Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Island dreaming

Hello all! I’m excited about our family room renovation for many reasons, but one of the biggies is that I feel like I can finally move ahead with the kitchen as well. I’ve been planning it for literally YEARS but wasn’t sure about a few things until we were able to move things around. It’s still a long way off – I won’t start till next year. But I am wanting to move ahead with the island expansion sooner than later.

Could be because it now looks like this:

Instead of this: wood counter on island

It was torn up to put the hardwoods underneath and I can live with it like that for awhile, but soon it will drive me crazy. Not there yet. Soon.

So like all big projects, I have to sit on it for awhile and daydream about what I want. I find when I do that I end up with something that functions and looks good – both are important to me when I DIY.

My plan is to expand the island two directions – length-wise and width-wise. When I say width I mainly mean extending the sides out to kind of “frame” the stools, like this:

kitchen island with sides built out

(source)

So it won’t be much wider – maybe a few inches. But I love this added detail on islands.

I loved this idea too:

extra storage kitchen island

(source)

The added storage is never a bad thing, am I right? I think that is brilliant. It’s easy to access the cabinets too, which is important.

I’ve always planned on a small bookshelf at the end of the island for cook books and other things we grab often (stop laughing…I cook sometimes):

bookcase in island

But I may not have room for those cookbooks because now I’m dreaming of having a food station for the animals in the island, like this:

dog food station

I shared a bunch of food storage ideas here and I could totally DIY this one.

But the BIG thing I want to do in the kitchen island is take the microwave off the wall and put it in there somewhere:

black island marble counter

(source)

I know this isn’t for everyone but I think it’s BRILLIANT. Of course we would need a smaller microwave that vents differently, but I love the idea. I could put a vent hood over the oven where the microwave is now.

Some are built in seamlessly:

built in microwave kitchen island

(source)

microwave storage in island

(source)

But I think I could create something that would work just as well – I don’t need it to be completely built in. Sitting there is just fine. :)

I loved this whole kitchen but this one is a good example:

microwave built in island

(source)

And this is a similar island set up:

microwave in kitchen island

(source)

Love the pretty detail on that one!

So that’s my plan – add storage, shelving, a food station and a microwave. It will be ten feet long by the time I’m done with it. ;) We were able to move the island out a bit so after it’s extended there will be plenty of room between the stove and the island. We’ll still be able to walk around it when the door is open so it won’t feel cramped.

I’m excited about this project – just not sure when I’ll tackle it since I have so much to do in the family room. But I have a plan in mind and that’s half my battle!

Do you have a big kitchen island with a ton of storage? Is your microwave down low? I’d love to hear your experience with it!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Late summer backyard tour

Hello!! How was your weekend? Wonderful I hope! Sorry for the absence last Friday – I was traveling home from an amazing trip to Des Moines Iowa. I got to visit the Better Homes and Gardens headquarters and was pinching myself the whole time.

I’ll tell you more about that trip soon, but for now I’m enjoying no more travel for quite some time. I LOVE to travel am such a homebody as I get older. Now that I’m home for a while I feel like I can really tackle some projects I’ve been putting off.

One of those was cleaning up the outside this past weekend – we tend to let things go during the summer. Although I have no excuse for it this year since it’s been so lovely. Usually I can blame the heat and humidity for my laziness but not so much this year. Just lazy. :)

I cleaned up the patio and deck and did some fall planting in the containers and figured it was a good time to share the backyard. I shared it early summer last year and we’ve added quite a few plants since.

Our backyard isn’t tiny but it isn’t large by any stretch. And it has a big slope that made it hard to use. We had a deck installed soon after moving in and then our patio was added a few years ago as our yay-we-are-finally-out-of-debt present to ourselves. ;)

I took a lot of pictures, bear with me! I just love it! Here’s the view on the side of the house as we walk to the backyard:

black mulch gardening beds

Those tall maples to the left used to be in our front yard and we replaced them about eight years ago because they would NOT grow. They grew all skinny and weird and looked horrible. We had the landscapers put them in the side yard, not thinking they would do any better. But now they are HUGE. I mean, almost taller than the house. And the newer ones up front still won’t grow. Don’t get it. :)

My limelight hydrangea to the right is doing AMAZING this year. Gah. It’s so beautiful and still growing!:

limelight hydrangea

The burning bushes lined up on the left are doing OK considering the trauma from this winter. After one of the many heavy snowfalls we walked out to find every single one of them gnawed down to half their size:

burning bushes

They were SO big and beautiful – turns out some hungry bunnies sat on the snow (that was half way up the bushes), ate the buds, and in the process gnawed off every. single. branch. I’m surprised the plants came back, but they did. It will take a few years for them to get back to the size they were last year.

To the right are some of my (many, MANY) hydrangeas:

growing hydrangeas

These aren’t getting as much light with those trees blocking most of the morning sun so I may have to move them. One is only blooming underneath, which is totally weird. The other is doing well:

pink hydrangeas

Love those pink blooms!

Last year we added a few trees to the backyard around the patio. We get full sun back there all day so we’re always trying to figure out ways to add some shade. The river birch are SO beautiful!:  river birch trees

I’ve always dreamed of having them in my landscaping. I’m obsessed with their peeling bark. They are a lovely “light” tree but do shade well.

Remember, here in about a month to six weeks plants will go on sale and it’s a perfect time to purchase and plant! I got my PeeGee trees years ago on clearance --they are probably my favorites in the backyard:

PeeGee hydrangea

The one on the left has fully bloomed, the one on the right is still finishing up. See how heavy they get when they bloom? The branches bend almost to the ground and the trunk bends as well. It’s because the blooms can get as big as my head. :)

It scares me though – I feel like they might just snap, so I may stake them to take some of that pressure off:

PeeGee hydrangea

In the fall those white blooms turn the most gorgeous pinkish green color I’ve ever seen. I adore them.

Around the corner to the back I have more hydrangea and another river birch:

river birch tree

There are four hydrangeas just right there. I’m unabashedly obsessed. :)

Most of those rocks were put in when we did the patio and goodness…who knew how expensive rocks would be?? I added a few more a couple summers ago when a friend was redoing her landscaping and getting rid of a bunch. I was happy to take them.

I have a favorite rock. Is that weird?:

growing moss on rocks

This is the only rock that grows moss every year. The moss grows between the pavers on the patio too and I’m in love.

Here’s a view to the patio from the back of the yard:

stone patio off deck

See those big fat hydrangea blooms on the right? That’s happiness right there. :)

This is one of my favorite views as you come through the other side:

flagstones in landscaping

And as you come around the corner – two of my peonies are here and a start to a butterfly garden:

white railings red deck

We have very little grass in the backyard – it’s mostly mulch. Mulch is awesome because it’s low maintenance but the mulch bill makes me sob a little bit every year:

white railings on deck

On this side of the yard I have knockouts, some evergreen bushes and another favorite, the lamb’s ear:

knockout rose bushes

The knockouts had a rough year because of the harsh winter. They did OK, but not nearly as well as most summers.

Here’s the view from the other side of the house, looking back:

I have big plans for this side – hoping next year I can make that happen. :)

Our favorite place to be in the fall is on our patio – this past spring I found a little pergola on clearance that I placed at the entrance:

stone patio

Earlier this summer I moved some furniture around on the patio and deck and I like it SO much more this way. Now the sectional (craigslist find years ago) is down here:

outdoor sectional

I reworked the small tables that went with it years back and now they are the coffee table in front of it – you can see how I did that here.

This weekend I moved the chairs by the fireplace around just a bit and that little change made such a big difference!:

outdoor fireplace

We used to have the chairs on the sides with the table down the middle but this is SO much more comfy. Now everyone is near the fire – love it:

outdoor fireplace seating

Sitting out here with the fire going and a glass of wine…it doesn’t get much better my friends:

outdoor fireplace on patio

You can see more of the deck in this post. I love the furniture moved around – we finally moved the potting bench up near the table so I can use it as a buffet when we entertain:

deck design

And here’s a view from the back door:

deck design

Gardening has become a passion of mine since we added the patio – I find it incredibly satisfying. The upkeep takes some time and can be hard work, but it’s worth it to me. Over the next few years I want to learn more so I can “layer” some more plants into what we already have. I love the full look of an English garden and want to try to incorporate that feel.

It’s a space I’m really proud of – the backyard is our little oasis and we absolutely LOVE our it. Can you believe fall is almost here? Even though we’ve had a pretty mild summer I’m so excited. Do you have an outdoor space you love?