White Trim! Planters!


I’d start this post with an apology about how long it’s been since I’ve posted, but I feel like maybe that’s starting to get old and embarrassing so let’s all just pretend like it didn’t happen. Sound good? Groovy.

Truth is, the pace of this renovation has been moving so fast. It’s kind of like this crazy roller coaster that I can’t seem to get off of and have a second to breathe. And rest. And blog. And generally function like a human being.  I have so much to blog about, but to be honest my body just isn’t really keeping up—in the past few weeks I’ve been battling some serious exhaustion (probably lingering mono stuff…it’s still been less than 2 months) and, to top it off, a super attractive head-cold thingy that can probably account for an appreciable percentage of the Kleenex use in the state of New York. Exterior work overlapped with demo which has now overlapped with beginning framing out the interior and the whole thing has just been…nuts. I guess I’d rather things move too fast than too slow, but suffice to say I’m still trying and failing to strike a decent balance here.

Where last we left off, the house was looking a little something like the photo above. All of the crazy overgrowth and that big tree had been removed, chipped, and hauled away, most of the house had been painted, and things were looking a little bit…flat. Originally I was super into this whole monochrome paint scheme idea (except the window sashes—the plan was always for those to go dark), but then I saw it on the house and I was like…nope. Not right for this house. Y’all were not shy about unleashing your disdain (save for a few dissenting votes) for the monochrome in the comments, so it’s a good thing I already had your back.


Boom. Better? Better. The corner boards on the top half of the house are still yet to be painted in this picture, but you get the idea. I left the eaves overhangs grey, which I think adds some nice dimension, but all of the trim got painted out with Benjamin Moore’s Simply White, color-matched to Valspar Reserve exterior paint in semi-gloss. I’m really happy with it! It’s clean and classic and traditional, which feels more right for this project. With such a small house set so far back on this lot, the monochrome sort of just made it disappear and look a little lifeless, so I think this works much better!

Since this comes up a lot in the comments, color-matching is super easy nowadays! Most paint stores should be able to accurately color-match between paint companies using just the color name and brand, and sometimes the color code. It’s all computerized. I generally like Benjamin Moore’s colors without the price tag of the actual paint can, so I just take my color name to Lowe’s, they look it up in the computer, and the paint machines just mix it like magic in a cheaper (but still excellent quality) can of Valspar. Nothing to it! There’s no guess work or relying on scanning a paint chip or anything like that. I’ve heard this shouldn’t be attempted with more speciality brands like Farrow & Ball, but all the regular brands seem to work this way.

Also, before I forget, the casement windows on the first floor haven’t been replaced! The ones pictured here are just the storm windows (which curiously mount on the inside of the house, presumably because the casement windows open outwards instead of up and down like the double-hung sash windows). All of the casement windows are hanging out in my future-library, awaiting repair and re-glazing. It’s very tedious work. If/when I sell this place, I might have to put a clause in the contract that the windows cannot be replaced! Nothing chaps my ass more (I love that phrase, sorry) than seeing beautiful old windows ripped out of old houses for crappy vinyl replacements, so hopefully all of the TLC I’m putting into the originals will save them from future destruction.

So anyway, let’s talk about what’s happening on the side of the house! I’ve mentioned before that the front yard is CRAZY here. There’s about 30 feet from the front of the house to the sidewalk (meaning about 700 square feet of front yard!), and the whole thing is graded all wrong. The whole front of the house was sitting below grade when we started work (meaning it was rotted, meaning we had to replace the whole sill plate…oof), and grading back toward the house—meaning that water was running back toward the foundation instead of away from it. It was pretty much all the things you don’t want to see happening with land around a house.

After all of the weeds and overgrowth and craziness was removed, it was easier to see that there was also a small hill in the middle of the yard. Not only that, but the soil in the front of the yard was sitting about 2 feet above the sidewalk, all of it basically contained by the root systems of the enormous overgrown evergreen shrubs and weeds. Which are now gone. So what was left was a small landslide waiting to happen.


The old fence had to go, but the question remained as to what would take its place! My original instinct was a cute, classic white picket fence, because, you know, duh. But that really didn’t solve the insane grading issue. Either I’d have to get a backhoe in here to dig out half the yard, or I could work what I was working with and figure out some other solution.

I decided on the latter. Short of excavating the whole yard, the only solution I could really come up with was to create some sort of retaining wall situation to keep everything contained. At the same time, I didn’t want to totally abandon the idea of a fence for a little visual/physical separation from the street and the neighboring houses, and I thought it might be fun to use the opportunity to sort of build in a landscaping feature. Like a living fence/retaining wall/planter set up. Since I went very traditional with the exterior of the house itself, I figured I could get away with doing something a little different for the landscaping.

The old fence posts were actually in fine shape (pressure treated lumber, set in concrete, no major rot), and already spaced 8 feet apart, so it seemed logical and easy-ish to use those as the basis of the design. Basically the plan was to build a series of terraced planters down the side of the lot that would kind of step down with the land, and then continue with one long planter essentially spanning the width of the property across the front. Ya dig? It solved the retaining wall issue, it had potential to solve the privacy issue, and the planters themselves would be a good place to throw all of the excess soil in the yard and get things graded out properly. Solid plan.

I started by constructing the outer surface, which really just involved screwing my lumber into the old fence posts. I decided to use 5/4″x6″x8′ cedar decking boards from Lowe’s to construct the whole thing (which were significantly cheaper than 1×6 cedar boards, and thicker, too). Cedar was more expensive than pressure-treated pine, but the cedar allowed for the possibility of a nice stained/sealed finish whereas I think pressure-treated pine is better if the plan is to paint or use an opaque stain, which I kind of wanted to avoid here. Both are rot-resistant and should fare OK for something like this.

Anyway. The only really tricky part of working on the sides was getting everything level and figuring out the slope. I’m no smarty-pants mathematician, so the easiest method I could figure out was to hold the board level at the high point and measure the distance between the bottom of the board and the low point down at the other end. Then I just cut a diagonal line down the length of the board  with my circular saw. I have no idea if that makes sense or if anyone cares. Here is a really heinous illustration of what I’m talking about which may or may not help.


So there. After the first board was in place and level (I used 2.5″ exterior screws), it was just a matter of stacking my subsequent boards on top of it and securing them.


See? Like so. I stacked the boards four high, bringing the whole thing to a height of 22 inches. I knew I wanted to keep it as low as possible while still doing its whole retaining-wall job, both because theoretically the plants contained in them will mature and add some more height (and privacy) but also because I didn’t want it to be like crazy cedar planter overload. I think the height feels pretty good. Substantial without overpowering.


Since I only had fence posts for support on the outer edge of the planters, I used 2×2 pressure treated posts as the support for the interior edges. I found it easiest to assemble the sides flat on the ground first and then move them into position. I made the 2×2 corner posts about 6 inches longer so that they’d help anchor the whole thing into the ground.

After moving the side panel into position, it was just a matter of spending some time leveling the inner edge with the already completed outer edge and getting everything square. Not so bad.


Since 8 feet is a fairly long span, I ended up screwing a 2×2 support to the middle of each panel and then a pressure treated 2×4 horizontally between the 2×2’s to keep the whole thing from bowing out. Wherever possible, I tried to drive my screws from the inside to cut down on the exposed screw heads and holes on the outside.


Moving right along…more planter madness! It’s sort of hard to believe that a few days before this photo was taken, this area was an insane jungle of shrubbery and weeds and litter. I know the overflowing Bagster and the empty, half-filled planters and all that dirt aren’t really looking like much of an improvement, but they will. Trust.


So…it’s possible that my big genius plan of shoveling all the excess dirt in the yard (to bring the ground level down to a reasonable, acceptable level) into the new planters might have been mildly delusional. I filled them to about 6″ from the top, reserving the top few inches for quality top-soil to be mixed in, plus the plants and the mulch. And, uh, this is about what the yard still looked like. Not gorgeous.


I sort of accidentally acquired some help throughout parts of this whole ordeal (long story, another time), and so the totally ridiculous idea of moving all of the dirt from this yard to my yard seemed a little bit less completely nuts than it had before. I mean, what else do you do? So that’s what we did. My wonderful go-to contractor, Edwin, volunteered the use of his monstrous pick-up truck, and we filled that thing one wheelbarrow load at a time. Then we did it again. It was amazing. With a few guys working on that, we got the whole yard (except where the Bagster was sitting) basically cleared, graded, and looking really good in about half a day.



My backyard, however, is a totally different story. It’s really bad. Like so bad. Maybe next summer will be, like, the summer of getting this backyard sorted out, since it certainly didn’t happen this summer and things are not looking hopeful between now and winter. It’s serious very shameful.

I should also mention that Edwin had just stopped by the cottage as a favor to let me use his pressure-washer for a different project (coming up soon!), and decided to just stick around and help us haul dirt and crap for funsies. He’s such a good dude, you guys. I love that man.


Before planting, the final step was sealing the cedar boards! I went back and forth on if/how I should seal the boards (and whether I should seal both sides before I started, but read somewhere that the boards might be better left untreated on the inner parts), but ultimately played it safe and did two coats of Olympic Deck Stain in the natural cedar color on the sides, top edge, and inner side of the top board. It did a nice job of bringing out and hopefully preserving the natural color, while also adding a little pigment. I feel like the natural wood tones play nicely off all the grey paint on the house. It dried a bit lighter and more natural looking than this photo suggests, but this is more or less how it looks. The deck stain also provides good water-resistance, so it should hold up to the elements well. I’m guessing it’ll have to be resealed every couple of years, and from what I’ve read the boards should hold up fine for a couple decades.

I feel like I need to save more of a reveal photo of the planters all planted and in action until I blog about the next exterior project because the pictures would spoil it (yes, you must live in brief suspense!), but I stuck a bunch of plants in them a week or two ago and they look good! Nothing like some plants to immediately make a house look better. I’m glad to have gotten some stuff growing before it gets too cold to plant, and hopefully everything will come back in the spring looking very beautiful and charming and some nice person who loves the house will be so charmed by my plantings and want to buy the house and live in it and stuff.

Despite its scale (about 50 linear feet of planter!) the planter project wasn’t super hard, and the whole thing cost a few hundred dollars—not bad for such a huge project with a big impact! I feel like the front yard has finally been tamed and is all primed and ready for the rest of it to start looking nice.



Day 11: Oversaw final painting day, paid Edwin and crew, worked on constructing second planter.

Day 12: Worked on planning interior layout and took dimensional drawings to building department for building permit. Borrowed Edwin’s truck for late-night Lowe’s run for rest of planter lumber and other supplies.

Day 13: Worked on building third planter. Got help from neighborhood guys removing stumps from old shrubs along front of property, then worked on removing old fence posts along left side of bluestone walk and leveling soil.. Dumped top soil from that area into completed planters.

Day 14: Very rainy. Worked with Chris, Kodi, and Mike in yard (miserable. wet.) and put first two rows of cedar on front span of planter to prevent run-off onto sidewalk. Went to Lowe’s. Tree guy came back to grind large Catapla stump. Purchased Bagster and cleaned up main floor of house. Mike began demo’ing walls upstairs. Demo’d walls and ceiling in kitchen.


This post is in partnership with Lowe’s!

About Daniel Kanter

Hi, I'm Daniel, and I love houses! I'm a serial renovator, DIY-er, and dog-cuddler based in Kingston, New York. Follow along as I bring my 1865 Greek Revival back to life and tackle my 30s to varying degrees of success. Welcome!

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  1. 10.30.14
    B. said:

    Maybe you could do something like this the next time

  2. 10.30.14
    Pippa said:

    I wouldn’t sweat the slowness of posts. It just builds anticipation and when you do post it is always SO worth the wait. Exciting progress and I just knew you’d get the exterior look right, though I am hanging out for the day when all traces of green are gone. What are your plants for the entry? I do hope you go for a dark door. Your planters are a such a clever idea. I can’t wait to see some plants in them.

    • 10.30.14
      Bee said:

      Completely agree–your posts are so meaty, with so many pictures that I don’t mind the wait, as long as I can get my fix.

      (I hate it when bloggers post some kind of meme and call it a day when they don’t have time or energy to write.)

      (I look forward to your posts so don’t take what I said as permission to blog less. Sorry….)

  3. 10.30.14
    Lisa said:

    Starting to look good :) The planter idea is awesome. I love the look of raised garden beds, maybe someone could plant some herbs in one of them :) I’m glad you’re better. I hope the next post is going to be there sooner, I’m so excited! :)

  4. 10.30.14
    Niki said:

    The planters are a solution I would never have thought of, but they look great so far! Now I’m itching for that reveal photo…

  5. 10.30.14
    Bernadette said:

    The planters are such a pretty retaining wall. I’m picturing them filled with plants and decorated with white Christmas lights for the winter. They’ll probably make the house feel more connected to the block now too, with something so substantial linking the yard from the curb to the house. Can’t wait to see the latest inside plans!

    PS, thought of your old post from a year or two ago when you discussed the scented decorative pine cones, because the smell of them nearly suffocated me at Whole Foods this weekend.

    • 11.10.14
      Daniel said:

      Thanks, Bernadette! I think you’re right about the planters connecting the house better with the street. Not really intentional, but they definitely make everything seem a bit more grounded!


  6. 10.30.14

    Trim looks great. Love that you are keeping us in suspense about the entrance.
    Planters are a great idea & look very well thought out & carefully constructed for long-term stability. Also do provide some separation from your property & the neighbors. The initial photos of the house with the brush in front gone, the huge front lawn & the house painted monochromatically made it look like the cottage was really an addendum to one of the properties on either side. No more.
    And I love that the excess dirt went over into your backyard. Don’t sweat it; the pups will enjoy climbing the piles & rolling in the mud.
    I would imagine that you are gunning to get a lot of work done before the weather changes, so post when you can. You need to live a (healthy) life. It’s not all about US!!

    • 11.1.14
      CHRIS UEBBING said:

      Re: your back yard…FYI many (most) horse barns have huge manure piles out back & will let you haul out free of charge. It’s an excellent (albeit labor-intensive) way of getting some fertile dirt for the backyard. Go for the old stuff, so the dogs are less likely to roll. You’d probably need to let it sit (over the winter) & mix it with other soil.
      Because you have nothing else on your agenda and want to smell like a barn.
      Umm….old/rubber boots.

    • 11.10.14
      Daniel said:

      That’s a good idea! Or maybe just getting some of that to mix in with lower-quality fill would do the trick. Hmmmm.

  7. 10.30.14
    debbie in toronto said:

    well….the trim looks great…neat and tidy..and the planter idea is genius…if it were me I would plant a ton of really tall grasses or something because the sides of the neighbouring houses are just plain ugly.
    We just did a small white picket fence in along one side of my front yard and yes, duh they are classic but your planter solution makes alot of sense.
    Can’t wait for the reveal on the entrance…but don’t feel pressured..we out here in comment land can handle it..its so worth it when you do post!!

  8. 10.30.14
    Miranda said:

    Phew, I was chomping at the bit waiting for a post. Coming along very nicely. Can’t wait to start seeing the inside reno!

  9. 10.30.14
    Steph said:

    Yaaaaaaay, landscaping and planting. The planter-fence concept is great! I look forward to seeing what plants you chose — it’s cool seeing what plants people choose for different locations and climates, and they’ll add so much charm to your lil’ cottage.
    (When I built raised garden beds, I did seal the insides with oil, as well as attaching plastic flashing, but that’s probably total overkill!)

    • 10.30.14
      Rasmus said:

      I love the planters! Very good solution, and amazingly fast results. I have wasted my time over-researching the best way to build long-lived planters, looking at the different types of wood, various chemical treatments, plastic flashing and so forth.

      I found (which may or may not be right) that most sources said plastic flashing carries a risk of over-watering the plants, because water is restrained from a horizontal exit. Dependant on the plant and the environment, this can either be a problem or an advantage. For this reason, I’ve bought some “geotextile”, which retains dirt and roots, but allows water to pass through. It’s what’s also used under paving stones to limit weeds.

      But I’ve spend too much time reading, so I can’t report any results.

    • 10.30.14
      Steph said:

      That’s good to know Rasmus, thanks for sharing. I put gravel under my beds to help with drainage, though if the flashing helps retain water in a veggie bed over the Australian summer I have no complaints. :)
      (Sorry Daniel, don’t mind me babbling about gardens!)

  10. 10.30.14
    Anne said:

    I bet the neighbors on the street would love to hug you for all the amazing work you’re doing!

    • 11.10.14
      Daniel said:

      Oftentimes they do! :)

  11. 10.30.14
    Haley said:

    I love the planter/fence/retaining wall idea. I can’t wait to see what this looks like with plants in it.

  12. 10.30.14
    Florian said:

    So many cliffhangers, so many teases! I can hardly contain myself with all the excitement!

    And look at all those boys working for you! Would you ever have thought? I do hope you have enough Tyvek suits for all of them!

    Do you have your new heating system up? A lot of work can’t be done, when the temperature drops below 4°C (fingers crossed that’s still a while away). Of course you can always use temporary heating systems for your building site, but that isn’t exactly cheap.

    It’s really starting to look super nice. I did like the monochrome, but it does look a lot fresher with the white trim. Just that board below the front door looks very weird. Is that permanent or just a temporary support? Are you going to have some sort of step there? Can’t wait to see more!

    • 11.10.14
      Daniel said:

      No heating system yet! Fingers crossed for the next couple of weeks. Luckily there aren’t really any pipes to freeze anyway, but it is getting collllddd!

      The board below the door is permanent, unfortunately, but it’ll look fine once it’s painted! And yes, there will be a step sort of thing, so part of it will be concealed anyway. Don’t fear!

  13. 10.30.14
    Jana said:

    Yeeeeyyyy!!!! New post!!!! Love the exterior painting. It makes shine every piece of this little house. (the monochromatic solution was so meeeeeeeh). I am super excited to see what is going to happened with the entry way and most important with that massive front yard!

    Take care and get well soon.


  14. 10.30.14
    SueZK said:

    I look at that picture and I want to move in! That house draws you in just with a picture of the outside. I am so impressed

  15. 10.30.14
    AnnMarie said:

    I love your fence/grading solution! I can’t wait to see the finished project, but I trust that it will be amazing. ^_^

  16. 10.30.14
    Cheryl said:

    Great minds think alike! I just put in a rain garden in my front yard, and built 3 raised beds in the back yard to hold the dirt. I used the same materials too. I wish I had done the horizontal 2×4 inside now though.
    Don’t worry about how often you post – quality over quantity, and you always have top quality.

  17. 10.30.14
    Lisa said:

    Holding my breath for the reveal. Come back soon!

  18. 10.30.14
    Jeanna said:

    Oh! The trim around the windows looks so great now that it’s not green! Just what the little house needed. Hope you are not pushing yourself so hard that the Mono decides to linger. What do you hope to do about your ugly house neighbor to the left of you? The side of their house looks seriously bad, and I think they have stuff growing right out of the top of their eves trough. :(

    • 11.10.14
      Daniel said:

      Yes, they do. Unfortunately they’re sort of absentee landlords who just don’t maintain things very well. There isn’t much I can do about it, though…it’s sort of up to them to decide to take better care of their property. It’s kind of a problem around here, sadly.

  19. 10.30.14
    gretaclark said:

    I think the house looks so sturdy now, “grounded” as we say in yoga. Huge difference.

  20. 10.30.14
    amey judd said:

    it really is a soulful little place. thank you for rescuing it. i can’t tell you the pleasure it gives me to see this TLC going around and coming around. btw, i hope you feel better soon, and await demo pix and interior plans with bated breath.

    i’m just thinking about the aesthetic of martha’s monochrome salt box — is it a new england thing? it certainly is the riposte to the san francisco painted lady thing, with victorians’ trim painted in six colors.

    • 11.10.14
      Daniel said:

      I think it is a very New England thing, yes, and I think it works very well there (and on that house specifically!). A lot of houses in that area are unpainted weathered cedar, so the grey to me sort of picks up on that tradition.

      Thanks, Amey! :)

  21. 10.30.14
    Mandi said:

    I cannot believe how ridiculously invested I am in this house reno. I follow a lot of blogs, but yours is theeee only one I am excited for a new post. Like, everything must wait because I’ve gotta find out what’s been worked on next! Keep up the good work, bro. (can I call you “bro”? Going out on a limb, here.)

    Too bad we’re not neighbs. I’d be out there with my shovel in an instant. And then I’d call out all the other neighbors with their shovels. You’re awesome!

    • 11.10.14
      Daniel said:

      Thanks, Mandi! Of course you can call me bro. You can call me whatever, haha.

  22. 10.30.14
    kristen said:

    Looking great!!! I’m tempted to take a drive up for a drive-by-drool-out-my-car-window to see the progress in person!

  23. 10.30.14
    Lisa and Tate said:

    AWESOME!!!! Made my day and looks terrific! Love the planters idea.

  24. 10.30.14
    Lisa and Tate said:

    Ooopppss… forgot to say in my last comment… Edwin is a Godsend. You are a lucky guy to have found such an amazing and helpful contractor. I could use an Edwin!

    • 11.10.14
      Daniel said:

      I really am. He’s a great guy! So fun and upbeat to work with, too. I’ve been recommending him to so many people I’m worried I won’t be able to afford him soon!

  25. 10.30.14
    Judy said:

    It’s a gem in process! I love the contrast of the white trim against the gray, sort of subtle, but just right! Next, TADA!, the door and surround, whatever color, it will have that perfect Daniel effect.

    Can’t wait to see your genius raised planter all decked out in some gorgeous plantings, and, as mentioned above, holiday lights draped around them. A plus is the planter adds weight & helps to hold its own in contrast to those large nextdoor houses.

    Sorry to hear you’ve had illness again & hope you’re much, much better. So glad that you’ve had help from neighbors and workers. We all would do that if we could.

    Take Care!

  26. 10.30.14
    Mis said:

    Planter as a retaining wall is a brilliant solution. So much more interesting than a white picket fence. Bravo. You are doing a Fantastic job -Have a great day!

  27. 10.30.14

    HUGE improvement. Great idea to use the planter boxes. I can’t wait to see the final look. It is already difficult to believe how much the house has changed in such a short amount of time. I recently found a house from the 1700s in Westchester for a great price that I am DYING to renovate, but I don’t have the funds. Boo! So I live vicariously through you.

  28. 10.30.14
    Marg DeLong said:

    Looks great! Did you have to get a retaining wall permit? In my city you can’t build anything with retaining wall-like abilities without a permit, or you have to permit it and rebuild when you sell the property.

    • 11.10.14
      Daniel said:

      I didn’t pull a separate permit for the planters, no. I’m almost positive I wouldn’t have to, but I actually didn’t really think about them being subject to different guidelines than fencing! In Kingston you don’t need to permit a fence 6′ or under, so I assumed it would be OK. They’ve been here for a few weeks now and nobody has said anything, so hopefully it’s all good! Yikes!

  29. 10.30.14
    celeste said:

    I am totally in awe of all you have accomplished in all of your houses, especially as you were not brought up to be a do-it-yourselfer. You remind me of my husband and me 30 years ago when we bought our 1914 farmhouse in poor repair (but not nearly as poor as the projects you have taken on!) and finally brought into the 21st century just this year. I give you so much credit; your energy and vision is amazing. I would like to offer my services as an accomplished seamstress should you have any sewing or curtain needs in the future; you two certainly deserve some help/reward/payback for all the joy you provide your readers. Have a wonderful time in Wisconsin, which is next door to my home state of Minnesota.

    • 11.10.14
      Daniel said:

      What a kind comment, Celeste! Thank you!

      And I will be in touch if I need anything like that! So nice! Thanks!

  30. 10.30.14
    Joann said:

    Just wonderful choice of landscape design for the house. The monochrome to trim pictures are simply a tutorial in the making on exterior painting design. So well done.

  31. 10.30.14
    Mackenzie said:

    Love the progress on your cute little cottage! And I love hearing about this yard and your own yard.

    Mostly I want to say don’t apologize for the length of time between posts – like other people have said, you’re busy (with this project and other parts of life), and when you DO post, it’s such a treat to read and see such a blast of progress. Thank you!

  32. 10.30.14
    Bonnie said:

    I used to have a blog, during the dawn of blogging. I couldn’t keep up. Life kept getting to busy. So I think you are doing great. And it’s not like your posts are wimpy… you give us real meat every time you post. But what I honestly think you need is a TV show. In a way your projects remind me of the show Rehab Addict (I am sure you have heard that before). But you style is so different and so awesome. I hope someone from HGTV is reading your blog and will be in contact soon!

  33. 10.30.14
    Susan said:

    You are the cleverest fella ever! Bravo, Daniel!

  34. 10.30.14
    Sietske said:

    Daniel, your back! Hooray!

  35. 10.30.14
    kathyg said:

    Do you feel like a genius? ’cause ya should! That planter idea is brilliant on so many levels.

  36. 10.30.14
    Joanne said:

    Yes, love the white trim! Love your writing style, too. If/when you write a book I will buy it! (and read it).

  37. 10.30.14
    Trish said:

    Paint looks ace :)
    Any chance you could post the valspar code please? We don’t have Benjamin Moore in the Uk but my local DIY store does have a valspar mixer.

  38. 10.30.14
    Ellie said:

    I love the progress. The teaser has me so excited for the next post. I really never expected the progress to go so fast. I hope the neighbor to the right power washes that little side porch now that it’s exposed.

  39. 10.30.14
    BIVY said:

    I’ve been thinking about it. The paint job looks great. It really really does. But there is part of me that misses the little jewel box of color the house once was — particularly now that you see it next to its big ugly gray neighbors. My heart wanted the house to be red. A little red house with white trim. But now that it’s not, I have a solution. The door MUST be red. It’s begging to be red. Since you are a genius, I know that you’ll come to the same conclusion or, in the alternative, you chance on an idea superior to my own. I’m not worried. I know it will look great no matter what. But I wanted to pitch my vote for red. Red!

    • 10.31.14
      April said:

      I feel the same way about it being gray next to gray houses. A little color would really help it hold its own in this row of houses, especially since it’s so dwarfed. Though I was thinking a pale blue house, not a red house…

      Guess we’ll have to leave it to his genius!

    • 11.1.14
      A said:

      Agreed as well! The blandness if the neighboring houses absorbs the little cottage now that it’s grey. :( I know it will turn out beautifully in the end, but the color is a missed opportunity I think.

    • 11.10.14
      Daniel said:

      I totally appreciate what you’re saying, guys! For what it’s worth, the house to the left is actually white and the house to the right is a tan/brown/beige kind of a color, so this house definitely doesn’t blend in real life. I really considered painting the house a brighter color, but for a number of reasons (resale, what I knew would look good, etc…), I went with this. But yes, I think a colorful door will do the trick!

  40. 10.30.14
    Rebecca said:

    Yay, I love the update. The white trim makes it look fresh and distinguished. The monochrome, not so, I hope Martha reads your blog and gets her trims painted white, that would look so good. Imagine that, Martha Stewart getting design advice from you! Awesome.

    It appears that front garden wont get a lot of sun seeing as those big ugly houses surround on both sides. If it were my house I would put trellis in each of the side planters about 8 foot high and then plant roses or other climbing flowers, or even espalier some apple trees. Something to give it some height at eye level so you dont have to look at those neighbouring houses. Kind of a secret garden look…. but not overgrown and wild like it was.

    But I am sure your ideas will be amazing, they always are.

    • 11.10.14
      Daniel said:

      Ha! See, I really love Martha’s house as-is! I think the monochrome is perfect there, just not here! But I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.

      I love the idea of including a trellis somewhere in the landscaping! It might have to wait until the end to avoid getting damaged during construction, but I think it could be really nice.

  41. 10.30.14
    zola said:

    nice to see progress but then by the diary we realize these are things from the very beginning of October!
    I think Ill drive out on the weekend from Vancouver BC to see whats happening now ! The waiting is painful lol

    thanks for blogging
    you rock

  42. 10.30.14
    nadine said:

    Good job. Paint, boxes everything. The boxes are genius. I can imagine they make the house feel more connected to the street. Blog when you can, we’ll be here waiting.

  43. 10.30.14
    Robin said:

    Re: “If/when I sell this place, I might have to put a clause in the contract that the windows cannot be replaced!”

    I can’t believe nobody has asked about this yet! By “If/when I sell this place . . .” do you mean (a) If I’m able to sell it or (b) If I decide to sell it ?!?

    I echo the vote for a red door, although I think dark, like charcoal gray/black could look fantastic as well!

    • 11.10.14
      Daniel said:

      Kind of both! I really don’t have a plan yet for this house. It will depend on a lot of factors…how much money I have to put into it, what the market is doing, if somebody really good wants to rent it but can’t buy it…etc. etc. Either way I have to either make my money back or cover my monthly costs, but I have a few months to figure it out. I certainly don’t need to keep it to live in, but I’m not opposed to either renting it to a good tenant or even seeing if it works as a vacation rental for a little while.

  44. 10.30.14

    Wow, so much going on! Love the planter idea.

    I agree that the monochrome paint scheme looks flat, that white trim works it well and makes the house appear crisp and clean.

    not sure how you’ll do the door, but I agree, perhaps a different color, say red for the front door at least to lead visitors to it in a welcoming fashion.

    I was thinking, gee, Daniel should be posting any day now, hope the mono didn’t resurface, glad to know it didn’t, and it’s just a head cold.

    Get better and enjoy your blogging retreat and we’ll look forward to your NEXT post in due time.

  45. 10.31.14
    Kala said:

    So exciting! I’m glad you went with contrast trim – although colour would have been nice too, but I know that’s not your style.

    I’m curious, will you let prospective buyers know about this blog? I wonder how having such a detailed account of a house’s renos would influence a purchase decision. Do you ever worry about that?

    • 11.3.14
      Ann said:

      Regarding blogging about a house you intend to sell, the writer of the blog SoPo Cottage has done that from the beginning, with great success. The blog is a fabulous marketing tool for her.

    • 11.10.14
      Daniel said:

      Kala, yes! I actually don’t worry about it at all, since I feel like if anything this blog would be a great resource for the next owner, and a good account of the work that was done! I’m really not cutting corners here, so there should be lots of proof that things were done properly throughout the renovation.

  46. 10.31.14
    Louise said:

    Smart idea with the retaining wall. It will be interesting to see if you go traditional or modern with the plants! Modern looking plants and wild style roses with delicate buds would look so romantic. Overflowing… How fun it will be to see the before and after from across the street, well not really before bc you could not even see the house, but after tree-demo and after-after =) I would have even opted for a third color, to differentiate it from the tall grey thing on the right. Soft gray-green on the windows maybe. But I am a sucker for quaint… For planters I think the idea is to stop moist from the soil and keep the outside open to dry the wood out, rain is not so bad as the constant moist in the planters, but with cedar I think it will last for a long time anyways. Just if anyone wants to replicate. I am with you on the windows, so well worth it to make them come to life again with linseed oil, it is truly a magic process.

  47. 10.31.14
    Alyssa said:

    Looks great so far! Definitely prefer the white trim. Love that you’re restoring yet another old house. I’m still renting, but I get by with refinishing furniture from the 50s and 60s.

  48. 10.31.14
    Christine said:


    Love what you are doing to the house! We had/have some serious drainage issues in our back yard but a complete regrade of it was not in the plans. The house next to me is like a whole foot higher than me (naturally on the side of two of the basement window too). If we got a nasty rain (one of those 3″+) the back and side yards would fill up, spillover into the window wells which would then go into the basement. Every year! There was an existing french drain there but that wasn’t doing the trick (duh) so we had a couple of catch basins installed at the lowest points next to the house in addition to new french drain. The yard puddles now and we had some nasty nasty rains this year and as long as they have been kept clear of debris (and the exit drain hole cover is removed at the bottom of the driveway), they have been fantastic! Thought that might be an option for your back yard if the grading is really atrocious. I can’t remember how much it was off hand, but they also tied the side downspouts into the underground drain, with two basins, a length of new french drain, and the exit basin thing…maybe $1200? Maybe Edwin will do it for less, if that’s something you’d consider. You can mow right over the catch basin grates too. (like this, at the lowest point in the yard where all the water collects) http://www.sprinklerdrainage.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/dd2-_0459-200×300.jpg)

  49. 10.31.14
    Camilla said:

    Hello from Australia Daniel!

    Firstly, glad to hear you’re feeling a bit better and don’t stress yourself with thinking we are upset. Your posts are well worth the wait and always so engaging and fun to read, you really take the time to show the whole process, its great!

    I like the red door idea thats being thrown around, definitely a fun way to add some color and give this tiny house a bit of a kick in comparison to the monoliths on either side of it! :) So excited to see the planters all filled out.

    Again, love the blog, love the house and good luck!

  50. 10.31.14
    patty blaettler said:

    Those planters make the deep yard seem planned, as opposed to just kind of kooky.
    Very clever, indeed!

  51. 10.31.14
    April said:

    You started demoing? I can’t wait to see! What a tease to mention it so briefly in the diary and not show us pictures.

    This little house is shaping up well. Keep up the great work! I get so excited when your posts show up in my reader.

    • 11.2.14
      Ramos said:

      He’s a bit of a caulk tease.

  52. 10.31.14
    Sarah said:

    Do you think if I started saving now…by the time you finished this little house I could afford to fly you down to TN for an undetermined amount of time and pay you to fix our back yard?? I’m only like 15% joking.

    • 11.10.14
      Daniel said:

      Why not! :)

  53. 10.31.14
    threadbndr said:

    I like the planters. I’m looking forward to them all planted (and I hope the ‘surprise’ yard feature is an arch or pergola like the one in the ‘antique’ picture – it was so cute).

    OH, inside demo! – pictures, please!!!!

  54. 10.31.14
    Mariane said:

    I love the white trim, so much better. I LOVE the planter-fence idea, so clever and very pretty. Too bad you can’t stain your door, it would have been a nice touch with the planters. Is Edwin your house neighbor that did your ceiling? Anyway, he seem like such a good likeable man! Happy Halloween!

    • 11.10.14
      Daniel said:

      Yes, Edwin did our ceilings, too! That’s how we met. I’m so glad he’s around!

  55. 10.31.14
    Patti said:

    Planters…what a great idea! Can’t wait to see where you go next! Btw, what’s up with your neighbor’s roof, is that grass growing up there? Jeesh, they should at least try to keep up with the Joneses.

    • 11.10.14
      Daniel said:

      Yeah, its a bad landlord who owns that building, and there’s stuff growing in the gutters. No good! Hopefully they’ll decide to take better care of the place soon, but I’m not holding my breath. Sigh.

  56. 10.31.14
    colleen said:

    Brilliant, brilliant renovation work!!
    Did I miss something?
    When did the front windows change?
    I just wish we had such cheap property in the UK.
    No chance of finding anything as remotely lovely as your houses for such bargain prices:(

  57. 10.31.14
    sam said:

    Looking great Daniel. Your posts get me through the week, I love them!! Keep it up!!

  58. 10.31.14
    Emily said:

    Wow! I never comment, but I just had to when I saw that you went to a blogger’s conference in Kohler. I live in Sheboygan, just next door! I just get excited because it seems like no one from anywhere other than the Midwest ever comes to Wisconsin :)

    • 11.10.14
      Daniel said:

      It was gorgeous! I need to go back!

  59. 10.31.14
    S@sha said:

    Your Instagram tease of the house with white trim made me even think the remaining green around the door looked good. Then I came to my senses and my next thought, was, “yuck, that’s a terrible 1986 shade of Hunter green.” But maybe a nice glossy green-so-dark-it’s-almost-black door as a subtle nod to the former? Based on your history it is hard for me to imagine that the door will be anything but black. ;)

    • 11.10.14
      Daniel said:

      I’ve thought about that a lot! Maybeee…

  60. 10.31.14
    Lilers said:

    I love the grey and white! I love the planters! I agree with others that a pop of color would do wonders for your little gem…. maybe in the door. Either way, I know you will make it shine! I cannot wait to see what you put in those planters and how it all comes out!!!! Waiting with baited breath :-)

  61. 11.1.14
    Erica W. said:

    I liked it monochrome! Can’t wait to see what you do with that front door and the windows.
    Hope you’re feeling better. Miss the regular updates on the house!

  62. 11.1.14
    gretaclark said:

    A friend suggested that the small mountain of dirt in your front yard was just dumped there when the house was vacant. Maybe it was the dirt they removed from your backyard to lay the asphalt!

  63. 11.1.14
    Jill said:

    Do you have a plan for some kind of seating area or porch for the front yard? It just seems like so much space not to have a way to spend time out there other than just standing in the middle of it. If the house is set this far back, is the backyard small then? That would make it even more desirable to have an outdoor living space in front.

    • 11.10.14
      Daniel said:

      Yes, I do! I have a plan!

      (I’ve actually done it already. Shhhh)

  64. 11.2.14
    Luna said:

    Is it just me or does the porch/overhang thingy on the front of the house look as though it might be missing a couple of posts/columns? Just a thought…

  65. 11.2.14
    Bonnie said:

    I save your posts for Sundays and leisurely cups of coffee. Some Sundays are bare and some Sundays are wonderfully full. I love your writing. The fact that it’s about house rehab is just maple syrup on the waffles.

  66. 11.2.14
    Susan said:

    Hi Daniel, Early days you posted about the cottage’s casement windows and missing hardware–I know Alabama seems another planet, but there is a fabulous architectural salvage store in Cullman, Alabama. Here’s a link to their website.
    I think SA could have what you need, or failing that, help source materials. We were there recently and as I looked thru bins and shelves of ‘what-nots’, I immediately thought of your cranky windows. Fyi, their physical site is basically a city block full of ‘finds’ and “I have no idea what that is, but always wanted one.”

  67. 11.2.14
    Doris said:

    You live my dream! I always wanted to buy old houses, make them beautiful and give them a new life! I love what you are doing. After this post I have a question: Where are the beautiful old front windows? The house looked better with them.

    • 11.10.14
      Daniel said:

      Oh! I mentioned in the post, but they’re just at home getting repaired. These are just the storms! :)

  68. 11.2.14
    AnnInSF said:

    “… different project (coming soon!)” ?! Oooh, I love a good tease! Plus majorly impressed by the planters, both the idea and execution. There’s never any need for you to apologize for intervals between posts. We’re all so happy you’re doing this at all, and so well.

  69. 11.2.14
    Sarah said:

    Love the way the exterior is shaping up! I’m also so happy when you’re pricing things out here. (Same as the diary) I feel so nosy but I feel like I’m learning so much just in knowing how much it’ll cost to do something like paint the house. Those planters are so gorgeous! I can picture how it all looks finished. Can’t wait for the big reveal!

    • 11.10.14
      Daniel said:

      No problem, Sarah! I plan to get more specific about costs as various projects sort of wrap up, but it can be tricky when you’re in the middle of stuff to really breakdown every cent. I love knowing that stuff, though!

  70. 11.2.14
    V said:

    Thought I would pass on a tip from my mother who is a masterful gardner. She swears by a plant food called “Thrive” which you can get at any box store. Apparently it gives 2 years of growth/maturity per season. She (my mom) swears by it when adding plants to the yard so they don’t look dwarfed and new next to stay established plants. Considering you’re wanting to sell sooner than later a boost in growth to help hide the hideous neighbors might be just what you need. Of course if you’re the all natural/organic guy go ahead and ignore this completely. Also, great work on the retaining wall planter hybrid. Amazing!

    • 11.10.14
      Daniel said:

      Good to know, V! Thanks!

  71. 11.5.14
    Cheryl said:

    so what do you do about windows that are in need of a upgrade in terms of energy efficiency and noise reduction? We have a 100 year old house (and 100 year old windows) and we don’t want to lost them either, but they need SOMETHING!

    • 11.8.14
      edythe said:

      Cheryl, yes. I love old windows, too, but… spray-in foam? :\ we have 1947 house.

    • 11.10.14
      Daniel said:

      There are definitely more comprehensive sources about this kind of stuff than me, but here are a few things I’ve learned…

      1. Make sure the glazing on your old windows is in good condition. Cracked or missing glazing should be replaced and repainted, and will keep drafts out.

      2. A good storm window makes a HUGE difference. Storm windows basically act the same way that new double-pane windows do: by creating a void between two layers of glass. An old window in good repair combined with a storm window is basically as energy efficient as a new window—there are lots of misconceptions around this due to the aggressive marketing of new windows.

      3. Old windows can be weatherstripped to provide more draft protection. I’ve never personally done this, but someday I probably should. Alex has a good post about it: http://www.oldtownhome.com/2014/1/15/Installing-Spring-Bronze-Weather-Stripping-for-Antique-Windows/

      4. Curtains and shutters are the traditional methods of energy efficiency, noise reduction, and light filtering! They’re very effective.

      5. If AT ALL POSSIBLE, don’t replace your windows! You’ll spend a ton of money on the new ones, and the energy savings is not worth it if your original windows are in salvageable condition. Additionally, new windows are generally difficult or impossible to repair, meaning they just have to be replaced every 20 years or so…and you’ll never get the old ones (which have already been there for 100 years!) back! Windows really are one of the most important architectural features of a house, and seeing beautiful old windows replaced with new ones nearly always degrades the curb appeal of a home, in my opinion.

      OK, off my soapbox now!

  72. 11.7.14
    Anne said:

    I saw this color scheme and thought of the cottage. It’s a nice contrast, the door vs. the main color of the house.


    • 11.7.14
      CHRIS UEBBING said:

      Whoa, that is one cute house! Making me rethink my color scheme for next year for my own cottage. Where is it? West coast?

    • 11.8.14
      Anne said:

      Yes, west coast. It’s from the blog “Desire to Inspire:”


    • 11.7.14
      Camilla said:


    • 11.8.14
      Anne said:

      Yeah, it’s the orange screen door over the salmon main door that makes it work really well.

    • 11.10.14
      Daniel said:

      So cute!

  73. 11.8.14
    kbb said:

    Front door needs to be shiny and dark. lmo

  74. 11.9.14
    linette said:

    Bravo Beau travail Beaucoup de bonnes idées Je vous souhaite une bonne santé Prenez soin de vous. Je regarde votre blog avec beaucoup de plaisir.

  75. 11.9.14
    Judy said:

    Congratulations Well done many good ideas I wish you good health Take care of yourself. I look at your blog with great pleasure.


    • 11.10.14
      Daniel said:

      Thanks, both of you! :)

  76. 11.11.14
    linette said:

    Je remercie beaucoup Judy pour la traduction, je ne possède pas la langue anglaise (mauvaise élève à l’école !!!!) et lorsque je dit quelques mots mes enfants rient beaucoup de mon accent. J’aime les blogs décoration américains (il y la traduction google). Bonne continuation.