Kitchen Progress: Heights House

A couple weeks ago I shared a complete “Moving in” tour of the Heights House (btw, the YouTube video is already up to 100k views—insanity!) with a quick walkthrough of each room.

Today I want to dive into the room a lot of you have been asking about—none other than the heart of our home, the kitchen…

This isn’t a room reveal post (we still have a few things to do in here!) but a progress report where I’ll be sharing the sources and our plans to complete the space.

First thing’s first—make sure to check out the Kitchen Plans post from back in January, which explains the whole design process and all the decision making, including cabinet selection, fixtures and appliances.

I partnered with Lowe’s on this project, choosing Kraftmaid cabinets (I used them in my Modern Farmhouse and Cottage Flip and was very happy with the results, so it was an easy choice) in the color Mushroom, with the Durham Maple Square face. We had a lot of fun choosing our layout and storage features—I’ll have to do a dedicated post soon showing exactly how we organize everything.

I went into detail on this in the Kitchen Plans post, but we ended up choosing Silestone Quartz Calacatta Gold counters after seeing the slab in person. The overall design is pretty subtle, but more noticeable in person than the photos…

I love that it’s not too “in your face” and I think it’s classic enough to stay on trend for many years.

The overall tone is white with soft gray veining, but it does have bits of gold in some areas (hence the Calacatta Gold name).

Our counter installation isn’t actually complete yet, if you’ve noticed the lack of a backsplash. We were waiting for the stove to be installed before having them take the last measurement, since we’ll be adding quartz above the stove inside the range hood surround:

I think it’s going to look pretty stunning with our brass pot filler…

I ordered this Danze Opulence pot filler to match the stove & faucet. It’s heavy solid brass and I can’t wait to use it 🙂

And while we’re talking about this range hood, the surround started as a mockup I made in Illustrator…

I worked directly with my builder and one of his carpenters to bring it to life over a few days.

I freehanded the templates for the curved sides, and they used plywood and 2×4’s to construct the frames.

We had to make a couple modifications but I think they did a fantastic job of executing my vision.

Did you know drywall could be so flexible?

The surface was given a few coats of mud, sanded down and painted, and that’s where we’re at today. I’ll likely need to coat the inside with satin paint to make cleanups easier—we’ll see how it does over time!

Ok, I’m sure you’re all wanting to hear more about the star of the show, the work of fine Italian art that is our range…

It’s a 48″ dual fuel Hallman range, white with brass hardware. I purchased it through Appliances Connection (it’s the same price and lead time no matter where you order from) because of their rewards program—we bought our 48″ range hood at a discount with points from our stove order.

Overall, it wasn’t a perfect experience. I originally ordered the ‘bronze’ hardware which is depicted as almost a champagne gold in Hallman’s photos (it was a close call for me between this and the brass, which is $100 less):

Then I did a bit more research and found a real life customer photo—the bronze is actually more like black (oil rubbed bronze) in real life! Nothing like the product photo. I immediately called Appliances Connection and requested to change to brass (this was about a week after placing the order) and they said it was too late, and that I’d have to pay $800 to change the hardware. Umm, no thanks, and Hallman really needs to fix their product photo (they said it was in the works, but five months later it still hasn’t been updated—here’s how the bronze really looks):

I came to terms with the bronze hardware and even decided I liked it. Then last month when we called to get an update (it was past the delivery date at this point) they told us that the order was delayed for two more months because they didn’t have the bronze hardware in stock. In an ironic turn of events, they offered to ship it out with the brass hardware, which was in stock, at no additional charge. So that worked out…

It took five months to arrive from Italy (we actually just received the toe kick last night after trying to track it down for weeks) and we’ve barely had a chance to use it because our gas was only hooked up two days ago. The gas installer broke the elbow pipe while attempting to install it the first time and it’s a special pipe from the manufacturer, so he wasn’t able to find a replacement. Fortunately, the CEO of Hallman himself reached out and offered to expedite the part for us at no cost, which was a pleasant surprise!

However, the ignition on one of the burners has already stopped working so we’re going to have to call customer service and hope it’s an easy fix. So far, the only verdict is that it’s an incredibly gorgeous appliance and I’ll be extremely disappointed if it doesn’t operate half as good as it looks… because this girl likes to cook. I took a gamble with this range because the price is significantly less than anything else in its class, so I’m hoping Hallman won’t let me down!

On the topic of appliances—I’m a firm believer that they should either be beautiful, or hidden. There are a few major companies that are finally coming around (hello, GE Café) and offering customizable colors, but the majority are still stuck in the stainless steel era.

Long before designing this kitchen I was pretty set on using integrated/panel-ready appliances that would blend into the cabinets as seamlessly as possible. These tend to be pricier than your average appliance, but well worth every penny in my opinion. Can you spot the dishwasher?

Well hi there, handsome!

After lots of reviews, I landed on this Bosch model and so far, we’re very pleased (especially after living without a dishwasher for over two years—what a luxury!) A few of you with the same model messaged me on Instagram saying how much you loved it, too. It has a separate utensil rack, which is basically the greatest invention in recent dishwasher history. I’ll be sure to cover it more in depth in my kitchen organization post.

Another choice we’re quite happy with is our KitchenAid panel ready fridge. With the exception of an exquisite Italian range, I’d always prefer panel-ready appliances (fridge & dishwasher) to anything metal, customizable or not. An uninterrupted row of cabinets just looks so much cleaner, don’t you agree?

Not going to lie, it was no picnic to get these panels on for us first-timers. We took on the challenge ourselves as our cabinet installer was stumped.

It took a couple nights, trips to the hardware store, and a lot of tiny adjustments to make it work. But we love our new fridge!

You know what else we love? Our hardware. Swoon.

Relatively speaking, these were the biggest splurge in the kitchen. I’m always a cheapskate when it comes to hardware, shopping for bargains on Ebay and Amazon, so this order was  tough one for me to pull the trigger on. Here’s the thing—I didn’t have a lot to choose from, because I needed matching appliance pulls for the fridge and freezer. These are a specialty item so there’s not a ton of options, and the few I liked were $$$ (ours were $185 each—ouch!)

And then of course I needed all of the matching cabinet pulls, which weren’t nearly as expensive but it all added up. These are RK International satin brass and I ordered from (the only retailer I found that carries the full line). Here’s the order breakdown, for those wondering:

While we’re on the brass train, let’s talk about this faucet!It’s from Lowe’s and a great price, especially for solid brass. I just love those vintage European hot/cold taps! It was one of the first things I chose for this kitchen and originally I thought I might give it a light buffing with steel wool so it has more of a satin look to match the pulls, but it matches the stove and pot filler so I’m leaning towards keeping it as is.

The sink is a 30″ VIGO Matte single basin farmhouse, and I chose it because the pretty detailing on the front (for some reason the 30″ size isn’t on Lowe’s anymore, but they have other sizes and styles). I’ve used different styles of farmhouse sinks in the past and like to switch it up every time!

And wrapping up our hardware/fixture selections are these lovely vintage schoolhouse sconces—I ordered four at a great price from Lowe’s:

This was many months ago and unfortunately Lowe’s no longer carries them, but I found them (also very affordable!) here on Amazon.

One thing Lowe’s does still have in stock, that is one of my all-time favorite finds (and decisions for our house) are these floors.

I’ve mentioned them several times on this blog but if you’re new to the party, these are the Villa Barcelona Terrassa French Oak engineered planks. Only $4.99/sf, beautifully textured and have proven to be pretty much indestructible so far (they survived tools dropping from ladders and heavy appliances dragged across them without a single visible scratch).

Oh, speaking of ladders—we have a few exciting projects coming up! We’re currently working with a local metal fabricator to build a custom iron ladder that will be mounted onto the side of the fridge to access our wine cabinet.

Don’t judge our sad collection at the moment—one of us hasn’t been able to enjoy wine for 6 months 😉

Another project in the works is this barrister bookcase I scored on Facebook marketplace. I plan to paint it black and use it as our pantry/food storage.

Because pantry items are not the most pleasant thing to look at, I ordered this frosted window film in a matte ivory color to hide the contents. I think the warmer shade is much nicer (and less modern looking) than your traditional frosted glass cabinets. Looking forward to seeing how this one turns out!

Another furniture refinishing project is also in the works, and it may be the death of me. I apparently forgot (or blacked out) what a pain it is to sand stained and lacquered furniture down to bare wood—especially larger pieces with lots of little details…

It took me almost two hours just to sand the top of this piece with an orbital sander, and that was the easy part. I have to change the pad out every 5-10 minutes because it gets gunked up with lacquer and stops working. Sanding is my least favorite DIY activity of all (and paint stripper to remove lacquer is even messier and you still have to sand—anyone have a miracle solution??)

The end goal is to get it down to a nice natural wood tone, and I think all the effort will be worth it. The hutch will be used to hold our microwave, coffee maker, and cups/barware on the two upper shelves. It’ll sit on the counter, centered above these two end cabinets—can you picture it?

I found this relatively compact microwave (that still fits our biggest plates) for only $76 that fits perfectly inside the hutch (we’ve been using it every day and love it).

You may have also caught a glimpse of something new in the last photo… I painted our French doors! If you recall, they were wood (mahogany) before:

I didn’t mind the wood (the exterior will be left as is and we’re leaving our front door mahogany as well) but once the wood hutch is introduced, there will be too many competing wood tones next to each other. And you know how much I love a good black door…

PS I used SW Tricorn Black (one of only two blacks I ever use, Valspar Cracked Pepper being the second, and they’re basically identical).

The last project we’re currently working on are floating shelves for the back wall. I ordered these brackets from Shelfology —I’ve worked with them on a few floating shelf projects in the past and knew they’d be perfect.

We’ll be adding four shelves total—two on either side of the range hood—using cypress wood from a local lumber mill. Can’t wait to stock them up and give this kitchen some life!

And that should cover everything so far! We’re hoping to get the shelving, ladder, bookcase and hutch finished within the next month (spread out amongst all of our other projects) and then I can do a more formal kitchen reveal. Although I still need to find a really great rug and maybe some window treatments, and those things take time!

Here’s a little sneak peek at the toe kick I just took this morning… it’s just sitting on the floor because there doesn’t appear to be a way to actually install it, so that’s one more thing we’re going to have to figure out…

I’ll be sharing the progress on my Instagram stories as we tackle the rest of our to-do list in here, so make sure you’re following me there for all the latest updates! Next up is the reveal of our master closet at the Riverside Retreat…


Main Bathroom Design: Riverside Retreat

Two days ago I shared our plans to divide our main bathroom at the Riverside Retreat into two, adding a small master bath plus a closet:

Over the next week we’re focusing on completing the closet, but work on both bathrooms will be in progress simultaneously with the help of our handyman.

Let’s dive right into our plans for the main bathroom! It was the only one in this three bedroom house, which we’re renovating to use as a vacation rental with the capacity to sleep up to 10 guests. Clearly, one bathroom will not cut it! Here’s how it looked before:

Talk about 50 shades of white…

The one thing it had going for it was its size—which isn’t huge by anyone’s standards, but a lot of it was wasted space and fortunately there was room to steal some of it for another bathroom. Here’s the original floor plan:

And here’s our plan to reconfigure the area, adding a master bath and closet:

One more thing to point out here—the goal for this project (and the entire house) is to keep the budget as minimal as possible, while still making smart and stylish upgrades. We’ve done pretty well so far staying on track with the rest of the house, but now we’re getting to the more expensive projects (kitchen and bathrooms) so affordability is top of mind.

With that said, I came up with a design plan I’m really excited about, using budget-friendly finds from Lowe’s + a DIY wall treatment:

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The main feature of this bathroom will be the forest green walls, which I’ve wanted to try for a long time now. We’ll be DIY’ing a simple board and batten treatment (complete with a blog and video tutorial!) so stay tuned for that next month. I haven’t decided on the exact color yet—waiting until the walls are in so I can test out a few samples in the room (never commit to a color before testing swatches in person!) Here’s a vague idea of how it will look, to give you a real-life example:

Via @kirsten.diane

But closer to this color:

via @buildingwalnutfarm

The next decision to make was flooring. This charming black and white tile caught my eye at Lowe’s and I couldn’t get it out of my head…

It has an old world/classic look that is fitting for our 1940’s home, it’s durable, stain and slip resistant which is perfect for a vacation rental (or any house, really) and I love the contrast of the light pattern with the rich green walls and molding. Since our bathroom is only 50 square feet, the cost (including installation materials) will come in at under $300. For me, this tile was a no brainer!

Next up: the 36″ Scott Living vanity:

You may recognize this from another bathroom renovation we completed a few months ago…

I was very pleased with the style, storage and quality of the 48″ we used in our guest bathroom, so it was an easy choice to go this route again—especially given the price ($499 including the stone top and sink!)The open storage at the bottom is also a bonus for storing extra towels. Just like the last vanity, I plan to swap out the chrome knobs with simple brass $3 round knobs to customize the look.

For the faucet, I found this pretty Venetian Bronze Delta Valdosta for only $170:


And one of my favorite finds for this room—this bronze schoolhouse vanity light, on sale for only $79 right now!

The only item I haven’t sourced yet is a mirror for the vanity. I’m hoping to find something antique (I try to incorporate at least one vintage piece in every room) and secondhand mirrors are plentiful on Facebook marketplace/Offer Up/Craigslist, so I’m confident I can find something in the coming weeks. Ideally it will be an oval or curved shape (similar to the mood board) with some sort of nice frame detailing. We’ll see what pops up!

The shower wall tile is the only area that could be considered a minor splurge. I spotted these brick style subway tiles on display at Lowe’s the other night and fell in love…

The photos don’t do it justice. They have a really nice rustic texture that looks almost like the surface of bricks, which I think will go nicely with the aged texture of the floors. At only $1.29/tile they’re still a good deal, but since we’re tiling the entire shower all the way up to our 9′ ceilings, I’ll need to order quite a bit.

I’m making up for the cost of tile by choosing affordable fixtures, like this Delta Venetian Bronze tub/shower faucet for only $130:

I’ve had good experiences with Delta, and this bronze finish also matches the vanity faucet so this was another easy choice. We also need to replace the tub, so I looked for the best deal with good ratings and landed on this simple white American Standard 5′ tub (under $300):

On the wall next to the shower, I’ll be picking up a handful of my favorite $5 gold hooks to hang towels:

And that’s the design! I’ll be figuring out a few last minute details like the vanity mirror, shower curtain and artwork over the coming weeks, but it feels great having the main elements in place. Coming up with the design is just as important as the execution, in my book!

While we were on our babymoon last month, our handyman began demo on the bathroom. Goodbye old shower!

He ran into some issues, like having to pour a new cement post in the foundation because there was nothing holding up corner wall near the tub…

We also discovered all of the original 1940’s cast iron plumbing, and decided to replace it throughout the house. It was a good thing we did—yikes!

The old contractors left all the construction debris underneath the house rather than disposing of it, like remnants of the original tile:

Extra time was also spent replacing many of the rotted floor joists, so this baby was taken down completely to the foundation. Here’s the view from the door (the toilet used to be below the window):

And looking to the left, where the wall was removed to make room for the new master bath:

Here’s the view from inside the bedroom, looking into what will become both bathrooms:

The shower wall, standing from inside the new master bath:

The vanity will sit in this corner:

The bathroom door and closet were framed last week:

The plumbing should be finished soon, then the new subfloor can be installed along with framing to divide the two bathrooms. The progress has been much slower than we anticipated (and costlier due to all the surprises) but that’s how renovations go sometimes (most of the time ?) so we’re rolling with the punches.

The next bathroom update will be a blog tutorial + timelapse video of one of my favorite easy wall treatments: board and batten. Looking forward to sharing those with you in a few weeks, if all goes well!

Stay tuned for all the details on our new kitchen at the Heights House, coming next week…


Building a Closet from Scratch: Riverside Retreat

Now that we’re moved into the Heights House, it’s full steam ahead on all the remaining projects at the Riverside Retreat—two bathrooms, two bedrooms, a kitchen and bonus room (that’s almost half the house—we still have a long way to go before it’s rent ready!)

Over the next month I’ll be sharing our design plans and progress for each space, with the goal of having it completed in early fall (baby’s due date in August was our hope, but that’s not looking very likely anymore).

Demo began on the bathroom while we were on our babymoon a couple weeks ago (you can read/watch more about that in this post) and we were hoping to be further along at this point, but then came the delays—like replacing the rotted floor joists and the original cast iron plumbing throughout the house—which have pushed our timeline for this project back at least a few weeks.

But the show must go on, and I figured I’d take the opportunity today to share the design plans and progress so far—specifically for our new master closet.

When we first moved in, the bedroom at the back of the house looked like this:

It had a small closet in the corner that was added on at some point:

And on the other side of this wall was the one and only bathroom in the house:

This was where we slept for a couple months after moving in, and we made it halfway decent:

We took down the closet when the new floors went in and have used it as an office/storage/hoarders room ever since. It’s a hot mess.

From the beginning we planned to turn this into a master by splitting the existing bathroom into two, and taking a few feet away from the room for a closet and small master bathroom. Here’s the original floor plan (I use the Homestyler software for my floor plans/renderings):

They aren’t big rooms, but definitely large enough to work with to maximize the functionality of this house. Here’s the plan we came up with:

A section was taken from the main bathroom to create a (tiny) master bath, and the new south wall of the master bedroom pushed up 30″ to allow more space for the new bathroom and a closet. And there’s still enough room for a queen canopy bed and two large night stands! The reconfigured areas are highlighted below:

And a 3D view, just for fun (these aren’t representational of the exact furnishings/materials that will be used):

Another view from the opposite end, looking at the front of the closet and bathroom door:

I’m still finalizing the design for the bathrooms so I’ll do separate posts outlining all of those details soon, but for today, let’s focus on the closet.

The first step was to cut an opening in the main bathroom for the master bath. This photo was taken standing at the door to the main bathroom, you can see the bedroom on the other side.

Then came framing (view from the bedroom looking back into both bathrooms)…

The beginnings of a closet!

Framing was finally completed last week. You can see the door opening for the new master bathroom on the left.

Then drywall, always the most exciting part:

And taping/mudding, which should be finished today:

Here’s how it looks as of now:

And as a quick refresh, here’s that same wall when we moved in last year:

Okay, time for the fun part… the design! I’ve been saving ideas to Pinterest for over a year and finally get to put my inspiration into action.

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The first thing I identified for the closet was glass panel French doors. I’ve been obsessed with using these in closets for a while and this was the perfect opportunity to do something that felt special and unique. I found these unfinished wood bifold glass doors at Lowe’s, and ordered two in the 24×80″ size (48″ total width):

Unfortunately it looks like they’re no longer available (boo!) but Lowe’s does have a frosted glass version in the same sizes. I also found these which are super affordable, and I absolutely love the 3/4 glass panel style:

Here’s one of my inspiration images from Pinterest (I can’t track down the original source) but how amazing are these?

Tonight I’m picking up fabric to mount behind the glass and I can’t wait to see the results. It is such a charming and elegant look, and it doesn’t have to be expensive! I’ll also be swapping out the wood knobs for these $3 antique brass pulls.

Next, I found this white wood closet kit that can be customized to fit different widths.

Lowe’s carries several different options for materials, colors and configurations and if this were my own home I’d definitely add all the bells and whistles. For a vacation rental, however, simple and affordable is best! This setup fit our needs and budget—though you can get the same kit and add drawers for an upgraded look.

I also found this wood and cloth laundry hamper which will come in handy for guests staying longer than a weekend. I love the simple design and the fact that it’s compact (and under $40!)


One way to dress things up without spending a fortune is wallpaper. Fortunately, I have a couple rolls of this toile wallpaper leftover from our powder bath at the Heights House—yay for free!

And speaking of keeping costs down, I plan to reuse paint I already have on hand to complete this project. The walls will be painted the same color as the rest of the room (SW Alabaster), the baseboards + door trim will be the same color as the rest of the house (SW Loggia) and the french doors will be Valspar’s Cracked Pepper.

We’re waiting on the bathroom door to be delivered and installed before the weekend, and then we’ll be able to get the trim up and everything painted. Aiming to have the closet portion of this project completed by the end of next week—let’s hope there are no more delays!

Check back in a couple days for the design plans and progress on the main bathroom…

Heights House Full Tour: Moving In

We’ve officially been “moved in” for around ten days now, and I couldn’t forget to document the house in its’ early stages before we slowly transform it into our home! Watch below for a complete room by room tour:

If you’re brand new to the party—a quick backstory:

We purchased this property in February 2018, when it was a modest little house in need of some serious TLC:

Renovations began immediately, but a month later it tragically and unexpectedly caught on fire, destroying most of the house. We were at a loss for what to do at the time, but quickly found the silver lining…

We decided to take the opportunity to start over and build our dream home in its place. For months we worked on the floor plan and design, and with the help of our awesome builder, our beauty from ashes was born just nine months after breaking ground.

The new Heights House is a 4 bedroom, 2.5 bath (plus bonus room) approximately 2600 square feet. We’re calling it a “french country cottage tudor” style—a mix of all of our favorite European influences.

When you walk through the front door, you’ll see the staircase on the left:

Straight ahead is the dining area (with the kitchen in the back).

And to the right is the largest room in the house, the living room:

The standard ceiling height throughout the home is 9’4″, but we designed this room with vaulted ceilings to make it feel extra spacious. Paired with the beams, it adds so much drama.

Ignore the temporary furniture, that’s literally all we have right now while I slowly piece together this room (it won’t happen overnight!) The floors are French Oak from Lowe’s, and the chandelier is the only thing I’ve bought for this space (it’s enormous and elegant and under $300!)

Back to the dining room—I wanted it to be easily accessible from both the living room and kitchen, but also keep those two areas separated a bit.

The wall color is SW Alabaster, the doors/baseboards are SW Accessible Beige and window trim is SW Extra White all throughout the home. That wood glass door is an antique piece I scored at a local salvage shop last year (what a find!) and behind it is our laundry room. We won’t tackle this project until next year.

View of the dining area (and living room/foyer) from the other side. We ordered a 9′ table that can seat 10 people—it should be delivered any minute now!

At the back of the house is the kitchen (and how gorgeous is that Troy Lighting dining sconce?)

The cabinets are Kraftmaid Mushroom from Lowe’s, and the sink, faucets, built-in dishwasher and fridge are also from Lowe’s (you can find all the kitchen details in this post). The knobs are all RK International satin brass from

The custom range hood is one of my favorite features in the room—I sketched it out and my builder worked on it himself, pulling it off beautifully. And that Hallman range—it just arrived a few days ago and it takes my breath away every time I walk in the room.

There’s several things left to do here—DIY open wood shelving flanking the range hood, finishing the quartz backsplash counter lip and behind the stove, pot filler, and refinishing some antique furniture—like this barrister bookcase I scored for $65 over the weekend:

It will be painted black and the glass frosted, to hide our pantry items. I also have this beauty sitting in the garage, which will be refinished and used to store our microwave/coffee maker and barware:

I’ll do a formal dedicated kitchen post soon as more progress is made!

On the other end of the kitchen is the arched hallway (another design element my builder brought to life from my drawings!) that leads to the future nursery, powder bath and master suite.

Here’s the view from the master bedroom, looking back out towards the dining/living room. The door on the right is a storage closet underneath the stairs.

All of the door hardware in this house is from Emtek—though we’ve only installed a few handles so far. Slowly but surely! I’ll do a separate post with more details soon.

Onto the master suite…

This is the second room in the house with a vaulted ceiling and beams—both on my “must have” list for our bedroom. Doesn’t it make it feel so romantic and dreamy? The curtains are an Amazon find and I’m obsessed. 9′ velvet ivory blackout panels at a very reasonable price.

We brought our bed and night stands over from the Riverside Retreat, but eventually I’ll replace them with something more substantial and better suited to the style of this home.

Just off the bedroom is a galley style closet (framed with a mini-custom arch):

It’s open right now, but we plan to add custom floor to ceiling door/drawer built-ins to hide the clothes.

On this side we’ll probably add two tall built-in wardrobes with a vanity desk/stool in the center below the window.

Ignore the mid-unpacking mess—this space won’t look pretty for a while and that’s fine with me!

At the end of the closet, we have our master bathroom—which was revealed on this blog last month—all the details and sources can be found in this post:

Let’s head back to the hallway now, into the next room—our powder bath:

Still a few things left to tackle in here like hanging our mirror, artwork, lighting and accessories. But I’m absolutely smitten with this tiny little space already. I’ll share all the details on this room in a separate post soon!

Next to the powder bath is the future nursery:

With only 11 weeks left until her due date and not a single thing ordered yet, I’m definitely feeling the pressure.

I have the design kind of/mostly figured out, but we’ve got a lot to tackle before we can start in here. You can only imagine how anxious I am to get the ball rolling!

The closet doors are custom from Simpson Doors, and of course I’ll share all the details and plans soon as we get started!

Moving upstairs now! Here we have two more bedrooms, a full bathroom and bonus room.

Starting with the first bedroom…

This will be used as an office space/secondary guest room.

We’ll add a trundle/daybed to sleep two guests that can save room when not in use.

Eight feet of closet space—so much room for throw pillows! The second bedroom will be used as our main guest room—it’s just a tiny bit smaller (but still large enough to comfortably fit a queen bed).

And eight more feet of pillow storage!

Finally, we have the bonus room, coming in at around 400 square feet.

I haven’t even begun to think about the design/layout, but I think it will be used as a game/media room and playroom for the baby.

It’s definitely large enough to have multiple zones and provide flexibility if our needs change.

We were originally going to leave this as unfinished attic space thinking we wouldn’t need the room, but boy are we glad now that we have it!

That covers everything for the interior, so let’s head back downstairs—Susie will lead the way…

One thing we loooove about this house is the big lot size (10,000 sq ft) and outdoor space.

We had about 700 square feet of pavers installed, and still have plenty of grass area leftover. The huge grand oak tree was also a big selling point when we first purchased the property.

Recognize the patio furniture from our Riverside Retreat backyard makeover? We couldn’t let it go unused all summer while we worked on that house, so we get to enjoy it here for a few months!

We also made landscaping a priority, and incorporated a few features like these bumpouts along the back wall. White bougainvilleas were planted and soon we’ll need to add a vertical trellis for them to climb. I plan to do a full landscaping post soon!

The exterior color is SW Oyster and trim color is SW Worldly Gray. We also finally got around to painting the rest of our window arches black (for those still wondering!)—don’t they make such a difference?

And that wraps our “Before/Moving-in” Heights House Tour! It has been one heck of a rollercoaster ride over the past nine months… I have to say, nine months of building a house is much harder than nine months of growing a baby 😉

But of course, they’re both worth the challenges and sacrifice, and I’m really looking forward to sharing how these spaces evolve with our growing family. There’s a lot to cover, so let me know what you’d most like to see more of or focus on in the coming weeks. As always, you can follow my daily updates on Instagram and Facebook, see what’s been inspiring me on Pinterest, and catch our latest video updates on YouTube.

A couple years ago I never would have dreamed that we’d end up here. Now that it’s real, I find myself overwhelmed with gratitude and in “pinch me” mode every day. The climb from rock bottom in 2015 was worth every step. Beauty from ashes…

Faux Wood Beams: Heights House

Another project that began months ago has finally come to an end—and what a beautiful ending it is!

Watch below to see the Before, After and install in action:

If you’ve been following my Insta stories, you may remember seeing my first post four months ago, the day I received my beam samples (does anyone else use Instagram as a timestamp for everything in the past…?)

But technically this project started long before, when we were planning the design of the Heights House. Vaulted ceilings with wood beams were one of those “must haves” on our list, and we opted to use them in both the living room and master bedroom.

I spent a lot of time researching our best options, and quickly decided faux beams were the way to go—they’re more affordable, more customizable, and significantly faster and easier to install. Plus, nowadays you can’t even tell the difference from real wood!

You may remember I DIY’ed my own wood beams in my California house five years ago, and even wrote a tutorial which ended up being one of my most repinned posts of all time.

Those were great and served their purpose, but I was not up for repeating the same DIY in this house for many reasons—one of which is that I planned to run the beams horizontally rather than following the angle of our vaulted ceiling. This also meant that the beams had to be super lightweight since they’d only be supported on the ends.

Recently I’ve been introduced to ultra light urethane moldings, and have used them in several of my projects (like our living room crown molding, wall mural trim, dining room ceiling trim, guest bedroom crown and front porch corbels).

All of the molding and trimwork in this photo are lightweight urethane!

The ease of install has been a huge selling point, and they tend to cost less than real wood alternatives. Ekena Millwork is the manufacturer that supplies these products to Lowe’s (among others), and I’ve had the chance to work directly with them on a few projects over the last several months. Their selection is huge and reaches far beyond urethane moldings (they also offer real wood, PVC and metal accents for interior & exterior). I was excited to learn that they just recently launched a line of faux wood beams, and even more excited when they invited me to test them out and share the results!

The first step was ordering samples (this is critical—don’t commit without seeing them in person first!) I wanted to make sure my bases were covered so I had Ekena send a wide variety.

The goal was to end up with a similar look as our wood floors, for a cohesive look—I think it looks a lot more natural and ‘believable’ if ceiling beams flow with the primary wood tones in the room.

We had these french oak planks from Lowe’s installed months ago, and they’re gorgeous, but there is quite a bit of color and grain variation which makes them a tricky to match. Based on the online photos I thought the ‘unfinished’ option would be our best bet, but clearly it was way too orange for our floors!

The small ‘whitewash’ sample next to it was a much better fit, but the finish was too smooth and didn’t have the grain I was looking for. Ekena sent out a second box of samples and there was a clear winner—the Rough Sawn texture in a whitewash finish:

I ordered four beams for each room, in 8′ lengths for our master bedroom and 12′ for the living room. I wanted the beams to be substantial in the room, so I decided on 6″x10″ for the width/height. Since the tops of the beams wouldn’t be visible, 3-sided (U beams) were perfect. Here they are a few weeks later, fresh off the delivery truck!

And here’s a full size beam next to some of the floor boards:

They weren’t an exact match, but I knew I could get them closer so I pulled out my arsenal of supplies…

Waxes, stains and paints—I had no idea what would work, but it was a fun experiment. This is my kinda DIY!

Fortunately it didn’t take long to figure out the secret sauce. I dipped my brush into my Maison Blanche light brown antique wax and began coating it…

Now that was more like it!

Below you can see how it looks after the wax (top) and unwaxed (bottom).

It didn’t take long at all from there. I simply brushed it on, rubbing it into the grain, and any excess wiped off easily.

After the beams were waxed, they sat in the garage for a couple months while we waited for other projects to wrap up at the house.

And here they are on install day!

This was definitely not a job for the two of us to tackle (can you imagine my pregnant belly balancing on the top of a 10 foot ladder trying to nail a beam in place?) so our builder enlisted the help of his best carpenter to make sure the job was done right.

First, the ceiling angle had to be calculated. This was done using a scrap piece of wood and a level.

That same angle was traced onto the beam and cut off at each end with a circular saw (keeping the full 8′ and 12′ lengths).

To attach them to the ceiling, we used 1×4″ scrap wood which fit snugly inside the hollow beam (a 2×4 would work just as well here).

Ideally these would be secured to the ceiling joists for maximum strength, but we weren’t landing on any studs so these heavy duty toggle bolt anchors were the way to go.

They hold up to 70lbs each in drywall, and each beam comes nowhere near close to that so we can sleep soundly at night.

Once the 1×4″ supports were in place, it was time to hoist her up!

It stays put just from the snug fit around the blocks, and multiple finish nails on both sides were used to secure it.

Another view showing both supports…

And beam #2 going up…

So fun to watch this all come together!

And here’s how they looked after install in the living room (ignore the poor lighting/phone quality):

We spent our first night here a few days ago and love waking up to these views! We are slowly moving in (and still have a million projects to tackle over the next several years/months) but we finally got to uncover the floors…

It’s impossible to capture the feeling through photos, but these beams make both rooms feel so much larger and grander.

They also bring a warmth to the space, and give that classic European influence we’ve been trying to build into this house. FYI, you can find all the paint colors we used in this post.

A special thank you to Ekena Millwork for partnering with me on this project and providing a great alternative to real wood beams, that is feasible for anyone to install in their home! If you guys are thinking about adding beams to your own home (or any other architectural moldings/millwork) I highly encourage you to check them out and give them a call/email with any questions. They’re super helpful and will be glad to help you out!

And of course, leave a comment below (or find me on Instagram and Facebook) with any questions about this project and I’ll be happy to answer as well. Make sure to watch the video posted above all about today’s project for more.

Next up—a bathroom and closet renovation at the Riverside Retreat!

The Heights House is Ours!

It has been far too long since a general life/house/baby update, and we’re sharing it all today on the vlog! Watch below:

We booked our babymoon in the Grand Cayman months ago when we were sure we’d be all settled into the new house… of course that didn’t work out, and it actually ended up pretty poorly timed with so much going on at both houses that we couldn’t be there to oversee. But that didn’t stop us from fully enjoying the last hoorah before we become a family of 3…

We snorkeled with sea turtles and swam with stingrays, long walks and naps on the beach and fancy sunset dinners. It was filled with special moments and I’m so glad we took the time to escape normal life for eight days and collect these memories.

This week marks my third trimester, and I’m really starting to feel pregnant now. Walking up steps and lifting/bending have become a bit of a challenge, and my days of strenuous DIYing are on hold. I’m coming to the realization that we won’t have the Riverside Retreat ready to rent AND the Heights House fully situated before baby arrives—even if we were both functioning at full capacity.

Nevertheless, I’ve been planning and scheduling upcoming projects at the Riverside Retreat, including the bathroom which is under construction this very second. Our handyman began demolition while we were on our babymoon, completely gutting it and opening a wall to the master bedroom, where we’ll be adding a second (tiny) bathroom and closet.

Same angle from before we left:

Demolition took longer than expected, made worse by the fact that many of the joists were rotted and had to be replaced (not surprised) and a concrete post poured to keep the corner of the shower from caving in.

We also found the original 50’s cast iron plumbing, which we’ll likely need to replace. I’ll share more details + photos in another post soon (hopefully next week!) along with my design/floor plans for converting this bathroom into two.

The Heights House was supposed to be move-in ready by the time we returned from our trip… but in keeping with the series of setbacks that has been 2019, it was NOT ready and we were relegated to sleep in a bathroom-less, torn apart house (our contractor left all the doors open so everything including our sheets and dishes were covered in dust). And I’m at the have-to-pee-every-2-hour stage of pregnancy so repeatedly fumbling my way through a dark house search of a pee bucket was not how I thought I’d spend my first night back.

But it’s all just a distant memory now… because we’re IN THE NEW HOUSE!

We packed a truckload with just the essentials and finally settled in around midnight on Monday—certainly a Memorial day to remember! There are painters and AC guys and electricians coming in and out as I type this on our mattress on the floor, as there’s still a handful of finishing touches to complete.

We have no furniture apart from our bed (everything is staying at the Riverside Retreat) and it will be a slow process to furnish and finish this house over time—I’m guessing at least a year. This is not another temporary home for us, so we want to take our time and fill it with things we love.

I’ll be sharing a complete move-in day tour on the blog next week, so you definitely won’t want to miss that! I also have all the details on our faux wood beams coming soon (hopefully this week) and more updates on the Riverside Retreat bathrooms as they progress.

I’d like to think that these last few months are as hectic as it will get, but somehow I don’t think life slows down once you become parents 😉 I’ll just enjoy the short bursts of sleep I get now, and remind myself to appreciate how far we’ve come in a year!

Lots more on the way,

Backyard Makeover Reveal: Al Fresco Dining

Sharing Part 2 of our Backyard Makeover today—the dining area! (Check out Part 1 here in case you missed it).

Year-round outdoor living is a part of life here in Florida (one of the many reasons we relocated) and an al fresco dining space is a must have for entertaining. So when Lloyd Flanders invited me to join their #styleyoursummer event and design an outdoor oasis using their furniture, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity!

I spent a few days browsing through their catalog, and came up with my plan for an ‘Al Fresco Garden Café’ themed space…

The centerpiece of the whole design is the gorgeous live edge teak table

It’s pretty enough to be used inside, but the solid teak wood is meant to stay outdoors and will naturally antique and take on more gray coloring over time. And that live edge detail—so good.

Rather than a full set of matching chairs, I thought it’d be fun to switch it up and use their matching teak bench on one side (this can also accommodate more people, specifically children, since there will be lots of families staying here!)

Lloyd Flanders has a huge selection of dining chair options, and I wanted something with a slender profile (to allow for more seating) in a wicker material to offset the wood table set.

I landed on the Hamptons armless dining chair, which is available in 20 shades of wicker and hundreds of fabric options (you can even use your own fabric!)

The ‘ebony’ wicker option was the way to go, providing a nice contrast from the white/gray/woods and tying in with all the other black accents in the yard.

I wanted a fabric that was durable, water resistant, and woven to repel dirt and stains. Sunbrella’s Action Linen seemed like a good bet, and I’m very happy with my choice! It has rained a few times since the chairs were brought out, and the water just pools on top and wipes right off. The covers are also removable which makes them easy to wash. You can browse their full line of fabrics here.

Lloyd Flanders is available for purchase at local retailers, and I’ve also seen it sold at a few stores online. It definitely falls into the high end, high quality category—worth taking a look if you’re in the market for outdoor pieces that will last!

I’m a little jealous this furniture will be kept at the Riverside Retreat instead of our own house! I think anyone who stays here is going to have a hard time leaving this patio 😉

We’re actually thinking about moving everything over to our new patio to enjoy it for a few months until the Riverside Retreat is finished and ready for renters. There are gatherings to be had and we can’t let this go to waste all summer!

At the time this post is published, we’ll be enjoying the last few days of our babymoon in Grand Cayman before heading back home to start the fun process of moving in to the Heights House. Demolition on the bathroom in the Riverside Retreat is also in full swing, and we’ve got a lot to catch up on when we return next week. Keep your eyes peeled for an update blog post and vlog soon!

Backyard Makeover Reveal: Riverside Retreat

This post is part of a paid collaboration with Lowe’s Home Improvement. All opinions are my own.

Today is the culmination of months of labor intensive, physically and mentally exhausting work (but as always… worth the effort!)

We started this project back in February, when the yard looked like this:

Knocking down the concrete landing and building a DIY gravel fire pit area was the first order of business.

After removing the old mismatched tile and pressure washing the concrete, the 27-hour stenciling saga ensued:

Then we built DIY string light planters, along with simple wood shutters, landscaping and paint touchups.

And finally—my favorite part—decorating! Last week we assembled all the furniture and added the finishing touches. I dreamed up a ‘Modern Boho Garden Oasis’ months ago, using classic black and white grounded by warm neutrals, a statement pattern, florals lots of greenery.

And here’s how it turned out!

The backyard is divided into three different zones—a conversation/lounge area, a dining space, and fire pit seating.

First, let’s step into the lounge spot…

With this future vacation rental home expected to house up to ten guests, I needed to maximize the seating area, so I combined two coordinating patio sets from Lowe’s.

Lowe’s always has sales on outdoor items throughout the spring/summer, so I waited and scored both at 30% off.

This modular sectional by Safavieh is the anchor piece, and I love that it can be configured in many different ways to accommodate a variety of layouts and patio sizes.

I also found this coordinating 4-piece set that included a loveseat, two chairs and coffee table.

The furniture is made from acacia wood which is weather resistant and durable for outdoor use.

The cushions are double sided and have removable covers in a water resistant fabric—which is a huge selling point since they’ll be getting a lot of wear!

I chose a solid black 7×10′ woven outdoor rug which provides texture, but doesn’t compete with the stenciled patio.

I can’t speak on the comfort/quality/longevity yet as we haven’t had a chance to sit down and enjoy them (and it has been pouring every day since taking these photos!) but we plan on throwing a dinner party here in the very near future… as soon as we have a free night (ha!)

And speaking of summer gatherings, every good party needs a barbecue! We haven’t had a grill in nearly a year so we were beyond excited to finally bring one home.

We went with a simple and affordable Char-Broil propane grill with solid ratings (it’s $30 off right now!)

A few days ago we fired it up for the first time—grilled chicken sandwiches all summer long! (that’s all I’ve been craving this pregnancy…)

Let’s take a little stroll down to the fire pit…

Arguably the toughest part of this renovation (that concrete pad was a beast to jackhammer), but now we have a usable, functional space in the yard!

I ordered six of these cedar adirondack chairs, and after a day of debating, decided to paint them black to coordinate with the rest of the decor.

I used Valspar’s Cracked Pepper (to match all of our other exterior accents) and it didn’t take as long to paint as I thought—just a few hours total.

I think they look so sharp against the greenery and light gravel.

The stone fire pit was a kit we purchased a while back from Lowe’s—had to be the easiest thing we did during this renovation!

And then there’s the LED string lights, which brings the yard to life and pulls all the spaces together (also 20% off through tomorrow!)

Right now they’re just connected via an extension cord on the side of the house, but we plan to hardwire them in and add a switch near the door.

This yard is truly magic when the sun goes down…

It may not be my most picture-perfect, high end designer style reveal. It’s still a modest house in a modest neighborhood, with grass that hasn’t grown in yet and old cracked stucco.

But we’ve racked up more hours and put more energy and sweat into this project than any other. We learned new tools and techniques, faced new challenges head on, and stepped into the unchartered waters of landscaping—all on a DIY’ers budget.

For that, I’m just as proud of this Before + After as anything else we’ve done—maybe even a little more.

There’s nothing like dreaming up, creating and finally getting to step into a space that you want to stay in for hours—which is not an easy feat when it’s 90° with 90% humidity and you’re being eaten alive by mosquitos… welcome to Florida summers 😉

You may be wondering about the dining area that we haven’t talked about yet…

Hang tight, all the details for this part will be posted here on the blog in two days!

For now, this party must come to an end. I know, I don’t want to leave either…

Lucky for you, you can rent this place and stay as long as you’d like as soon as it’s finished 😉



Loveseat + chair set


Charbroil Grill

Adirondack chairs

String lights

Barrel planters

Fire pit


DIY Fire pit

DIY Stenciled patio

DIY String Light planters

Check back on Thursday for Part 2 of this reveal—outdoor dining details!











Heights House Patio & Awning

There’s so much progress happening at the Heights House as we near the finish line (which means a LOT to catch up on!) and today I wanted to update you on one of my favorite parts of the exterior—the back patio:

Specifically, our custom metal awning that so many of you have asked about in my Instagram stories.

The decision to add an awning came about months ago, after realizing we needed some form of shelter from the rain, especially since this will be the main door we enter the house through (our driveway is detached). The newly installed wood doors were also warping a bit after getting drenched in a few Florida downpours, so we couldn’t waste any time.

My first thought was to go with the cheapest/quickest solution, so I bought this fabric awning on Wayfair for only $236:

The problem was, we measured the width of the doors before the trim was installed, and didn’t think to account for the added width. Our awning ended up just a few inches too short!

We were also limited in height by the roofline on the right side, and came to the conclusion that custom was the way to go. But where to begin?

I started looking around at local places, but most had very limited options (only fabric) or styles that wouldn’t fit the design of our house. Then I spotted this image online and tracked down the source:

It came from Design Your Awning, which is a smaller shop located in Louisiana, specializing in custom metal awnings (aluminum, steel and copper). I fell in love with the Juliet style (shown above) and immediately requested more information on their site. They responded the next day and I sent over the dimensions for a quote:

After receiving the quote, I reached out to a couple other companies (there aren’t many out there who offer Juliet style awnings!) and their quotes were much higher than Design Your Awning. Design Your Awning was also the fastest to respond and most helpful, so it was a done deal. After learning a bit more about the project, the owner (Kenny) offered to step in as a sponsor—so a huge thank you to Kenny and the Design Your Awning team (and to my readers for supporting businesses that make these posts possible!)

After sending Kenny a few photos and confirming final details and measurements, they started production on the awning and a few weeks later, they sent a photo of the completed awning in their warehouse:

Just like my inspiration photo! It was perfect. I approved it and they shipped it right away, emailing a packet with detailed installation instructions so I knew what to expect.

The awning arrived shortly afterwards, securely packaged in a crate.

Everything needed to install it was included in the package (apart from basic tools like a drill and tape measure). I wasn’t sure if Lucas and I would be able to tackle it on our own, but fortunately the awning is surprisingly light and we could easily lift it into place, with Lucas holding it steady by himself.

The awning came with Z clips, which we secured to the wall (using the anchors and screws provided). We just had to measure to determine the height first.

Once our top row of clips were in, we checked to confirm they were level.

Then we lifted the awning onto the clips, centered it in place, and attached the lower clips.

Simple as that!

The final step is to add a bead of silicone where the awning meets the wall, but ours is a bit tricker since we have an expansion joint in the stucco which leaves a gap along the lower portion. We’ll need to add a strip of foam tape to seal it, but so far no sign of leaks or drips underneath the awning after two months.

The awning has a 50-year life with no maintenance, and even though metal is a larger investment up front, I’m so glad we went this route instead of fabric! Here in Florida especially, the constant sun and rain exposure would have meant having to worry about replacing it. And of course, this looks much nicer and complements the European style of the house so well.

Last month we finally got our pavers installed, and landscaping was finished shortly after. I’ll do a separate post all about our landscaping plans soon, but the exterior is so close to being completed…

One of my favorite landscaping features is the half moon bumpouts we added on the back patio to plant white bougainvilleas. Soon we’ll add large trellises against the house—hopefully these babies grow fast!

For now, last major thing to do on the exterior is the window/door trim paint, which means I can finally paint the rest of the window arches black 🙂

Even though the house will soon be officially “finished”—we still have a long way to go in adding our own personal touches, custom details, and filling it with things we love so it truly becomes our home.

We’ve now entered the ‘rain every day season’ which has delayed completion yet again, but ready or not, our baby shower will be held on this patio in a few weeks…

Send all the positive vibes that we can get electricity and move in by June! We could really use some good luck around here 😉

DIY String Light Planters

This post is part of a paid collaboration with Lowe’s Home Improvement. All opinions are my own.

Checking back in this week after our master bathroom reveal to share another DIY project we’ve been working on!

Last week I shared live updates on my Instagram story as this project came together, and many of you requested a blog post with more details. Your wish is my command! This project is just one part of our Backyard renovation, which we started way back in February.

In case you missed any of the action, check out our DIY backyard fire pit and the DIY stenciled patio first.

Fortunately those were the two most labor and time-intensive projects, and now we get to focus on the fun stuff like landscaping and accessorizing!

A couple weeks ago when we finished our front porch makeover, I took a day to build shutters for the windows on the back of the house and update the doors and trim with paint. We started with a random assortment of mismatched windows and two different shades of white:

Our solution had to be quick and inexpensive (remember we’re renovating this home on a tight timeline and budget to use as a rental) so paint and simple shutters was the answer! I shared the steps to make our easy DIY shutters in the front porch post, and how we attached them to the house. Here’s the before/after as shared on Instagram:

I still have some touch-ups to do, but everything is looking much more cohesive!

Next it was time to move on to the string light planters. I wish I could take credit for this idea but I spotted it on Pinterest when searching for backyard string light options, and knew it would be perfect since we didn’t have any trees or structures in the yard to hang the lights.

Fortunately, it’s a simple process that requires just a handful of materials and limited tools (beginner DIYers, this one’s for you!)

Here’s what you’ll need:

Planters (they should be large and deep to hold enough concrete for the posts, we chose these wood barrels)

4×4 outdoor posts (we used 4x4x8 for our planters)

Fast setting concrete mix (we used two 50lb bags per planter)

String lights (we saved 30% on these LED lights by buying 4 boxes on sale!)

Cup Hooks

Drill (for drainage holes)

Potting mix



Corner brace to keep posts straight before the concrete sets

Level (you can eyeball it but a level always helps!)

Before beginning, I stained the 4×4’s with my favorite dark walnut stain + sealer. Pressure treated wood doesn’t have the nicest natural coloring so I’d recommend this (or painting them) first. It’s rough outdoor wood, so you don’t need to worry about sanding or making them look perfect!

This next part is optional, but we decided to be safe and attach the posts to the planters using corner braces on two sides, to keep them in place while the concrete dried.

Once the braces were attached to the 4×4’s, we centered it inside of the barrel (by eye), then used screws to secure it to the bottom.

The bottom of the barrel was thin wood so the screws aren’t very solid and the post can still wiggle around, but it’s enough to keep it steady.

Next, fill the barrel with water and add concrete. There was no specific water/concrete ratio mix listed on the bag, and it doesn’t even require mixing!

But we stirred it anyway. I was expecting it to be more like smooth concrete or mortar, but this stuff is really rocky.

And it’s way easier (and more fun) to mix with your hands 😉

We filled our planters a bit less than halfway, using two bags and somewhere close to a 50/50 water mix.

Before it begins to set (which happens within minutes) you’ll want to look at it from all angles and make sure it’s level. The good thing about these planters is that you can easily adjust afterwards by moving a bit of dirt around underneath it (we had to do this to all of them!)

Once the first planter was complete, the other three went up super fast. Just make sure to set the planters in the location you want them to be in first so you don’t have to haul a 100+lbs around the yard.

We used four planters around our fire pit area:

Before planting flowers, we had to address the drainage issue. Plants need adequate drainage to stay alive, so our solution was to drill several holes just above the concrete around the barrel.

This was a tip I learned from another Pinterest article, so we’re hoping it works long term!

We still had a bunch of leftover rock from ripping out the concrete to make the fire pit, so we spread a layer around the bottom of each barrel to further help with drainage, then added our potting soil.

In the Lowe’s garden center, we browsed the aisles for full-sun flowers that would bloom all year long and landed on these beauties:

We bought an assortment of Angelonias (in white and purple) and purple Cupheas. We’re still very new at this gardening thing and doing our best to research and figure it out, but these flowers met our requirements plus they’re backed by a 1-year Lowe’s plant guarantee, so we’re feeling pretty confident about our choice.

And how gorgeous are they?! Lavender is one of my favorite plants but it doesn’t do well in humid Florida, so these are the next best thing.

FYI—any gardeners out there, I’ll take all the tips and advice I can get on keeping these beauties alive!

Here’s how the yard was looking at this stage…

Ignore the grass situation, we’re still working on it…

But we weren’t done yet! We wanted to hang the string lights across the entire patio, so we needed to add two more posts—one on each end of the yard. Instead of planters (mostly to keep costs down and since they wouldn’t be very visible) we set the posts directly into the ground.

The process is the same, but we used 4x4x10′ posts, adding 2′ for the section into the ground (so all the posts would end up at the same height).

After digging a hole a little more than twice the width (using a special post hole digger) we filled it up about 1/3 of the way with water…

Followed by two bags of concrete, gave it a little stir and it quickly started to set.

These poles are very important to get level, since you can’t make any adjustments once they’re in.

One final pole was added in the ground on the other side of the yard:

Finally, it was time to string some lights! I opted for LED cafe lights (for energy efficiency + longer bulb life) and ordered four sets (96 ft total) at 30% off, which came out to around $150.

I also picked up a few packages of these cup hooks:

Starting at the far corner of the house, we attached our first hook (predrilling a hole first, then twisting them in by hand).

Same process for the 4×4’s (using one hook in each post).

Once all the screws were in, the lights were strung and connected one by one.

A bit difficult to see in front of the trees, but here they are:

Followed by the bulbs…

We used duct tape on the connections to help hold them together (they come apart pretty easily when pulled too tightly).

Here’s a quick drawing of the lighting layout (super professional and to scale, I know). It’s an aerial view looking down at the house with the fire pit area in the center, and the brown squares represent the posts.

The next day we were back at Lowe’s to finalize our landscaping. These 2-gallon Arctic Snow Bushes caught my eye, and I was sold when I saw the $13 price tag and the fact that they are evergreen and bloom year round.

On Lowe’ they’re listed as Arabian Jasmine while the tag says Arctic Snow Bush, so maybe they go by both names?

Either way, we bought 17 to line the perimeter of the patio (and came up short, so I’m going back for a couple more tonight). We’ve also been itching to get a lemon tree, especially since they grow so well here in Florida, so we brought this one home with us:

We also planted one in our yard at the Heights House, so hopefully between the two trees it won’t be long before we’re sipping homemade lemonade on the patio!

Back at home, we spent another evening planting our tree and shrubs.

We also mulched (though we ran out and have to get a few more bags).

As of now there’s just a bit more landscaping, touchups and cleanup left to do back here (and of course my favorite part, decor and furniture!) but it already feels like a completely different backyard.

And certainly more inviting than it was earlier this year…

This is the first true DIY landscaping/backyard renovation either of us has attempted, and though it has taken longer than we’d hoped, I’m proud of what we’ve been able to do on our own with a limited budget and no gardening skills.

The next few days will be focused on completing this yard and adding furniture before the final photoshoot, so follow along for live updates on my Instagram stories, and stay tuned for the big reveal coming to the blog soon! Next week I have new Heights House updates to share, so be sure to check back then 🙂