Well, this post is a bit belated. I just realized that I never wrote a post last year about painting our house white … um, HOW DID I MISS THAT? Not sure. (Can I still blame every mistake I made on my adoption? Oh, I CAN? Great, thanks!)
So, I’m here today to catch you up on everything we’ve done to our exterior so far. And at the end of the post I will also tell you about what we’re still planning to do.
But first, a walk down memory lane. Here is what our home looked like the month we made our offer a little over three years ago!
Want to hear a little secret?? We almost didn’t even view this house because I didn’t like the front of it—like AT ALL. Laura actually talked me into looking at it because it was close to the area she was shopping in (thank you, Laura!!!!). Compared to a lot of the other homes we looked at when we were shopping, this home definitely had the worst curb appeal.
Since it is a l-shaped ranch with a walkout basement, it is quite a bit larger than it looks from the street. The backside is actually way more beautiful than the front (go ahead and insert a Michael Scott, “That’s what she said.” It’s fine). And the inside of the home (see my full tour archive here) is PURE MAGIC. As soon as we went inside we knew it was our dream home with endless potential to be everything we needed and wanted in this season of life.
So I made it my mission to improve the curb appeal of our home and make the front of it flow a little better with the rest.
Here’s what it looks like today!
I am so happy with the changes we have made. It has definitely been a marathon, not a sprint! The first year we didn’t do anything at all to the exterior because we wanted to allocate all of our money to making the inside functional for our lives and work (my husband and I both work from home, so this was a top priority).
The second year we had the house painted white and a lot of the old bushes removed. You can kind of see in the before photo, but they weren’t special or kept up. So we just went ahead and removed them all before painting because it made it easier for our painter. Then, last fall, we added flower beds.
Then as SOON as frost season was over this spring, we began the process of adding new bushes, trees and plants. It took about three months to complete the front of the house and one side. (The other side you won’t see in these photos has an air conditioner that is concealed with boxwoods that we kept. It’s nothing fancy but it’s totally functional.)
Here’s a before/after of the white paint. I LOVE IT. I totally understand that painting brick white is not for everyone. In fact, it is a very regional thing. In Missouri, almost no one does it. Here in Tennessee, it is super common. I love the look of painted brick and would probably choose it even if I was building a home from scratch, so it was a no-brainer for me. And I really feel that it modernizes the exterior of our home, which is what I so desperately wanted. Our home was built in the early 1970s, so it’s not like painting a historic home (although I personally have nothing against that either!).
White paint—my forever hero!
In hindsight (at this stage), I wish I would not have painted the stone. But after our deck is completed (more on that below), I do think the white stone will flow better with the rest of the design. So don’t judge too harshly until you get the full vision on that.
We painted our door pink, around the same time we painted the brick. At the risk of sounding dramatic, this door brings me so much joy! At first, I thought about painting it every 1-2 years (I was going to do orange next), but then I grew really attached to it. I feel like it’s a part of the house now. So I will probably leave it pink as long as we live here (although don’t hold me to it—haha). The color is Noble Blush by BEHR.
I love how the white paint brought out the details of the brick. And we do have to repaint the white porch every spring (but it’s an extremely quick job—and the only part of the house that requires that level of maintenance).
We are still loving our house number planter that was a DIY from last year.
If you’re curious, that little gap in the brick at the bottom of this photo is intentional. All houses built around this era in our region have them. I think it’s to help your house either breathe or settle over time. We learned this because Laura asked her painter if they could fill them in and he explained to us that there is an actual function to the gaps. Always learning!
We added a variety of different plants, trees and bushes. My favorite plant store, Hewitt, came over last year and helped me with ideas (you can hire them for a consultation). They helped me with ideas to mix more traditional plants with the (cold weather hardy) cacti and banana leaf plants that are my obsession.
Another thing that helped me a lot was just paying attention to what plants I saw around town that could actually live through our winters. That’s how I got the idea for the banana leaf and cacti, actually. I saw some in nearby yards that were giant and had obviously lived through a lot of winters.
I mainly stuck with perennials that will come back next year (or some will live through the winter and look alive the whole time). But I did add a few that will die at the end of the season just because they are super pretty!
Overall, I tried to make it a mixture of practical decisions and things that appealed to my design eye. Landscaping is EXPENSIVE. I didn’t realize before I started, but it’s so easy to spend $1,000 on plants—augh! So I do think it is important to ask a lot of questions and try to focus on plants that can thrive in our climate and hopefully live for many years to come.
Nova’s “help” with watering was definitely one of the cutest parts of our summer! I learned the hard way to only let her help me water outside plants and not inside—haha. Maybe next year. That’s about it for the front of the house. There is one more cactus bed that I forgot to get a photo of, so I’ll show you on Instagram.
Here’s the side of the house. It was completely bare all winter and was driving me INSANE every time I drove up to the house. And now it makes me smile every time I drive up!
These cacti and banana leaf plants are both cold weather hardy. The cacti is actually super common here and native to Tennessee. If you pay attention, you will see them in yards ALL over Nashville. They grow super quickly and some of mine bloom flowers. In a couple more years this view will look way more full and lush!
Do you think I should leave the mulch line as-is or add some stones or rocks or another barrier along that edge? I can’t decide. It looks a little unfinished to me, but I think a big part of that is that the plants need some time to grow. Just because … I can’t possibly NOT post this photo.
OK! Let’s talk about the backyard for a bit. Last year, we added two playhouses to the side of our backyard—the mid-century play set and the a-frame playhouse. They were one of the best decisions we made on the whole renovation and we use them all the time with Nova and anytime we have friends over.
Our house sits on one acre and has zero porches. So for the first year, before we began working on the exterior, it was a little depressing to me because we were paying to have our yard mowed, but not really enjoying the outdoors. Adding the playhouses helped significantly and has motivated me to invest more in our yard! I love being outside—we just needed something to do!
So our last REALLY big project will be to add a deck to the backside of our home. Can you envision an l-shaped deck right there behind me?? I can!
I actually began the design process last year, but we haven’t pulled the trigger yet. It’s a big project, so I needed time to fully envision every detail and also save up. That room there is our bedroom—how cool would it be to have French doors from our bedroom onto the deck?
I’ve spent a LOT of time daydreaming about different possible features. Hammocks or swings? A grill or a pizza oven? A fireplace or a fire pit? Currently, I haven’t felt ready to make those final decisions. We’re thinking maybe next spring we will finally go for it. If you have done a major deck project I’d LOVE to hear what you loved, enjoyed or regretted from your experience.
Beyond that, I would love to add a garden next year. I decided to wait a year and then learn from Laura’s first garden. We had a garden at our last house that I didn’t water enough and I am definitely still living that down. Ugh! I think I am ready to take it more seriously, though, and excited to give it another try next year.
Thanks for reading! If you have any questions about painting your home or landscaping for the first time I’d love to help in the comments. And if you have any advice for my deck or first garden that I 100% will not kill … I’d love to hear that as well. xx! Elsie
Credits//Author: Elsie Larson. Project Assistant: Collin DuPree. Photography: Amber Ulmer. Photos edited with A Color Story Desktop.