Wednesday, July 2, 2014

My Boring Ranch Home Exterior Gets a New Look - Cottage Style (Phase 1)

 "You enter the cottage through a small lattice gate,
step over about a yard of cobbles and knock 
at the front door, which is painted green 
and hung with a very pretty brass door-knocker 
that I bought in Venice, in a thunderstorm. 
You open the front door, and find yourself 
in a square hall, roofed with very thick beams." 
A Thatched Roof by Beverly Nichols

My previous home, a 1937 cottage style cape in Virginia.
(click to enlarge)

It has been several weeks since my last post and I'm about to tell you what has kept me so very very busy, and away from my Blog. 

If you've been following along you know that in 2012 my husband had to take a job transfer so we moved away from our lovely little 1937 cottage style cape in a historic neighborhood. We had only been in that home a few years, and it was our favorite of all the other homes we'd owned in the 32 years we'd lived in Virginia.

My new home, a 1999 transitional rancher in West Virginia.
(click to enlarge)

As if the move wasn't hard enough both physically and emotionally, pictured above was the best home we could find in our new area within our price range in a good location - and this after looking at over 70 homes in 3 states over an 8 month period. In short, we settled. 

I won't go into all the details of why we chose this home, but one of the deciding factors was that it was well under budget which allowed us to transform it. We began with the interior, which is still under renovation but nearly complete. You WILL NOT want to miss that post! So be sure to join and follow my blog so you'll be able to keep up.

But this post is about the front porch and landscaping makeover we've undertaken these past several weeks.

Natural stone raised bed, dry laid with soil "mortar". (click to enlarge)

We first set out to create a raised a bed on the left end of the front foundation by salvaging an old stone wall from the back of our property. Our front yard slopes a bit here and the raised bed makes for a nice transition to a new cutting garden/rain garden we've created at the end of the house. We had a few huge boulders and most all of the stones were rounded which makes it a challenge to create a retaining wall. 

I found a great site on the web that showed how to create it using soil as mortar. We started by making a trench and filling it with gravel, then began stacking the stones and filling around them with the soil mortar. We backfilled with more gravel and a compost soil mix we brought in from a local supplier. We also made sure to create a 16" wide gravel area next to the foundation, which is always a good thing to do and will make it easier for me to manage the flower boxes I plan to install there.

Front porch, sidewalk and landscaping makeover - BEFORE (click to enlarge)

Now, since we'd blown our budget on the interior reno we're doing our home exterior makeover in phases, with the front porch and sidewalk reno being Phase 1. The porch is extremely shallow (I call it a "front porch wanna-be") so we chose to remove the railings. And to give more "presence" to the original "dinky" porch posts we wrapped them with PVC boards, which we then finished off with a decorative post base and cap. 

Front porch, sidewalk and landscaping makeover - AFTER.
(click to enlarge)

These are not kit components, which can be pricey, so we cut and constructed the wraps from stock PVC "lumber". Mind you my husband and I are NOT carpenters, but this actually went very well and we are VERY pleased! 

Working with PVC lumber is much like working with real wood, amazingly enough, but there are definitely some important differences. It requires a particular type of saw blade for one thing, and the "dust" that accumulates is not at all "environmentally friendly". It is plastic after all.
Close up of stained concrete porch and sidewalk. (click to enlarge)

We also stained our concrete front porch floor and sidewalk a combo of brown and grey to blend in with the natural stone we used in the landscaping, then added a grey manufactured stone border around the sidewalk to tie in with the house color. 

Nearly a blank slate for a new cottage garden.
(click to enlarge)

A natural stone footpath surrounded by creeping Mother of Thyme was then installed from the sidewalk leading to our new rain garden/cutting garden. 

Next Phase: window boxes! or new door? cupola maybe? Decisions, decisions!
(click to enlarge)

Well, I'm still a long long way from achieving the charm of the 1937 cape I had in Virginia, but I know I'll get there. Having to run nearly every project through the Architectural Review Board in my new neighborhood is agonizing, however. But it will do for now, until my husband retires in a few years when we may yet again relocate.

Future Phases of our ranch home exterior makeover will include a storm door, window boxes, a cupola (to break up the long roofline) and a pergola over the garage doors. And that's just the front of the house! I must say I'm very tired and glad to be back in my studio!

Please feel free to email me directly with any questions! 

Porcelain ceramic greenware tiny houses and mini veggies ready to be bisque fired.
(click to enlarge)

Here's a sneak peak at some lovely things I've sculpted this week which are nearly ready for a bisque fire. Other than a few herbs and tomato plants, I don't yet have a kitchen garden so I'm having fun creating some imaginary baby veggies, as well as a great deal of other new lovelies for my Etsy shop, to be listed probably around mid to late July.

Next post: Some of my favorite flowers from my cutting garden!
(click to enlarge)

Next post:  In my "I'd Rather Be Gardening" Series, I'll be sharing some of my favorite flowers from my new cutting garden and a very special nursery where I purchase many of them. And remember my last post about the new clematis "Sweet Summer Love"? Well I'll have photos and an update on how it is performing for me.


Vicki Boster said...

It must be a wonderful feeling to be bringing your beautiful home alive with gardens and new additions. It is truly lovely -- I love all the garden areas next to the porch and along the side of your house. I can't wait to see your gardens when you have finished with them!

The little vegetables are absolutely adorable -- cant wait to see what you have planned for them!


CynthiaCrane said...

Thank you for your sweet comment Vicki! Having a blank slate to work with is both exciting and daunting at the same time. But it is, of course, a labor of love!

Sandra at Thistle Cove Farm said...

Your improvements are marvelous and hard work easily visible. Next, I want a ranch house but on land and not in a subdivision or "community". I'm jut not a "community" kinda gal -LOL-. The farm is for sale, if you know someone who wants to live in heaven on earth, have them visit here . Since Dave died, the work load is aging
The front porch looks better without the railings; seems to make it larger.
I missed your giveaway but wouldn't have know the character; I no longer have television.
Lovely jug/pitcher in the last photo...lovely!
Finally...thank you for allowing one to sign as guest; that disquis thing is beyond my capabilities!

CynthiaCrane said...

Thank you Sandra - for all your lovely comments! I really detest living in a sub, but searching for an affordable farmette here was what took us so long to finally settle on something. The farmette was not to be - too little inventory and Berkeley County has no zoning laws! Did you EVER hear of such a thing?!!! We needed to be where we are because my husband works very long days and wanted to be very close to his job. So we'll stick it out until he retires in a few years. We looking at Floyd County, VA, one of my favorite places in all of VA. Wish I could buy your farm! Good luck with that! I will soon dump Disqus, because it has proven to be a real problem, but that will mean losing ALL of my previous comments so I'm dragging my feet on that.

nicole said...

Goodness!!! The transformation of your front garden is outstanding! I just love the stones you have through your space! And your new pieces that you sculpted are exquisite!!! And your old cottage home was very charming as well! A job well done!!! And a happy weekend to you!

Hedgerow Rose said...

Wow! What a transformation, already! I can't wait to see the continued progress...thanks for sharing! :)

CynthiaCrane said...

Thank you Laurie! You have been such an inspiration - I need roses - lots of them as I'm sure you'll agree!

CynthiaCrane said...

Thank you so much Nicole!

FlowerLady Lorraine said...

Yay! You did it. Now I can leave comments. :-)

I think you and your hubby have done a fantastic job so far and I look forward to seeing what you've done inside.

Have a great week ~ FlowerLady


Yes, Rainey, I should have dumped the Disqus comment gadget long ago!

Kimberly~Nutbrown Cottage said...

You are a true artist, Cynthia! Anyone that can transform a plain ol' ranch into a cottage is an artist! Well done!