

      • I’ve never been to the US, so I don’t really know about the whole shutter thing there, but the ones I know (in Germany/France) are just folded up, so they still cover the whole window without getting in the way of each other or covering up the whole outside wall, which would probably look stupid, especially when windows are closer together.
        There is really no point to my comment other than that I am shocked there are people out there who put decorative shutters on houses, I always figured you could still (theoretically) use them…

  6. Genius idea to use a paint sprayer! I do like the black on the fence and the idea of it being a backdrop for greenery. Especially if you do get some vines to start growing on top of it. The stained wood looks almost like black velvet.

  7. Yay! Huge thumbs up! I think everything looks wonderful! And those light! Beautiful. I love the soft glow some LEDs can put off, the tech is improving all the time. I’m a fan of the ivy as well, just beware that it can get too monstrous. I’m excited for shutters! The contrast will be wonderful, you’re right that it will balance the fence and it has the added bonus of really making other architectural features pop.

    Up above someone mentioned the garage looking dead. I agree and disagree. I think it’s more to do with the contrast of the white paint with a dark interior showing through the windows before the black was applied. The depth gave a soul of the structure in a way… Like a single eye looking out. Now the paint appears darker than the interior light shining out, so it’s very flat. It’s probably just this picture. If not it could be remedied cheaply and quickly with a window cling. The rice paper style would look nice, or a stained glass/colored look might be nice. For some reason I see a teal tinged stained window, but the color is a little modern.

    Overall everything is looking fantastic. Spring gardening is going to be a real joy for you now that the fence is complete. BTW your mom is super cool.

  8. If you are committed to an ivy think about using BOSTON Ivy vs English Ivy ….

    • I like Boston ivy too, but I think (I could be wrong…gotta confirm with a friend who has both) English ivy stays green through winter here whereas Boston turns a gorgeous red in fall but then loses all the leaves until spring. I’d love to have something evergreen!

      (also, this is totally irrational, but makes sense to me…people don’t seem to recognize Boston ivy as readily as english ivy, and fear it’s something poisonous. I don’t want people to be afraid to walk by my house because they think I have a crazy poison oak problem!)

      • Daniel, love the direction you’re going with everything. Hope you’ll stay the course and ignore the naysayers.

        Because you have so much influence (yes, you do!), I’d love to see you look into planting mainly native species. We short-term-thinking humans have decimated so much natural habitat for bugs, birds and beasts and many people don’t realize that collectively we could reverse this by paying attention to what we plant in suburban gardens. It will add up to a big difference. No to big box plants with built-in pesticides and grown in alien zones. These plants don’t work as nourishment for any of our native species. Plus native plants grow faster, are hardier and require less (often no) maintenance, because they are in the place where they belong!

    • I was going to suggest Virginia Creeper, but it’s deciduous too. I don’t have any experience with it, but there’s a clematis variety that’s evergreen. A quick google tells me that it’s hardy up to zone 6, and you’re only just barely into zone 5, and since that’s a southern exposure on a black (ie. heat gaining) surface it might be possible.

      And not that you asked for my opinion, but except for authentic, actual working ones on historic colonials, I can’t stand shutters, but that’s probably because they are almost NEVER sized/proportioned/mounted correctly.

      • I mostly agree! Sometimes the hardware wears out and I see people keep the shutters but affix them to the house—so they don’t function, but they are sized correctly and approximate the original look…and I guess that’s the next best thing, but yeah…anything other than authentic/functioning or that, I’d rather not see them at all. Trust me, I’ll do it right. :)

      • I’m another vote for clematis. Its is the BOMB FYI, as are morning glories! I had clematis overwinter in NYC containers for years, and the morning glory re-seeds. They lose foliage in the winter but they grow a lot faster than ivy and they have a long flowering season. I had a south wall where I did Ivy, Clematis and glories and the ivy was too thirsty and slow growing. The other two lasted and survived my neglectful ways.

    • If you are looking for a non invasive evergreen, maybe look at native honeysuckles. They are not considered to be invasive. Trumpet Honeysuckle) is native to the Eastern United States. It is an evergreen twining climber whose flowers are hummingbird and butterfly magnets. Recommended for zones 4 to 9.

      • Just remember, English ivy smells horrible when you break its leaves or stems. It’s really a dreadful plant. What about a row of cypress next to the garage, which would peek over the fence, if you want evergreen?

      • This is about two weeks old, but I’ve got to chime in on honeysuckles: I’m in Saskatoon SK (and you’ve lived in Regina, Daniel, so you know what the climate is like) and I have a massive honey suckle on my back fence that has survived our -40 winters, no problem. So I suspect that a hardy one would flourish in NY State.

    • I love the look of vines. Boston ivy is more typical on structures because the suckers don’t damage them like English Ivy does. English ivy actually has roots that dig into the surface. Sounds like a technicality, I know.

      True, the Boston version isn’t evergreen, but maybe take a second look at it? Here’s a link to a gardening blog by Deborah Silver — she recently did a post on Boston ivy. Pics of fall color included.

      http://www.deborahsilver.com/blog/the-boston-ivy-2015/

      If you do go with the English ivy, plan to prune it frequently. Even then it still may spread to the neighbors’ yards via seed.

  9. Ok worse thing about English ivy is that is creates a rat highway. I am all for climbing vines though. Maybe another type? Weve got morning glory and some kind of native clematis, but then we don’t have snow to knock it back.
    Fence looks fantastic!

  10. Pretty sure you are the one who made black popular. I have black doors in my house now and convinced a friend to do it as well… it’s so classic but modern too?? Anyway, I know you don’t need anything else to paint, but in St. Louis we have a thing where we paint fire hydrants to match the neighborhood… so here’s a link to the Fox Park neighborhood hydrants. It made me think that you might have a cute idea to paint your hydrant to go along with your neighborhood theme (if there is one?)… https://www.flickr.com/photos/87681658@N04/11804082063

    • Aww, that’s cute! I’m going to go ahead and guess it’s wildly illegal here, but I guess I’ve never thought about it!

      I’ll take it, but I DEFINITELY didn’t invent black, haha! I feel like maybe I brought some attention to the idea of painting doors black in bloggy world, but I originally did it because I kept seeing it mostly on TV and in movies (I distinctly remember noticing black doors in Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Liz Lemon’s apartment door in 30 Rock) and loved how it looked! But I’m happy to spread the word—definitely seen a lot of black doors on the internet since I painted those doors in my apartment way back when, and I agree! Equal parts classic and modern! :)

    • And I just painted my 50s Northern Californian ranch house door, yes, black! Even gave you part credit for the inspiration, because Janet of The Gardener’s Cottage and Amy Beth Cup Dragoo did some black painting lately too:).

  11. Congrats on finishing the fence!

    Re: too-much-black, what about painting the garage door hunter green? Like you said, it’s a period-appropriate accent, and it’ll match the ivy when it grows in. I also think the fabric in the windows helps a lot – it looks awesome!

    Also re: wrought iron, because I saw some that looked like your original recently – what about finding a place that already has it and offering to replace it for them with something on the market in exchange for getting theirs, and not having to custom order it? Lots of rowhouses in DC area have short bits that look a lot like yours – and anything that old has probably seen better days, so the owners might be on board. Anyway, random thought.

    • I don’t know, I’m sticking to my guns that I’m totally OK with the garage looking pretty flat! If it were a nicer carriage house kind of deal I’d feel differently, but it’s basically a shed with one cute window and a 70s garage door…not a lot I’m too interested in making a feature out of. I think once more things come together it’ll really work! It’s just not there yet. :)

      There are a couple places in town with the same (or very similar) fencing, but it’s not common—I’m guessing a lot of what was here has been scrapped over the years. As much as I’d love to get more, I think I’d feel iffy about taking it from another property just to use on my own…they should hold onto it, even if they don’t know they should! But certainly if I ever see someone ripping it out…:)

      • I LOVE the flat black. There are some flat black houses in SF and they make me swoon.

  12. It’s looking great, Daniel! And I have no trouble at all visualizing how plants will soften the fence. It’ll make a fabulous backdrop for landscaping. English ivy is boo hiss evil, but I can see why it appeals to you. But what about something like honeysuckle for other areas of the fence where there’s more room? More food for the pollinators, etc. And there are lots of fast growing annual vines like morning glory or hyacinth bean vine that you can use for a season or so until you have your permanent plants in. No help for winter interest there, but at least you wouldn’t have to deal with trying to eradicate something invasive.

    Anyway, love all the improvements.

    • Oooh, thanks Lori! I saw hyacinth bean vine at Smith-Gilbert Gardens a few weeks ago and was wondering what it was. It’s beautiful.
      Honeysuckle, on the other hand, is invasive. I’d stay away from that and wisteria, despite the fact that I love them, just as much as I’d stay away from ivy, which I hate.
      Everygreen clematis seems like a good idea. Tangerine beauty crossvine and five lead akebia also seem like good evergreen options.

      • Actually, I should have specified native honeysuckle! Native honeysuckles are fine. But most people are familiar with the super-evil invasive Japanese honeysuckle (among others– here’s a good list for NY: http://www.nyis.info/index.php?action=invasive_detail&id=44), which are also the most fragrant kinds. But yeah, honeysuckles are good….if you do your research and get the right variety!

        And hyacinth bean vine is sooo easy to grow, and it grows fast. You should definitely give it a try! I love the purple seed pods, too.

  13. “pulled the trigger on treating it this way.” – I see what you did there :-)

    Also – Daniel’s mom – you are THE BEST! Do you think Daniel can take a few minutes between now and Thanksgiving to identify the specifics of which sprayer might work best for his future projects?!?!? Hope so!!
    LOL – LUV the mom-son dynamic in these comments

    • Ha! I didn’t see what I did there! You’re hired!

      My mom is so funny! My whole family has taken to buying me tools at holiday/birthday time and it’s so nice!! Paint sprayer is pretty low on the wishlist, but I wouldn’t turn down a routing table with a set of bits for beading… :)

  14. Looking good!
    Maybe you need to introduce a grey into the mix and repaint the garage?
    You could pull that grey into the house – shutters could be grey while doors and frames could be black.
    Ivy will be great but you might need a bit more than just that to break things up.
    Amazing progress regardless!

    • Thanks, Krista! Repainting the garage is of course always an option, but right now I’m going with it! I’m really thinking the ivy just for an area, definitely with other stuff! There are some really beautiful varieties of climbing roses I’m interested in giving a shot…idk, we’ll all find out together! That’s part of the fun! :)

  15. Yes, black shutters are the obvious, easy answer and would look awesome. Can’t wait to eventually see that come together.

    Is there something against Virginia creeper (as opposed to English ivy)? I confess, I’m not in the know of how invasive it is, but I do know it turns a really pretty color in the fall. Or is it just a preference thing? Curious, is all.

    • Yeah, more of a preference thing…not sure why but Virginia Creeper always looks weedy to me (although in the right application you’re ABSOLUTELY right—it can be very beautiful) and I know people regularly mistake it for poison ivy, so I want to stick with something that’s easily identifiable and not scary. :)

      (it’s VERY invasive—the neighbor has it growing in her yard so I fully expect it to climb over that side of the fence in time…which I’m OK with, but it’s going to take some diligent watching to keep it under control.)

    • I’m putting in another endorsement for Creeper. It grows super fast but doesn’t destroy stuff like ivy can. It’s also really easy to cut back if you find it’s growing where you don’t want it.

      I might just be mean but I also think that having a plant that can be confused with Poison Ivy on your property might not be a bad thing for home security :)

      I also want to give a big thumbs-up on the black fence and garage. LOVE!

      • If I recall correctly, the leaves are also big—which would cover quite a bit of area if you’re in a hurry to soften something. Mostly what I remember about them is the gorgeous red-orange color in the fall.

  16. Re buying a sprayer. I don’t know if your part of the country has them, but out here in Southern California we are blessed with a ton of equipment rental places with super reasonable prices. Some things it makes sense to buy, and you might actually be able to justify it by amortizing it across all your projects. And you might have plenty of storage space. Me not so much, so $70 a day for a rental is a better deal for me.

    The fence looks awesome.

    • We have a couple of tool rental places! I’m not sure they rent sprayers (they probably do) but it’s certainly an option…ya know, if Edwin ever moves or stops sharing. :)

      • That Edwin! He always seems to come to the rescue just when you need him, maybe he’s your guardian DIY angel.

  17. Rather than ivy why not plant both silver lace vine and sweet autumn clematis? (Silver lace vine is an invasive, but is easily controlled in upstate NY). They are both rampant, and the cream-white would soften the house nicely. Both are in stock and half price at Schoharie Nursery in Schoharie, NY. by the way.

  18. My husband spray-stains our old house white every 10 years or so, very successfully. It never peels, only fades eventually.

    • Wow! Good to know!

    • And according to Benjamin Moore, solid stain can be used over previously painted surfaces! I’m thinking I might prefer this option after I spend 100 years scraping the horribly peeling trim and soffits.

      • Cabot says the same thing about this product, too! Never tried it personally but the adhesion is…intense…so I have no doubt it would be fine!

  19. Shout out for the ticking stripe window shades!

    I really like the black and agree that landscaping will be wonderful and tie it all in. I think some forms of jasmine are wonderful “creepers” and make for magical scents on a summer evening. But not exactly friendly for your climate zone – perhaps for your first West Coast project?!

    Curious to know (and you may have answered in an old post) if you use the garage as a garage or are there plans to make it a studio/workspace/guest space?

    • Thank you!

      I have NEVER PARKED A CAR IN THE GARAGE. Ha! It basically became a glorified dump as soon as we bought the house because we were tearing out so much shit and I didn’t know how to deal with it…so in the garage it went! I’ve done a lot of work on it this summer to turn it into more of a workshop and better storage space. I’ll do a post about it soon! I just have to clean it up enough to take pictures of, but I’m glad it’s finally getting a lot of use!

  20. Love the fence. I’ve been thinking about contrast on your exterior. With white, you can always view shadow lines and pick out other things with color–like shutters or the window frames. With black, though, there are zero shadow lines and very little contrast. As nice as your garage is, there is zero contrast and I really view that as an issue. Even a less black black would create the contrast and shadow lines that come automatically with white.

    Ivy on wood? Surely you jest. English ivy when I bought my current house had broken through the wooden frame on 3 of the basement windows and was growing INSIDE the basement. I repaired the windows and tried to stay up with the ivy and during the growing season it was a twice weekly feat. I don’t recommend that to anyone….I dug it all up. I had Boston ivy on the brick garage and it had separated gone between the roof and the brick. I had to hand-scrape the “clingers” from the ivy off the brick. Again, I would emphatically not recommend. There’s a lot more interesting things to do in the world than hand trimming ivy all through the growing season. Sorry, pet peeve since I’ve had to eradicate both on my city property here in St. Louis.

    Are you open to creating some shadow lines on your garage with slightly contrasting paint? Then during the growing season, use great annual vines (morning glory, cardinal, hyacinth bean) to “pop” the black fence on the street side. A tree in your back yard that would overhang the fence would also help. After all, winter is winter and no need to destroy your fence and garage with invasive plants just to maybe create a better street scape–most people will be scurrying to warmth and won’t be paying attention to it anyway.

    I do like black on the exterior and I am painting a garage door and a back door black due to your inspiration.

    • I think your issue with the garage probably has more to do with the photos than how it looks in real life—this “black” is really an off-black called Onyx…it looks black but next to an off-the-shelf BLACK it definitely isn’t. It really does have nice dimension as the sun hits it from different angles. I totally know what you’re talking about but I think maybe it’s just not translating well to photos. I’ll keep trying…this won’t be the last time you see it. :)

      I wouldn’t want the ivy climbing all over the garage or the house for exactly the reasons you’re listing, but I still like it for the fence! The fence is pressure-treated lumber and while the ivy certainly wouldn’t be good for it, I think it’d be fine. I know eradicating it is a total pain in the butt but it is doable…I can always switch gears if it’s not working out!

  21. I’m loving the black and can’t wait to see future black accents on your home! Thanks for the update & the inspiration. We close on our new “old” home next week and one of my first projects will be to paint the front door & interior doors black!

  22. Hi Daniel. First time commenter- long time fan. Re: silver lace vine or sweet autumn clematis both are invasive in Orange County ,NY while the clematis offers some late season interest, it begins to look raggedy once we have a couple of frosty nights. Good luck you’re doing great!

  23. Daniel- really I would think twice about the ivy idea- it will inevitably become a RAT CONDO. I totally get your goal of softening the fence line and adding some color but I know from experience it’s best to choose something else. Unless your two dogs are excellent ratters and outside alot, plant something else, with foliage that is not so dense or so climbable.

    Best, Karin

    • I never thought about rats! Hmmm. Hmmmmmmmmm. :/

      • Second the comment about rats & ivy. Once you get rats on your property, they are hard to get off, especially with ivy all over the place – speaking from 1st hand experience :-(

  24. Since my house was converted to a duplex long ago, we have an unpainted/unstained pressure treated wood staircase and landing that runs from the back door of the second story. (Similar to what you used to have.) It was installed back in 2011 before we bought the house, but the wood on the treads and risers has cupped badly since then, and a lot of the detail work just looks sloppy. With other repairs, I just don’t have the money to put into replacing it. But I love the look of the black stain you used. I feel like it would class the stairway up and hide some of those imperfections. Do you think it’s worth it as a quick fix, or should I replace those treads first?

    • Hmmm…do you use it a lot? Do you feel like the condition of the treads and risers is a safety problem? If not, I say go for it! This kind of stain is like $40/gallon and you could probably do the whole thing with one gallon…the coverage is great and you’d probably only need one coat. You can also tint the stain to whatever color you want! I just like black. :)

      • We live on the second story, so we use it pretty much all the time. The dog runs up and down whenever she goes out, and of course, we use it whenever we need to throw out the garbage or get to the garage. No one else really uses it, and we’re so familiar with it that we’ve learned to navigate around the one wobbly step. So if it’s a $40 fix, that’s awesome. We will replace the cupped boards eventually, and we’ll just stain those boards then. :)

  25. Re: all the black – I completely agree that your aesthetic is going to look amazing once everything is softened by more plant life. You’ll need something smaller for in between the sidewalk and fence, but a hollywood juniper or two might be a good option for inside the fence – I’m usually not a juniper fan, but I do like that particular variety. Its tall, twisty shape adds such visual interest and it provides great evergreen color. Plus, it’s relatively cheap and fast-growing.

    • I’m with you on the juniper.

    • Good idea! I’d kind of forgotten that that was my plan a longggg time ago—to plant a row of evergreens in that space inside the fence, which would also be a nice privacy screen as they mature. Maybe that is the best answer, with something more “polite” growing outside the fence (there’s about 20″ of space between fence and sidewalk, so still room to get something going…). Thank you!

  26. Joining the “English ivy, nooooo!” chorus. I’ve waged battle against it everywhere I’ve lived: Midwest, mid-Atlantic, New England, Pacific Northwest. In current house, after a year, we’re still scraping ivy off a fire wall along the deck and removing the last bits (we hope) from inside the garage, where they invaded between roof and wall. Easy and pretty, yes; madly invasive and destructive, also yes. With everything on your to-do list, adding ivy-control vigilance, even on a small section of fence, seems a sad waste of your energies over time. Hops grows well in your climate zone, along with wisteria and other options already suggested.

    Love the black, keen to see the new window action from the inside and on 2nd floor from the outside.

  27. I love following the progress of your house and your great vision for it. Whatever you do seems to come out just right! The black fence is fantastic! The lighting in the last “before” picture makes the foundation of the house look as if it is painted black. I love the contrast and how it really seems to ground the house and tie in with the black fence and roof. Have you ever considered painting it?

    • Thanks, Marcie! The foundation is actually bluestone and I think is really pretty in real life! The stones are all funny-sized and there is lots of good variation in color between them…I’d repoint it with new mortar, but no paint for this one!

  28. Jazzed to read that Olivebridge and Bluestone Cottages are still in play. So much to look forward to. I juggle a lot and have good energy but Daniel, your ability at all this is like, from Mars!

    A thought about English Ivy: you know its foibles so no sense issuing my warnings, but would you consider star jasmine as an alternative? It’s economical to buy, grows like fury, is evergreen, has a certain amount of “stickiness” that you want for it to climb against surfaces, and the white flowers smell divine.

  29. I may get internet-stoned for this, but I’m gonna say English Ivy will be just fine as long as you keep it off the house, which it sounds like you’re doing. We had a few patches of it in the yard of the house I grew up in, and sometimes it grew up onto the wood picket fence. It was always fine and still is, even after decades. I don’t remember any issues with rats in it. My dad kept it contained with a lawn mower.

    Plus you can go out there in midwinter and rip out long garlands to hang up in your house as holiday decorations, if you like decorating with greenery. Cut big pieces, put them on your table, nestle a few candles in there. Ivy now controlled and house decorated. Boom.

    • See, that’s kinda what my brain was saying! Now I really am reconsidering, but I grew up with lots of english ivy in our backyard and always loved the way it looked and never had a problem with how it behaved. Granted it was in shadier areas and further from the house, but as the person most in charge of landscaping in my family, I did deal with it a lot. I like pruning stuff so I always appreciated that it could take a real beating and bounce back just fine! I also just think it’s pretty and kinda miss having it somewhere…argh!

      • From other posts it sounds like we grew up in the same area, and I can’t imagine ivy will be harder to control in the frigid north than it was in our hometown!

        … speaking of which, do your parents still own that house? free plants

      • Weird. The comment box swallowed my formatting. Anyway…

        free plants. :-)

        (Or hey, my parents still have some, and I’m sure they wouldn’t mind sharing next time you’re in that area. Ha!)

  30. I have a black painted chain link fence that I am slowly training my neighbor’s ivy to grow over, and I love it! Fences wear and tear anyway, and the overflowing greenery will look great. You can just replace individual panels if/when they get ruined. Brushwood has a lot of great vines – here is one that is zone 5, evergreen and should match your garden color scheme http://www.gardenvines.com/bignonia-dragon-lady.html. You could even do ivy and a flowering vine! If you are into that lush secret garden look :)

  31. There is an older house near me that has painted their window trim and shutters in a dark almost black green, then they did what I think you are describing in painting the window frames black and it looks fantastic. That slight detail makes the whole house look much better and it somehow makes it look classic but a little more modern at the same time.

    • Nice! Black (or the dark green you’re describing) really is a totally traditional choice as an accent color on lots of different house styles! I feel like I get a fair amount of…grief? online?…for using it somewhat liberally, but my goal is so NOT to have a modern-looking house…really inside or out! I like my modern furniture pieces and light fixtures and stuff, but I’m really trying to treat this as a restoration project. My house is 150 years old at least…I don’t know what it looked like when it was built, but my goal is to return it to something very close to that!

  32. There are two types of gardeners–those who love to prune and shape invasive/vigorous growers and those that don’t. As long as you like pruning, go for it because you are talking about planting the vine on a long stretch of fence. Keep it away from the house and the garage and you should be fine. An evergreen vine would be much more asethetically pleasing than a decidious one. Having said that I have no experience with english ivy.

    • I *do* like the prune! No idea why but I find it really satisfying…I really don’t like lots of other gardening chores (weeding, mulching, watering, fertilizing…) but pruning I have zero issue with!

  33. Consider Creeping Fig as an alternative to Ivy – it’s no less damaging if it gets out of control, but will cover your fence faster. Evergreen, but check your zone for cold hardiness.

    • Oh, that’s lovely! I’d never heard of it but I really like what I’m seeing from a google image search! Thank you!

  34. For a minute there I thought this blog entry would take a Tom Sawyer turn, where you convinced your neighbor to stain the entire fence for you! Your neighbor seems awfully nice, so consider taking advantage next time ;)

    I love Cabot stain. I stained my redwood fence and deck with Cabot Deep Slate color, semi-solid and I must say it looks mahhhhhvelous. The semi-solid allows some wood tone to show through so you get more softness and depth in the final result. As far as breaking up the black for your fence, you could strategically paint a few bits like the fence caps and the garage round window trim in a dark gray – Iron Mountain from Benjamin Moore is a good softener for true black. You roof is a charcoal gray mix so I think it’ll do for coordinating with the fence for now, until your shutter dreams are realized. I 100% agree with you on the shutters thing. HATE those fake kind, they are the WTF of home styling.

    And I’m joining the chorus of ivy haters here. My neighbor has it and it pops up all over my property all the time! It takes me hours to pull it up while I daydream my nefarious payback scenarios. There are SO MANY better plants out there. Climbing hydrangeas are stunning, or you could grow hops and start your own micro brew!

    • Ha! My neighbor *is* very nice, but he’s also a working contractor…he’s generous with his tools but I’m not holding my breath for free work, haha!

      Thank you for the recommendations! Definitely considering options…

  35. It all looks wonderful. And thank you for continuing to blog about your hard work! It always inspires me to look around my house & yard with fresh eyes, and thinking about changing things up. :)

  36. OH MY so love the fence!!!

    ivy – well, i agree about the rats and the overgrowing. but if you really want that look…

    garage – i would try the planters and a boxwood with a shape perhaps? (i couldnt find the boxwood in the photo).

    are those new trees in the deadmans zone on the side of the house?
    hmm…

    and SO JEALOUS of the size of your backyard and the clean slate!
    my rental backyard was a jungle ten years ago when i moved in and i tore everything out and put in a garden but now … i crave a new start (but not enough to re do this one with its problems).
    one of which is the #$%% tree next door that puts all 2/3 of its leaves in our yard. sigh

    (and yes i know about mulching but its a lot of work for this over 100 foot tree that drops all its stuff in the yard and the owners never offer to have their weekly yard crew clean up the debris . sorry rant over).

    • Thank you! The boxwoods are TINY and maybe dying…I guess they aren’t very visible in the photo. Whoops! I do like the planter idea though. I’ll be on the lookout…

      Yes, new trees! I’ll do a little post about it!

  37. When you demo this side of the house, the yard will be really different looking. And when you have that side yard doubled in size, you can put in some trees. Your backyard looks so much better and your view now ls pretty.

    • It’ll change everything! I can’t wait. I wish I could have done it this summer, but I’ll get there.

  38. I’m always so excited to see new posts from you! I also live in Upstate NY, and almost everyone else online talking about old house renovations seems to live in LA or Salt Lake City. Which is awesome for them… but almost none of the landscaping, etc. tips they have seem to work in this region. It’s amazing to have someone also dealing with old house stuff, and relatively nearby!

    • I’m glad! I just wish I was more helpful!! All of my gardening years before this house were spent in Virginia, and I never actually *knew* a whole lot, so I’m learning a lot here! I wish I could be more helpful but maybe someday…

  39. Yes, I have to agree that the contrast is too great at present. I did like the black garage, though I thought it needed some contrast there somewhere, but it is now drowned out by the black fence (at least in the photographs). If it were me, I’d have used that Disney no-see-um gray or go-away green to transition between the house and garage. But, it’s not my property–and if you are happy, then it is all good.

    If you want something climbing, there are trumpet vines, of course, and jasmine and honeysuckle and clematis and hydrangea and wisteria (some of these have evergreen varieties). But, personally, I plant roses because they tend to repel little animals that like to climb in them. It helps to keep the feral cats away. They aren’t evergreen, though. Might it be possible to have every other plant a rose and then have something evergreen? (I was told by a garden store to plant my more invasive plants in tubs to keep them contained.)

    Do you have an air compressor for your pneumatic nailer? I think that most air compressors are compatible with most paint sprayers, but it may depend on the HP that your air compressor has. Gravity-feed is what DH prefers, as he says it gets better coverage and does not waste the paint.

    • Oh, sorry, I forgot to say that the garden store told me to sink the tubs into the ground and leave a rim showing above the ground–to make it easier to see and clip any runners that get out.

  40. I think it looks good and it’s going to look AMAZING. Plants will be key! I’m with the doubters on english ivy. I wonder if it will give you what you want, which is softness as well as green (I think?) Euonymous (the green kind not the variegated) might be another hardy, evergreen alternative. I know it’s not the sexiest of plants but it makes a lovely background and looks good all winter. Another plant that gets a lot of hate, but needed, is the yew. Small ones, not the crazy big ones. If they’re not weirdly pruned they are soft and green and, again, a lovely background. I have them in the back of my narrow urban garden. In the summer, you don’t really see them behind all of the flowers, but in the winter suddenly they’re right there, all billowy and green and peeking up above the snow.

  41. Can’t wait to see how you address the aluminum storm windows. Our ‘new to us’ hundred year old home has them, and i would love to paint them (or have them done), but not sure the best route/method. I think the black looks good. And you’ll find the right foliage soon!

  42. The black looks good – I’ll be interested to see how you go with adding contrast and plantlife to soften it. I’m sold on using Cabot timber stain for getting an opaque black stain that breathes.

    And yeah, sorry, but I’m also gonna say my two cents’ worth on the ivy. I had to clean large swaths of it off our property and 1. it’s awful to deal with (the dust from its stems badly irritated my throat and sinuses), 2. it resprouts very easily in the places you’ve cleared it away from, even from itty-bitty fragments, and 3. when it starts to set fruit in a few years, it’ll sprout up elsewhere in the neighbourhood and become everyone else’s problem too. I love your work (your summer garden post was lovely!) and I totally get the fuck-it impulse, but I HAD to speak out against the ivy after dealing with the awful stuff myself.

  43. I think the flat black garage will come into its own once everything else is finished. As you say it’s not meant to stand out.
    On Ivy, I have plenty of the English sort growing along my wall (it’s stone not fencing).In spring I just tear it off the wall, cut it down at the base and in a few weeks it drapes itself back over the wall JUST the right amount to tease the eye without invading. I also have Boston ivy on the wall of an outbuilding and it’s very pretty in the fall, but that stuff just get’s everywhere! It climbs on neighbouring bushes, invades trees, I’m sure if I stood still for too long it would climb on me too. I prefer the English ivy, so much more ‘polite’ :)

  44. This post makes me shudder. Two years ago I painted our fence black, it is a similar size to yours. It took me 4 months and many bottles of wine to paint half the fence. My Dad brought over his newly purchased spray painter and finished the job in 3 hours. My wrists are not the same. Love the black, maybe research the Ivy a bit more.

  45. Love the black! I was just wondering about the RH sconces, maybe spray them a copper or dark dark brass..a lady loves a bit of sparkle with her outfit–bringing a metal finish could dress up the garage just a tad without going garish. And I’d paint that fantastic round window something just a bit…like a dark gray or a dark dark green. Yep, black, dark green and copper :)
    Can’t wait for more posts! Happy Fall…

  46. HOLY COW THIS LOOKS GOOD. We just came up with a plan to fence in part of our backyard and I have been eyeballing the black stain. It blends into the landscape better than white. I love it. Seriously looks amazing. The stain looks nice too, a nice rich black.

  47. Amaze-balls. I agree with the ivy and black windows! Paint all the things black! lol

  48. One more naysayer against english ivy – it is poisonous to dogs, so if your dogs are plant eaters, it might be best to find something else…

  49. We did invest in the big expensive paint sprayer, and it’s great for some things – not for others. A fence like yours is great. We also did the whole inside of a rental house once, which worked because a) it was all going to be one color and b) we were having the carpet ripped out the next week. But for many other jobs (repainting a room, painting an exterior wall with many elements that need protection like nearby stone walls, windows, different color trim, etc) we often find that the time and energy it takes to mask off everything that needs protection is about equal to the time saved by faster painting. And while I don’t mind spending the extra time hand painting a room (it can be meditative), I’m annoyed with spending the same number of hours taping everything off, knowing I’ll be pulling all the tape right back off the next day. So although it’s been great at times, it usually just sits unused in the shed. And it takes up a lot of storage space, too. As long as you can keep borrowing Edwin’s, that’s the direction I’d go!

  50. I love how the fence turned out!
    As for ivy, I say go for it, wholeheartedly. And you know how with some plants everyone seems to have a very STRONG opinion about how invasive they are or they’ll take over your whole house? Well, I’m almost 4 years in with my own ivy covered fence project and it’s literally been like watching paint dry. Each spring, I think the snow will melt and my chainlink will be wonderfully covered but nope, still just moseying along at an annoyingly non-invasive pace. So, if you do ivy, be sure to plant PLENTY of it!

  51. LOVE the black. total love. this might also be because i too have a black fence. :) we used to have natural wood, but i am far too lazy to keep staining it, and it rots so quickly, we bit the bullet and went vinyl. i know. i’m really not a fan aesthetically or environmentally (try to make up for that in other ways), and i absolutely abhor white vinyl privacy fence. but black? it’s gorgeous. all our neighbors, and even the installers, thought we were nuts but then, everyone LOVED it. we also installed a black pergola – makes a great statement. the fencing just beautifully recedes and let’s your plants and garden structure take center stage – exactly what we, and what i believe you too, want to do. kudos to you for doing all that work! beautiful results. love following all your progress inside and out.

  52. I AM LIVING FOR THE WHITE AND BLACK. It looks amazing and I totally get where you’re going with it. . With the black accents added to the house it will look so classic and I adore how your plants looked against the front fence so I’m all for that ivy. Love it!

  53. I live in zone 7 so I Googled “espaliered fruit zone 4” and found some really exciting possibilities. This is something I someday intend to do, have wanted to do since I picked an apple (shhh, don’t tell) off the espaliered apple tree hedge at an historic site. I think, though, if I were you, I’d make a pattern or design with lights and leave it be. Criss-cross, waves, your logo, whatever. Even if you plant an aggressive vine, it will take at least 3 years to take over your part of the east coast. Love what you’re doing and love your writing and happy to see so many taking up the native plant banner.

  54. You may want to consider a chocolate vine. They are “semi-evergreen deciduous” (shed leaves in spring before new ones pop). I have two on the side of my garage. Woody vine twists in pretty tortuous shapes, leaves rather small, and the purple flowers in late spring are beautifully/oddly shaped with a mild fragrance. I inherited them when I bought the house. I’ve never seen them anywhere else. Pretty tough, too. One slid off the side after last year’s heavy “Snowvember” (Buffalo) and I cut it down to the ground. You’d never know now. Birdies love the shelter, too.

  55. Once you get the shutters and window frames in the same off-black, you may not feel a need to do anything else with the fence. I think it will look great, and I wouldn’t worry about the plants until later, if ever.

  56. What did your neighbors think when you painted “their” fence black. I know in my tiny Utah town there would be looting!! Can’t wait to see the other house too!!

    • Which neighbors? Nobody objected, and I left the side facing my neighbor’s house to the back unpainted as per her request (she wants to do a cedar stain on that section)! The long stretch of fencing between my front and back corners is black on both sides—that building is a multi-unit apartment building with a pretty absentee landlord…I can tell you the tenants are happy, and if the landlord isn’t…well…buy your own damn fence, dude! :)

  57. The black stain looks so gorgeous on that fence, I love it! Amazing how the fence and the garage now visually recede. If you find the contrast with the white of the house jarring, I would suggest considering not flat white for the house but a very pale, warm grey for everything, siding and trim. It will read as white but have a lot more depth and softness to it.
    In Europe since it is native, ivy is not invasive and it is very commonly and classically used in parks, cemeteries and gardens as wall and ground cover. Is that different in the Americas? Personally I find the varieties with the dark leaves a little somber and melancholic (perhaps because it’s used so abundantly in graveyards), so I prefer the varieties with some yellow or white in the leaves. I think the breed I mean is called Goldchild, but there are probably lots of commercial varieties marketed under various names. Some breeds don’t climb as aggressively as some others. So if you’re willing to trade fast wall coverage for less damage and easier control, I’d look into that.
    I’m not huge fan of clematis, but there is one breed that I really like, with dark green foliage and small pale pink blossoms with just four leaves, so it looks like lots of tiny pink swiss crosses on a dark green base. However that stuff is not evergreen, so lots of leave raking in autumn. What I totally love is Bougainvillea as wall cover. But the blossoms are usually vividly magenta, it grows quite bushy and is native to South America, so perhaps both stylistically and climatically that really isn’t an option for your New England abode.
    As always, I can’t wait for updates on everything. Type faster, damn you! Just kidding! Best wishes from Berlin!

  58. I love both the black fence and the black garage. I’m betting as you said, it looks even better in real life. Photos can be so deceiving! I have seen black garages with just the very top roofline trim in white, and I like it too…if maybe you think it needs something. But I think plants, the shutters, and maybe something all natural wood – like a bench? – or maybe just a tree – all go towards the vision. I see the vision!

  59. Spray painting is fun! I’m not sure if it’s that much faster though…

    I agree that the contrast between the black and white as it is right now might be over the top. Some black accents on the house should already make it better, and then some green on the fence. Not sure about the ivy though, I’m in the doubting camp…

    • For a project like this, it was DEFINITELY much much faster!My hesitation with them usually has to do with all the prep time it takes to mask everything off, because of course you have much less control than with a brush and roller. You probably won’t find me spraying a whole room or anything, but I’d do it again in a heartbeat for the fence! :)

  60. It looks awesome! I love the black, so dramatic!

    What about planting something like hops instead of ivy? I live in a zone 3 climate and hops does really, really well – it dies back each fall, so you just cut it down to the ground, but it grows really, really quickly – like a foot a day in the spring, and clings to my fence and side of my shed with no problems. You wouldn’t have to worry about it becoming invasive. I’m unsure how much initially you’d have to shell out for the perennials – maybe a small fortune depending how long of an area you want to cover. I do love ivy, but I also live in a climate where we don’t have ivy problems taking over everything, so of course I love it.

  61. Daniel,

    (Frequent reader, first-time writer.)

    I didn’t read all of the comments, so forgive me if someone’s already suggested this, but would you consider an espalier? Southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) is an ornamental native tree with evergreen foliage and beautiful, fragrant flowers. When trained to grow on a vertical surface, it looks timeless and impressive. (Of course, its normal growth habit is great, too.)

    And because I love vines (especially when they look just shy of unkempt), I can’t resist mentioning two of my favorites: American wisteria (Wisteria frutescens) and yellow passion-flower (Passiflora lutea). Both are deciduous, I’m afraid, but well worth the wait each season. The former is woody, and the latter is an herbaceous perennial.

    Have a good one!

    Jordane

  62. Try Boston Ivy instead of English. It’s a little more friendly.

  63. Hey Daniel,

    Love all your ideas and the house is looking amazing

    BUT…The Ivy

    Seriously just don’t do it! WE HAVE SO MANY RATS. Sorry to be dramatic but my god they are all over the place. They love the stuff and we now have to close our back door all the time to ensure they come inside for food in the kitchen. I would definitely consider some honey suckle? Looks so nice and in spring its smell so lovely. Maybe plant some Lili Pillies? We have them in Australia and they make a great fence liner and they grow into each other to create an almost hedge like look. Definitely a great way to soften a fence line.

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